ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie

Episode 191: Planning and Marketing Summer Programs: Tips for Reaching Potential Clients

March 05, 2024 Carrie Casey and Kate Woodward Young
Episode 191: Planning and Marketing Summer Programs: Tips for Reaching Potential Clients
ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie
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ChildCare Conversations with Kate and Carrie
Episode 191: Planning and Marketing Summer Programs: Tips for Reaching Potential Clients
Mar 05, 2024
Carrie Casey and Kate Woodward Young

In this episode, hosts Kate and Carrie focus on the crucial task of planning and marketing summer programs for childcare centers. They emphasize the need for early preparation and the use of a well-maintained prospect list to reach potential clients. The hosts suggest innovative marketing tactics, like themed attire and props, to make a memorable impression at community events. They also propose distributing activity-filled paper bags at kids' sporting events to engage parents. Additionally, they discuss the importance of offering unique summer camp themes and activities, managing school-age children effectively, and the financial advantages of providing quality summer programs.

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, hosts Kate and Carrie focus on the crucial task of planning and marketing summer programs for childcare centers. They emphasize the need for early preparation and the use of a well-maintained prospect list to reach potential clients. The hosts suggest innovative marketing tactics, like themed attire and props, to make a memorable impression at community events. They also propose distributing activity-filled paper bags at kids' sporting events to engage parents. Additionally, they discuss the importance of offering unique summer camp themes and activities, managing school-age children effectively, and the financial advantages of providing quality summer programs.

Support the Show.

Thanks for Listening 🎙

Marie (00:00:01) - Welcome to ChildCare conversations with Kate and Carrie.

Kate (00:00:06) - I know it seems crazy. Carrie and I realize it's March, but summer is right around the corner and we have people calling us who haven't even started. Are you there? I am sorry, I had it.

Carrie (00:00:23) - It made the chirp sound and so I made it go away. Let's. I guess we're going to have to start again because I wasn't responding. I'm sorry.

Kate (00:00:30) - I think we need to start again. I think this is half the fun. All right, so we've got people. We're in March. We've got people who are just now calling us going. I think I'm going to do summer program this year. Yes.

Carrie (00:00:43) - Well, here's the thing. By now, if you're following our calendar of how the universe should be done, your summer program should be 100% full. And if your summer program is not full, we have an issue. If you are making the decision now, as the bluebonnets are popping up that you want to add a summer program because you have a room that's underutilized and you're like, I'm going to combine the threes and fours and I'm going to have a summer program for siblings or a kindergarten boot camp.

Carrie (00:01:19) - That's one that I think is something that you might be able to do last minute., but a summer camp for school agers, that's going to be a little hard if you haven't ever done it before to pull it out of your. We're going to go with ear. Pull it out here.

Kate (00:01:39) - Oh okay. So let's just review real quick. So Carrie, what are some of the episodes they can go back and listen to related to summer planning, if literally it is March and they're just now getting started.

Carrie (00:01:54) - , so last year's episode,, where we were like, do your summer a little differently and we talked about doing themes in different ways. That was episode 137., we did one on just what is the food you should feed kids in the summer? Summer snacks was episode 98, episode 59 was planning your summer and episode 60 was marketing your summer program. So those are just some places to go back and get some more input on this topic. If you are a new director and have never done summer camp before and someone on your board was like, great, so how's summer camp registration going? And you're like,, summer camp? Who? What?

Kate (00:02:43) - Go back and listen.

Kate (00:02:44) - The phone calls we've gotten so far are folks who are discovering that their school district is now doing free pre-K, so they're kind of trying to adjust on what's going to happen to their pre-K numbers. We've got other folks who, you know, with Covid money, they were able to give staff bonuses. They didn't actually have to be at their maximum numbers. And now they're trying to figure out how do I make my budget work. So I'm thinking that maybe today we need to talk maybe a little bit about the numbers of a summer program. And like Carrie said, if you don't already, if you're not already full pause. Go get some paper and pencil because you're going to need to write down everything we say. And you've got basically maybe two weeks to pull stuff together, and hopefully you've already been developing your list. And,, I know that's been an episode or two or 3 or 4. So,, you take your waitlist, you take all those people who've ever been a client who've ever called you, and you are going to be reaching out to them with your awesome summer programs.

Kate (00:04:00) - Yep.

Carrie (00:04:01) - And again, that one that we did last year about doing your summer a little different is a good way to do that. If this is a oh my goodness, I haven't planned for summer and now I need to because I didn't. I've never run a summer program before or like I said, underutilized or whatever. If if you're new to doing summer programming that episode 137 I think is going to be real helpful to you. But if you've got, say, you've got five kids enrolled in your summer program and you've got room for 30, how do we get from 5 to 30? We've already got a plan. We've already hired the staff person. Five kids if they're paying full price, not your employees, kids who are getting a discount. But if you have five kids who are paying full price, that's enough to pay for the staff. Maybe not the van in the field trips, but you've probably paid for the staff with those five kids. How do we get the. Other 25 kids, so that it's actually the profit center that the summer camp should be.

Kate (00:05:05) - Those are great questions, Carrie. So I mentioned briefly about having a list. So there are some absolutes. Whether you are running a school age after school program, whether you're running a summer program, whether you're just running a regular infant through pre-K, early childcare program, you have to have a list, you have to have names. And, well, what.

Carrie (00:05:33) - Do you mean, like a list? Like, I need crayons and I need paper and I need pencils, like that kind of list.

Kate (00:05:38) - No, no, no, this is not your shopping list., this is not even your to do list. This is a list of prospects or a list of people you know who can refer people to you. So let me just start by saying this is everybody who is currently enrolled in your program. So every mom, every dad, every grandma, every email address you have, all of your staff, then all of your friends in the neighborhood, everybody, you know, even if you're like, oh, they know I have a child care center.

Kate (00:06:13) - I don't care if they know you don't know who they're going to forward that email to. Okay, so.

Carrie (00:06:18) - Anybody who has toured your program in the last six months or filled out your hey, send me more information, little box on your website, all those people go into this list. We call it a mailing list or a prospect list. Kate was just saying list randomly, so I had to. I had a poker a little bit. So this is your prospect list. This is your mailing list okay. So you can send them snail mail. You can send them email. What works best is if you send them some of each. So they get some snail mail and some mail. Mail because people don't get a whole lot of mail, mail that isn't flyers. So if you want to send them a fun looking postcard or something in an envelope, oh, this is a thing people get very excited about mail.

Kate (00:07:12) - It's an.

Carrie (00:07:12) - Envelope. There's a real live stamp. Somebody actually wrote their name on the outside and inside.

Carrie (00:07:19) - It's an invitation, like an RSVP, like a party invitation saying you are invited to ABC Child Care's summer program. You can send it like a wedding invitation or a bridal shower invitation. My daughter just got married. That's what's in my head.

Kate (00:07:38) - It could be a birthday party.

Carrie (00:07:39) - Invitation, whatever.

Kate (00:07:41) - So if somebody doesn't, if you don't, if you're listening to this and you're like, I don't have a list, I guess I can't do it. You know what? You still can do it. First of all, get that list going. You can be doing some of this at the same time. So as you're developing the list, you've got your staff person. You know what your plan is for the summer social media. You're going to hear us talk about it over and over and over. And, you know, we've followed the trends. We're aware of the trends. But you know what? I've been working with a client for the last 5 or 6 months. And you know what? Facebook is still her thing.

Kate (00:08:18) - Facebook word of mouth. And her parents are younger. And yeah, her parents socially are on Instagram. But when they're looking for something, they're on their neighborhood Facebook group. They're on their mom's group, they're on their church group. Some of them even, believe it or not, actually on purpose. Go sign up for the HOA newsletter., some of the other church area,, newsletters and groups. So there's all these different ways to find the parents of kids ages five to 11 or 12. The ones you really want are those five year old parents, because those five year old parents, they're used to paying for child care. They're used to summer camps. They're used to having care all summer long. So this may be new to them. And if you market to them with a, hey, did you forget?, it looks like you're helping them. Granted, you might have not had it at the top of your radar that that was something you needed to do in January. And you might have thought, oh, I can do it in March.

Kate (00:09:27) - You can. But chances are those second, third, fourth, fifth grade parents, they've already got their summer plans. They've done this before. So you're in, man, for that about to be a kindergartner or I was a kindergartener. Those two age group parents., even better if those parents have got a sibling or two. Now carry. I know that when you ran programs a lot, one of the things that you did was you would buy a list. Now, what does that look like?

Carrie (00:09:57) - Well, there's a couple different ways to buy a list. And. I would really just recommend googling, because the lists that I buy now, because I don't currently have a school, are not going to be the list that you guys want, but you buy a mailing list. So buy a mailing list of parents in this zip code who have children between x age and Y age, and a median household income between P and S. And you can specify all of that. And it may cost you $500 and you get 300 names and you're like, oh, I can't afford to spend $500 on this thing.

Carrie (00:10:42) - Really? Because if if you get two families who enroll from that email and mail campaign, you have paid for that four times over if they stay with you for two months. Right.

Kate (00:10:56) - And most of the time you can use that list more than once. Yeah. So you can use that mailing list all year. So every time, you know, you've got school holidays coming up Christmas break, Thanksgiving break. You know there's other ways to use that list.

Carrie (00:11:13) - Yeah And I think going back to that whole oops I didn't do this yet. How do I position that. So it's not oops in your marketing. Could be parents have approached us and asked us to add a summer program. Now the parents who approached you, maybe the parents who sit on the board of your child care organization, who are used to sending their kids to the summer camp that you did not know existed, or the parents could be your employees who are like, hey, are we having summer camp this year? For my kids, that is still parents just because their parents who work for the school or volunteer for the school doesn't mean they're not parents.

Carrie (00:11:55) - Parents have asked us to have a summer program that can be in your marketing., another way to sort of juice getting you a few more kids from that 5 to 30 kids in your,, your summer program is to go over to the local elementary schools with a basket full of goodies, and it can be edible goodies, or it can be, you know, personal care goodies, hand lotion,, nice smelling hand sanitizer, candles, things like that. And go over to the people in the office and say, I know you're coming up to testing time, and that's rough. And I just wanted to get you something to take care of you. And,, I wanted to also let you know we're having summer program. If, you know, if parents are looking, we're here. We know your school and we know what your school's values are. So you're giving them a present and then saying just it. It crossed my mind. Maybe you'd like to know this and leave them some flyers and business cards.

Carrie (00:13:06) - So the people working in the office of your local elementary school can be your biggest advocates if you let them, but they are not going to be your advocates if they don't know about your program.

Kate (00:13:19) - You know, you brought up a great point, and I love business cards., so one of the things that we often talk about is being involved in your community, in professional business associations. And so another awesome way for you to connect with people who are in your community is to start going to those chamber functions. And so a lot of times over the holidays, you know, we are like just maybe one more meeting than we really wanted to go to. And maybe that's the one we don't go to. We're like, I'm not going to that networking breakfast. Oh, I know all of those people. Well, you know, you do know all of those people. And if they're not on your list, your mailing list, your prospect list, if they're not getting your newsletters and your mailings, this is a great time to go get connected and go get that stack of business cards so that you can put it into your list so you can mail them the invitation to your summer program.

Carrie (00:14:17) -  And when you're going To that event, when you're going to that event, you can be wearing the new cool Summer camp t shirt instead of your normal, you know, looking like a grown up clothes so you can be wearing the fun Summer camp t shirt, and you'll be amazed the number of people who come up to talk to you. Because usually when you come to that event, you're dressed in your grown up people clothes, and this time you're there in a neon pink summer camp t shirt, and they want to know what's up with the neon pink t shirt.

Kate (00:14:50) - Absolutely. And again, if by now you've pressed pause or you went to go listen to one of the other episodes, or you've heard us before, talk about themes. And you know, you've got some wacky theme going on. You know, maybe it's going to be a summer going through the jungle or something along those lines. Maybe you're going to do something with a bunch of, you know, monkeys and bananas, you know, bring your monkey, bring your banana, bring your gimmick.

Kate (00:15:17) - , because people are going to ask, why do you have a monkey attached to your shirt? Oh, you know, it's about my summer program. Let me tell you about it.

Carrie (00:15:26) - Yeah. Or, you know, everybody is all Taylor Swift all the time. And so maybe it's the eras. So your summer program is the different eras. And so you're doing, you know, two weeks on the swinging 20s. And, you know, I don't know what you're going to do. You're very creative person. And your program is going to have a great plan. But whatever it is, have some pieces of marketing that are fun when you're going out and about. And if you're going to have to do the weekly grocery shop for your school, put on the summer camp t shirt, clip your banana onto it, and go walk around the HEB. There's going to be people at that H-e-b going, what's up with that? And if people are taking your picture while you're walking around H-e-b, don't think that's creepy.

Carrie (00:16:17) - Think that's good marketing?

Kate (00:16:19) - Absolutely. So we talked a little bit about some themes how to maybe show up to an event, make sure you've got your elevator pitch because you're going to run into those people. If you are a mom yourself or an aunt,, whatever relationship you have to children, perhaps you're even a grandparent, you know, go out and go to every single one of those spring soccer games. Always have those flyers know what your pitch is, because this is the time for you to tell people about your program and go, hey, you know what? I think we still have some openings for that age group. I don't care if you have 20 openings for that age group. You think you might have 1 or 2?

Carrie (00:17:01) - Yep. And if you're going to those kids sporting events, I don't believe we've ever given this hint before. So listen, guys have bags, paper bags that you have stamped or put a sticker on with your school's information and inside it have the heavy duty, hard to break crayons and some coloring sheets in the bag when you go to your niece's soccer game.

Carrie (00:17:34) - And when you've got brothers and sisters act in The fool and obviously acting restless, you can go to the parent and say, hey, I have some. I'm a teacher and I have some activities., maybe your kid would like to do this while we're waiting. And so coloring sheets and word fines and those annoying, in retrospect were like, why were people making us do math problems to color the things where it's like two plus three equals red. And so everything that was five, we had to color in red. But kids love that as a oh, I didn't expect that to be in here with some seek and fines and some coloring pages, because some kids are going to love dot to dots and some are going to like coloring, and some are going to like word searches and some want to do math., so have an assortment in that paper bag. You've cut them to a quarter of a normal sheet of paper so that you can have all those different kinds stapled together in the lunch bag with your sticker on it.

Carrie (00:18:41) - It will make it's a great marketing piece that costs nothing.

Kate (00:18:45) - I love that I want to take that a step further. Put your logo and website on the bottom of each one of those little pages. If you're not sure you've got lunch bags, go with some cardstock. Make it a little heavier so that they can just color right on that page., with your logo and stuff on the bottom. Awesome. I love that, Carrie. And yes, I'm not sure we have the other thing with that, especially if you're related to somebody, one of the athletes is volunteering to provide snack and then set up a little display. So you've got some healthy choices. And again, it can be sponsored by your child care program. Yes, you might be an aunt grandma mom, but you know what? Doesn't matter. Use this opportunity to promote some healthy snack choices. Make it easier on the parents because you've got this and use it as a place to put your sign for your program, especially if you've got a summer program.

Kate (00:19:40) - If nothing else, if you're not really sure you've got time to talk to every one of those parents, have them write their email down, give them a QR code to take a picture of, and that they can sign up for your newsletter to learn about your summer camp. So while we're doing all these things and going to all these places, get. People to sign up for your mailing list so that you can continue to send them announcements about all the fun. So promoting and marketing your summer camp doesn't stop in March. It doesn't stop in April. I don't care if you're full. It doesn't stop because you got to tell everybody about all the awesome things your kids did during the summer. So make sure that your June plans are on fire. You know, I've got some schools that start as early as May. Carey. And so those man, those first two weeks, those staff, the the themes, the activities, everything is so out of the box. These is not your same old child carrier, same old summer camp.

Kate (00:20:43) - And they make sure to tell everybody because you're going to have that trickle effect of people going on summer vacation. And so as they're on summer vacation, you need people to replace them.

Carrie (00:20:54) - Absolutely. And we have an episode on that, too. When parents go on vacation. That's episode number 97, because most of the time you don't have parents enroll in summer camp for every single day of summer camp, you've got people who are going to the beach for a week, or they're going to see grandma, or they're going on vacation. They're going to hopefully they're going to Disney. We think everybody should be going to Disney.,.

Kate (00:21:25) - So all of y'all go in June and July. I don't go then.

Carrie (00:21:32) - Yeah Without a doubt. But you know, those kinds of things, I mean, there are going to be rocket launches happening. Can you can you tie in what you're doing to rocket launches, you know, and have a week on, you know, rockets? Can you what can you do to tie in to what is happening around you?, Cate and I are always going to have at least one week.

Carrie (00:21:57) - That's all about Legos, because,, Cate has owned. How many millions of Legos do you have? You owned Kate.

Kate (00:22:08) - But right now, I got some little Lego people right? Hanging out with me.

Carrie (00:22:14) - Yeah. So Kate was a Lego trainer. I bet you didn't know that was a thing. That's a possible career path to be somebody who teaches teachers how to use Legos in their curriculum., but all of these things are things that can get kids excited in a totally different way,, about coming to summer camp. And if you stop marketing, okay, it's the first day of summer camp, then you don't create any FOMO fear of missing out. We need parents to have FOMO. The parents who made the decision to, instead of enrolling and getting the bulk discount for enrolling in ten of the 11 weeks of summer camp, they were like, oh, I'll take one week at the end of August to get my kid back in the routine. And other than that, they're going to, you know, I don't know, laze by the pool and hang out at grandma's house.

Carrie (00:23:12) - And then they see week one was all about rockets, because that's what was in my head in week two was Legos. And week three, they we you invited in a zoologist. All of a sudden they're rethinking the. I'm only going to sign up for one week of summer camp because grandma's not bringing a zoologist into her house. You know, that's just not what grandma Camp is. My kids went to grandma camp. It was great. It did not involve zoo animals. It involved a lot of going to watering holes and a lot of arts and crafts.

Kate (00:23:48) - Probably a few plants.

Carrie (00:23:49) - Yes. Yeah. So going to some creeks, walking around in a creek,, which is lovely and I'm glad that parents get to do that. But if you talk about how cool your program is, then the parent who signed up for one week in August to help their kids get back on a school schedule is more likely to also pick up 2 or 3 other weeks.

Kate (00:24:12) - Absolutely. And you can never have too many school age kids.

Kate (00:24:16) - And let's just say you do. I mean, Carrie, what is the number? How many kids can I how many school age kids can I have?

Carrie (00:24:23) - I don't know how many toilets do you have? What is your license capacity?, this whole how many kids can I have in my building? It's x number of square feet. Drives me crazy when people call me or email me with that question. Because my next question is, I don't know how much space is given over to hallways, how many bathrooms, how many sinks, how many toilets., but the ratio is 1 to 22, so we might not want to go quite that high., you.

Kate (00:24:58) - Have to staff.

Speaker 4 (00:24:59) - Yeah.

Carrie (00:25:00) - But it's great from a ratios perspective, and having the kids of different ages should be an advantage to your program. If you've got staff who know how to partner people up based on interests, not based on their biological age.

Kate (00:25:17) - Absolutely.

Carrie (00:25:18) - That can be a whole other topic. We're not doing that one.

Kate (00:25:22) - So Carrie and I could probably sit here and do probably a good 4 or 5 episodes specifically on summer camp. But the takeaway from today is, as you're listening to this in March, it is not too late. You are behind, but it's not too late. If you haven't already hired your staff person, that probably needs to be your first thing or identified who who on staff wants that age group. Then you got to figure out cost, budget and your plans and your curriculum. But you know what? I've seen people make them really, really generic and just get out there and market their program. Get on social media, find your neighborhood groups, share about your school age program or your summer program. Write some stuff specifically aiming at that kindergartener you know, and the parents who might still be working. Even if the parents are working remote, this might be an opportunity for you to try and see how your program does with part time kids, whether that's one week at a time or a couple of days a week.

Kate (00:26:30) - This is an opportunity to try things that maybe you haven't tried before.

Carrie (00:26:34) - And it's a way to add a little bit of cushion to your school's budget. I'm telling you, I know that it is a hard thing in your budget right now that school districts are taking more pre-K kids just because school districts take pre-K kids, and just because school districts have free after school care does not mean that there are not parents who are paying for pre-K. And it doesn't mean that there aren't parents who are looking for quality after school or out of school time care. There are always parents who are paying for private school. Yep, you are one of those things that parents will pay for. If what you're offering is quality and different from what other people are offering. If you're offering exactly the same thing, you're going to have a harder time. So we always talk about differentiation. This is one of those times where this will shine. And there are summer camps where kids cook all summer, and then by the end of the school year, they are cooking full meals for their families.

Carrie (00:27:50) - , and they're in elementary school because you can teach them how to use knife skills safely, starting with ceramic knives, yada yada, yada. Obviously, I'm about to go on another tangent. We should probably wrap it up, or you'll be here for another hour with me getting very excited about that topic., I just watched a whole video about kindergarteners and and cooking, and it made me very excited. And.

Kate (00:28:15) - All right, we're going to let Carey go on that note, and we hope that all of y'all will,, listen to us, subscribe. Whatever you have to do on your particular podcast, don't forget to leave us a review., if you are on one that can only give us stars, you can always send us or post a social media and tag us your feedback on the on the Episode

Kate (00:28:40) - And if there is a topic that you're looking for, don't forget to let us know! Kate@TexasDirector.Org and Carrie@Texasdirector.Org.

Carrie (00:28:49) - We'll talk to you next week.

Marie (00:28:51) - Thank you for listening to Child Care Conversations with Kate and Carrie. Want to learn more? Check out our website at TexasDirector.Org and if you've learned anything today, leave us a comment below and share the show.