Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Who would have thought that my first experience of marketing would have been such a baptism of fire!? It all began one sunny day in May 2009, I had just landed a managers job for a large childcare company and I was set to make a good impression, to be the manager that my team would find inspiration and motivation from. Little did I know that the organisation I had gone to work for had very different ideas. In my first week a director called a meeting at my setting, all staff were to attend. The message.......
"Occupancy is so low we are considering making redundancies"
Ok, so, looks like some of my new manager priorities are going to need to change here!
Before I could run for the hills my new manager office was pilled high with leaflets, A-frames, banners and balloons all sent to the setting. We were being equipped with enough branded merchandise to sink a ship! My first reaction was to try and do it all alone. Like a super hero fighting an occupancy battle, there I was at the end of the road battling with a 10 foot banner that told the world we had spaces available. Re-living my paper-round days, there I was with fistfuls of leaflets putting them in every community space I could think of. And I mustn't forget my award winning performance, debating with a local resident about the legality of my banner position whilst she proceeded to cut it down with a pair of kitchen scissors......I kid you not! Don't mess with my banner!!!
Despite my best efforts nothing changed. My wonky, dog eared banner (re-hung with cable ties, now try your kitchen scissors lady!) did not have the desired impact on my occupancy figures.... And my team? As I kept them in the dark in a vain attempt to protect them, they were worried for their jobs.
It wasn't until I sat back and I really thought about our setting, the staff, the community in which we worked, our competitors, our market position, our values, our behaviours and our unique selling points that I was able to see where I was going wrong.
Marketing is so much more than a picture on a banner or a snappy headline. To truly market your setting is to live it, to breathe it and to passionately declare to the world why you are exceptional. With this resolution in mind I was honest with my team about my failed efforts, we brainstormed our strengths and weaknesses, we went out into the community, we invited the community in, we shouted about and improved our USP's, we partnered with other local businesses.
I will always remember our summer open day that year, the sun was shining, the ice-creams and homemade cakes were being enjoyed with gusto but, most importantly, the teams attitude, sense of togetherness and professional attitude shone through...and by the end of that day? We had a waiting list!
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