So, you’ve decided to start your own children’s activity business. You filled out the legal paperwork so that your business is officially incorporated. You put down a deposit for the location, started recruiting prospective hires for your team, and began gathering equipment.
Now the important part. How do you find customers? Better yet, how do you develop a long-term strategy so that customers keep coming? For most of you just starting out, paid advertisements and hiring marketing consultants simply isn’t financially feasible.
So how do we create a marketing strategy that will continue to pay dividends without paying an arm and a leg for advertising or hiring expensive consultants?
Find out where your customers are and meet them there
The first thing you have to do is ask yourself is: who are my customers and where are they located?
Make a list of all the places your potential customers hang out: in person and online. Think about the kind of publications they read. Think about the other kinds of services and businesses they use and figure out how you can get in front of them in those places.
For a children’s activity business, you might want to sketch out where parents like to hang out. You want to make sure that you are catching them when they have some leisure time.
We like to post our flyers at places like the nail salon where moms might have time to read our flyers while they’re getting a pedicure. The pediatrician or vet’s office is another place we advertise. Our flyers are available to read while parents are waiting for their child or pet to be seen. Be sure to put up colorful, catchy flyers so that the kids will notice it and be able to alert their parents.
Start with Surveys
When you are first starting out, it’s important to listen to your customer. Well, it’s always important to listen to your customer but it’s especially important at the beginning so that you set up programs that your customers will want to buy.
When we first started our program, we put together a survey. We waited at local schools around 30 minutes before pickup. Parents started milling around waiting for their children to be dismissed from school. Parents waiting to kill time were happy to converse with us.
The parents gave us really useful information about what types of programs they wanted and how much they were willing to pay. This helped inform our planning. It also worked as a great marketing technique. The parents were excited to be a part of the planning process. When the gym opened, some of the parents got to see firsthand that we actually took their advice. That made those parents feel special and included and they turned into some of our best customers.
Involvement with Local Community Leaders
Let the local schools and parent PTA’s know that a new children’s business is on the scene. Ask them for their input. Notify the local church, synagogue or other religious institutions. Speak to other local business owners in your area.
Create an “initial inner circle” with the people you meet. Again, this will have multiple benefits. You will get important information about your customer, traction for your business, and create community surrounding your enterprise because people will feel special that they are part of your “initial inner circle”
Host an Open House
Getting people to come to your open house may seem overwhelming, but with proper planning you are on the right track to success. The first step is to interact with the members of your community. You can do so by handing out flyers around the neighborhood, giving you a chance to build rapport with potential clients.
As you go around advertising your open house, make sure to bring along an email sign up sheet. By getting potential customer emails, you can market to these people in the future even if they don’t end up showing to your open house.
You should also post your open house on social media – facebook and instagram. Try to find local neighborhood groups in your area that will allow you to post straight on their groups. Another great way to get the word out is to find local mommy blogs. Mommy blogs love to post free events so they will usually be happy to write about your open house.
Remember to take into account your budget and space. Your open house should be about giving a high quality experience even if you are dealing with limited resources. Be resourceful and learn how to operate with what you have. It’s important that potential customers have the type of experience that makes them want to come back – however, if you break the bank you will be out of business before you start.
I recommend offering the highest quality instruction possible. At the end of the day, parents care about the service being offered more than anything else. Don’t worry about wasting money on door prizes or expensive props. As long as the kids learn something new and have fun at the open house, parents will be sure to send them back!
Write A Press Release to Gain initial Traction
It is super important to time your initial press release properly. Too soon and the local newspaper won’t want to advertise something that isn’t happening yet. Send it too late, and the newspaper won’t consider you a “new business” and the press release will be irrelevant to them.
If you choose to do an open house, sending an initial press release with an invite to the open house is the ideal way to get the local news to cover your story. That way they can take photos at your open house and present your story as a community event.
The local newspaper will feel special that they are the first to cover your new enterprise. And since an initial press release is generally free of charge, that free advertising for you.
Most importantly, the initial press release will get noticed by many people in your community. If you target it at the right moment, people will be curious and want to check out the new space in the community.
Conclusion: Ongoing Marketing
Marketing is an ongoing process. Whether you are about to start a children’s gym, just started one or have been in the business for a while, we all need customers.
Sometimes the marketing activities you do to gain initial traction can be a little different than ongoing marketing. Be on the lookout for our next article about building and retaining your customer base.