Top Tips for Early Years and Childcare Providers on Branding

How often has it been said by those of us working in the early years and childcare sector, that we entered this field not necessarily having the desire to become a manager or even a business owner but because of our love of children.

Many professionals now in this position know that they also need to have a sound understanding of business issues.

If this sounds like you and you are wondering why some of your competitors appear to be doing better than you, perhaps you have overlooked the importance of ‘branding’ as part of your marketing strategy? It’s not boring and it really is quite simple so please read on.

You may not be clear what branding is or the significant part it can play in your success?

So here we go:-

‘Branding’ – what does it mean and keeping it simple?’

It is part of everything you do as a business and how you do it. It will be your name and it will help to identify your services (or possibly products too) as a business.

You may have a slogan or strapline, a sign or symbol or a combination of all these elements which help to differentiate your services from the competition.

It is critical in a competitive business environment to have a strong brand.

If you have a logo your customers (parents) may associate this with your brand. Make sure it reflects your values, beliefs and identity.

A slogan or strapline (if you have one, although not essential) needs to be meaningful and to focus on the benefits of using your services instead of the features. It also needs to reflect your business’s values and Unique Selling Points (USPs), contain clear, plain language and be short and sweet.

The Basic Elements and making sense of this marketing jargon

Apart from the above elements your brand will need to build trust, reflect sound knowledge and provide choice.

However, research has shown that having too many choices can create debilitation. A customer will therefore pick something that reflects their own values, beliefs and ideals; something that they can identify with.

Your brand is what your customers associate your business with; what you do, how you do it and your specific characteristics. It will have a part to play in the reputation that you build as a child care and early years’ education provider.

Therefore, carefully consider your values and what the most important thing is to you, so that you can promote this within your service and any products that you may also offer.

You need to be clear why you do what you do. What has inspired your business development and/or why you are working in childcare? Really try and capture your passion in your branding.

You will find that your parents are often drawn to your setting by your ‘why’.

Values and emotions are important in creating a brand that becomes special for the parents that take up a childcare place with you.

Competitors and brand

Identify competitors and their brand –  consider, ‘have I got something different to offer?’

Gather information about them – check website, promotions and their brand.

What is their niche? If competitors offer exceptional services you may struggle – consider something unique that you can offer (your Unique Selling Point – USP).

Your niche involves a deep understanding of your competition AND your target audience.

The basis of competition

Has 3 main elements; differentiation, cost and segmentation.

Differentiation – a unique combination of features.

Cost – services compete offering a range of features at lowest possible cost.
Segmentation – services are tailored for a unique set of needs i.e. a specific market instead of trying to serve all possible customers.

Consider, ‘is there value in focussing on segmentation?’

You can do this by considering your primary ‘customer’. Is this a parent that works full-time, a parent that works part-time or a parent that wants to take up their free entitlement to funded hours only?

Develop a ‘persona’; write out a specific set of typical characteristics for this customer/persona – parents will then see themselves in your persona and are more likely to see a match to your services (see ‘Top Tips on designing a customer persona’ – coming shortly).

To do this you need to think, ‘what are their issues and concerns? What do they want or need? What are their fears, their goals and their values and what does she/he care about?’

Then create a short, visual persona; include an image, give the persona a name, age and occupation, and include their hobbies and interests within your promotional materials. Your customer/parent will then be able to relate to this.

If you decide to create a number of personas for the different parents that you serve you are likely to need to communicate differently to each. For example, consider whether text or email is more appropriate. ‘Do they use Facebook or LinkedIn?’

If this changes over time do not continue to focus on a range of customers, but limit the focus to the personas that best represent your market.

Positioning Statement

What do you want your customers to feel, see, hear, say and do?

Your brand ‘positioning’ needs to focus on what your customer wants, and link in with what you do best and with the most conviction. You then have your USP and your customer will think it’s important.

Your statement needs to be clear and succinct and say;

  • Who it is for? (parents’ characteristics);
  • What type of provision they may be dissatisfied with? (the alternatives to your service);
  • What your service is;
  • What it provides that is different from the rest.

Good luck with getting your branding right for you and your setting!

Email: debra.mcandrew@earlyyearsadvocacy.co.uk
Tel: 07470 235 250