Today’s topic is going to be the first part in a series of basically how to do childcare market research from scratch.
One of the things that I’m definitely seeing a rise in even with this economy and uncertainty is a rise in small business people. If people are getting laid off, if they’re becoming unemployed, losing jobs, or being furloughed, they tend to turn to entrepreneurship. Now, not everyone does. However, everyone’s got a unique ability, a unique skill that can be translated into some kind of business. Whether that business is online or offline, it really doesn’t matter.
What I wanted to do in this series is pick an industry that I get a lot of questions about. It’s going to be child care, and in particular, preschool/daycare—a childcare center in general. And I’m going to give you kind of the step-by-step as to how you would market that childcare center.
The messages are going to be generic in the sense that the approach I take to market a business is the same. Whether it’s a childcare center or you’re looking at opening up something like a Mosquito Joe franchise (which I think that that’s going to be a booming industry, something I am also looking at right now).
STEP ONE: RESEARCH
Since this will be a series, each episode will focus on a core topic, and today is all about RESEARCH. And the business we will be highlighting in this series is opening a childcare center.
If I had a business that I was starting from scratch, I would spend the first-month doing research. Now again, I’m not going to go into the actual logistics of anything that is not kind of marketing or I guess finance-related when it comes to tomorrow. So, obviously, we’re not going to be talking about finding leases and all that kind of stuff. This is all around.
We will be answering questions about:
- How do you take a business and drive some revenue—from zero to revenue?
- How do you do the launch?
- How long do things take?
- How much money do you invest?
So the first one, again, is childcare market research. So what would that research look like? Here are some things you need to consider:
1. What does my competition look like?
So let’s say that you’re opening up in Rochester, New York, and you already have the location scouted out, you’ve made the decision to go on this venture. You would want to know what the competitors are like or how many competitors are there.
What I would do is I would just sit down at my computer and I would pull up Google Maps. Then, I would start to plug in all of the different preschools, child care centers, daycares, and school programs— all of the different people that I would deem even remotely similar.
Now, a common mistake people make when they’re doing the childcare market research is that they often think they don’t have any competitors because their business is going to do XYZ. You may think that yours will have an edge in the childcare space since your business will be 100% technology-related. And you will be one of those first centers which will have everything Mac-related. That’s great. But not when you are starting your business first. That will be very helpful when we talk about branding, your six-sentence marketing plan, and differentiation, which we will discuss further on in this series.
So going back to starting a childcare center. Initially, I need to know whom I am directly or indirectly competing with. And I would literally start to map them out on a Google Map. Using Google docs, I would create a folder to keep all of my childcare market research organized. And then I would just start to create the different files within that folder.
In my file, I would have this information:
- Exact location
- Number of people that are within a five to ten-mile radius
- Will you be the only game in town?
- Names of Different Childcare Centers—gather all pertinent information
- Contact details—address, phone number, website, email address
- Business description
- Offers and services
- Brand or a chain
- Single location or multi-location
2. Start calling them out
Once I have gathered all the information and basically have an idea of what my competition looks like, I would set up something like that Google Voice phone number so I wouldn’t use my cell phone or any number that is associated with me.
As most entrepreneurs would do or any normal person for that matter, since this is something that happens all the time, I would call and pretend to be a parent, and learn a little bit more about the center. I will start asking questions like:
- How many kids are enrolled?
- Are you accepting new enrollments?
- What does your tuition look like?
I’d be asking all of those different questions. The goal is that you start to build this competitive document to see where the gaps are in the marketplace. And those gaps could be financial, such as the types of kids that they’re serving. You may find that none of them have after-school care or none of them have a bus or all have a bus to pick kids up. Learn as much as you possibly can about your competitors.
And I like to do this first not to get you discouraged. But when I’m leveraging this data that’s really going to point me in the right direction, of not just how much marketing that I need to do, but it’s going to help me refine the message and help me find some of the areas that I can kind of breakthrough the noise.
So list out all of your competitors, and map them out (so you know where they are visual). And then from there, put together something on Google Sheets, where you’re listing out all the generic information and start getting all of that specific information that you can get large and often coming from calling them.
When calling, you just have to be open about it. Obviously, when you talk to these businesses, they will try and get your contact information. Just tell them that you’re doing some childcare market research. If you fumble, it’s going to get to be a little bit awkward. If you want to have someone else do it, that’s an actual parent—if you’re not a parent—I would have them do it as well. But I want you to have all that information so that you have all that handy.
So if I were opening up a new childcare center, and getting ready to start the whole marketing process, step one with a new business is always to do the competitive research first. So I get that so I can kind of start to see where I stand where I can fit in and where I can differentiate.
Often, you end up finding things that you might have not thought to be true. So for example, if I was calling these different competitive childcare centers, I may find that not one of the centers, including the big franchise brands, is above $1,000 a month. You might have been thinking well, you were going to price this at $1500 a month but for some reason, everyone is under $1,000 a month. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t price at $1500 a month. But I would be a little bit more inquisitive about why every single, competing childcare center is under that thousand dollar a month threshold.
Or you might find the opposite is true. Where you were thinking of pricing at $800 a month. But every single center is above $1000 and you might have just found yourself another 20% margin. You now have an insane leg to stand on, if you can make the financials work, because now you’re 20% cheaper, and that ends up becoming part of your marketing and your advertising. So step one (and I will have to reiterate this)—competitive research.
Stay tuned for the next part of this series.
Get out there. Make a change and take some action.