You are competing against other family child care providers, child care centers, school-age programs, Head Start, and unregulated caregivers.
When competing against unregulated caregivers, you have some special challenges.
I am defining unregulated caregivers (also called exempt care, kith and kin, relative care or informal providers) as those who are not in violation of state child care licensing rules. They don’t have to follow all of the regulations that a licensed family child care provider must follow.
I’m not talking about child care programs that operate illegally, in violation of licensing rules. I believe illegal providers should be convinced to become regulated or they should be forced to shut down. See my article, “A Plan to Eliminate Illegal Child Care.”
Parents use unregulated caregivers for many reasons: it’s usually cheaper, it may be provided by a relative, or they may know the caregiver from their community. Some parents don’t know the difference between regulated and unregulated care.
You should assume that when a parent looking for child care contacts you, she is also considering using an unregulated caregiver.
Here are some suggestions for how to compete against unregulated caregivers:
Safety – Parents’ number one concern about child care is safety. Therefore, when talking to prospective parents you should emphasize that being regulated means you and your home have passed a series of safety tests, including criminal background checks, first aid and CPR training, fire department inspections of your home, and adherence to safety standards, such as the proper storage of hazardous materials in your home.
Say to the parent, “If you are considering enrolling your child in another home, ask if that caregiver is licensed. If not, ask if they are trained in CPR and first aid? Do they have any history of criminal activity or sexual abuse? Do they have an emergency evacuation plan?”
Fees – Informal caregivers probably charge less, perhaps significantly less, than you. Do not try to compete on the basis of price. There will always be providers with lower rates than yours, and you can be successful even while charging higher rates.
Say to the parent, “If you are looking for the cheapest care in town, that’s not me. My rates are based on the quality of care I offer and the safe and healthy environment I provide for your child.”
Value – Stress the value of your services by promoting the benefits of your program. Tell the parent what advantages you offer to children that unregulated programs don’t offer.
Say to the parent:
“I offer a variety of planned learning and play activities that will help you child be ready to succeed in school.”
“I have specialized training in child development so I can respond quickly to meet your child’s needs.”
“I offer special services (piano lessons, second-language exposure, numerous field trips, computers, etc) that will enrich your child’s education.”
Parents who can see that you offer high-quality child care will pay for it. It’s your job to show them. See my podcast, “How to Identify the Benefits of Your Program.”
You can’t appeal to every parent. Some will always pick the cheapest care. Let those parents go. People usually get what they pay for. Parents who pay bargain-basement rates will get bargain-basement care.
What ideas have you used to compete against unregulated caregivers?
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: medimoon.com
For more marketing ideas, see my book Family Child Care Marketing Guide.