HELP! Our enquiries are disappearing along with our enrolments!
Every week we speak with owners, directors and committees that have the same problem…..
They say that the phone has stopped (or nearly stopped) ringing with enquiries and 2020 is nearly at a close. When enquiries do call, they ask about our daily rate, rarely book a tour / visit or if they do, the conversion rate to enrolment is practically zero.
This means that 2021 is going to start down on projected or required enrolments. To make matters worse, every year it gets a little bit worse than the year before.
Often, and in response to this issue, we receive requests asking us to help a service build a marketing plan to boost enrolments and our answer is nearly always the same! Building and boosting enquiries and enrolments is far more complex than creating (and executing) a marketing plan – although they do help, marketing plans are the final piece of the complex puzzle.
What’s causing the problem?
Many things can contribute to declining enquiries and falling enrolments. If you can state, hand on your heart, that its not the way you care for and educate children, then keep reading.
The service provision of early childhood education and care is not the same as it used to be a few years ago and the reasons why we are seeing a decline are many. They can be:
- Parents and families know and understand what quality education and care is, they have high expectations of services AND they are looking for value for money at the same time.
- The economic hay day for many communities is over and so the need for care is down.
- The development of Greenfield sites has not declined enough and so competitors are still popping up in areas where the demand doesn’t warrant a new service. Remember – when a Development Application is submitted, Council doesn’t assess need they just assess if the application meets the code to build a service (that’s another blog post).
Declining service enrolments can generally be attributed to at least one of the three issues above. Items 2 & 3 combined make for the typical oversupply and under demand scenario that many services are facing today.
Owners asking us daily, “So how do we solve this?”
Our answer is always the same. First you need to work out what the problems are so you can build a plan that is customised to your service.
We know that ‘off the shelf’ plans don’t work and that every service needs a unique solution that may need to change annually or even more frequently, depending on your customer.
So, here are the four actions an owner or director MUST take so that a plan can be built to fix the issue.
- Conduct a competitor analysis
- Complete an operational review
- Gather family feedback from past, present and potential parents
- Complete up to date quality assessment.
Once these four activities (the analysis) are complete you will then have a complete picture of your service – you will know:
- What your competitors offer in comparison to you
- What you need to do to improve your service and minimise expenses
- What your customer thinks of your service
- How your team are performing and if you offer a quality service
You will then be in a position to build an action plan that will address these four areas.
Building the action plan!
Once you have your actions, it’s time to prioritise them. Depending on your analysis, you may have a list of actions that take a few weeks to complete or a few months to a year. Working out what’s the most important and going to bring the greatest return back to you and the service is vital.
Its important to understand that not all actions are likely to be able to be completed in a short timeframe – be realistic about cost and the time it will take!
Finally – the marketing plan!
Once you have all the actions prioritised and underway you can then think about how you are going to market your service, to whom and when.
Remember that you need to be realistic about the timeframes, cost and capability of your team to get this job done.