Of course, what she meant was that the pre-school where she has worked for the past 25 years needed someone to head up the management committee and was I interested in ‘volunteering’. How could I refuse?
So since November 2012 whatever spare time I have been able to find has been devoted to helping the pre-school develop from a well-run social enterprise into a well-run ‘small business’.
The pre-school has been around for 39 years and it has a fantastic reputation locally. The last Ofsted inspection in 2011 backs this up, “The children are very happy and settle well at this stimulating and welcoming pre-school.”
As a marketer I just couldn’t resist developing this into a ‘Mission Statement’, and here it is:
“The aim of our pre-school is to create a vibrant and fun environment for all children of pre-school age, from two upwards, so that by learning through play they can develop into happy, confident little people”.
The managers and staff at the pre-school already deliver a fantastic ‘customer experience’ for both the children and their parents. However, reputation alone does not guarantee a steady intake of two and three year olds each term so we decided a bit of promotional activity wouldn’t do any harm.
As is the case with most small businesses there’s very little money for ‘marketing’ but it’s amazing what you can achieve with a little bit of creativity … and Facebook.
The first task was to create an identity so I asked those very nice people at Marketing Zone (the same people who do all the CIM London comms.) if they would design a logo which we could use in print (such as letterhead, compliment slips, a newsletter and leaflets) and online.
And this is it … cute, eh? The parents and children loved it and, just as importantly, so did the staff.
Next came some signs. The pre-school recently signed a 10-year lease for the main hall at the Stone Lodge community centre in Ipswich so for the first time ever we have been allowed to fit some signage to the outside of the building. Anyone passing by is now greeted by the mother of all signs at the entrance to the car park, another sign directing them around the corner to the door and a ‘Hello, come in and enjoy the fun’ window transfer on the door itself.
You’ll notice that two of the signs each display the Facebook logo and one of them the strapline ‘Like us on our Facebook page’. So can you guess what we did next?
The pre-school now has its own Facebook page. Why Facebook and not a website? Why re-invent the wheel. Facebook is where the vast majority of the mums, otherwise known as customers and potential customers, spend most of their time. You only have to observe them dropping off their little ones first thing in the morning to realise that they are never more than a thumbs-length away from their smartphones.
Since the page was launched in February it has acquired 95 likes. Considering there are just over 100 children registered at the pre-school this probably represents 80% to 85% of all existing customers so as a communications channel – daily updates on what the children are doing and news about the pre-school – it’s pretty effective. But it’s a lot more than that.
Within a week of the page going live there were seven unsolicited and glowing recommendations. There are now 11 including this posted only last week:
“Highly recommended pre-school !! My older children loved it and now my youngest is there and it’s still brilliant !!! X”
Our daily posts have achieved a reach of anything from 100 to 700 ‘unique people’, and our instructions on “How to make playdough” went viral!
But the biggest result of all is that as a direct result of launching our page we have had four new enrolments for next term. As each child can be worth several hundred pounds per term that’s a pretty good ROMI (the site has cost us nothing but the time invested in it).
So whichever Facebook metric you look at ‘Jack n Jill’ is on the ascendancy. But we all know how the original story ends … so we are not resting on our laurels. Next we will be posting lots of pictures of smiling children proudly holding aloft their latest painting or Lego® sculpture – with full parental consent of course. We think they’ll like it!