How to Host an Open House
A successful open house can be one of the best marketing tools available to your childcare center or preschool.
An open house offers parents a look into what a typical day at your childcare center looks like and gives them a full view of your facility and your caring staff. Successful open house events take planning and preparation.
Choose the right time of year and date
Be strategic in your choice of when to host your open house event. You don’t want to plan it on a Friday night or weekend when parents are busy. And, consider local events as well because you don’t want to conflict with a major sporting event or festival.
Consider also that parents will likely be bringing their child or children with them. This means that you need to avoid getting into bedtime schedules. Offer your open house from 5 to 7 p.m. so that parents can stop by right after work.
Or, if you offer care to children until 6 p.m., wait to start until 6 because you don’t want current customers coming and going with your prospects. It might be too much traffic for your facility and staff to handle. If only a few parents pick up between 5 and 6 p.m., you should be OK to do an earlier time slot.
Market your open house and incentivize current parents to invite a friend
Referral programs are a marketing tactic with some of the highest ROI out there. Incentive your current customers to invite a friend to your open house. You might offer $20 off of tuition for the month for every friend who attends and $50 off for those whose friends enroll their child as a result of the open house.
Of course, there are many ways to market your open house in addition to referral programs:
- Yard signs in front of your facility
- Social media
- Blog content
- At local businesses, churches, gyms, grocery stores, etc.
- Online advertisements
- Email to everyone on your prospect list
You’ll need to spend some time in this area focusing on getting the word out. Ideally, you should start marketing your open house about a month before the event.
Prepare activities for the children
When you have activities planned for the children, it frees up time for parents to talk to administrators and teachers. Plus, your planned activities can offer some insights into what a day at your childcare or preschool facility can offer.
Consider having books and coloring sheets in your office as well so that when parents are having enrollment discussions, the children are occupied and quiet. While an open house is mostly concerned with adult conversations, you want to show your skills with the children, so don’t forget them. An open house is not just about closing the sale with prospects but about showing prospective customers what a day in the life of your childcare center looks like for children.
Deep clean your childcare center
You want to put your best foot forward for parents preparing to meet you for your open house. And to do this, you should make sure your childcare center is especially clean. This might be challenging because you’ll be hosting the open house right after children leave for the day.
To be effective in presenting a super clean facility, get your teachers on board. Make sure the teachers do continuous cleanup throughout the day and take out the trash once children leave. Most facilities have a cleaning crew come through in the evenings but remember that your open house takes place during these hours. Plan ahead and do your best to keep things especially clean all day long. One stinky diaper in the trash could leave a bad impression on parents.
Offer simple refreshments
If parents and children are coming directly from work or school, they might be a little hungry. You want to try and make sure that the individuals who attend your open house are comfortable and happy. A little food and drink can help with this.
Additionally, some people find social situations uncomfortable and having a cup in their hands can help ease that tension. Or nibbling on a snack can give them something to do when they aren’t sure what they should do.
Offer water, a couple of juices and snack foods, such as trail mix, granola bars and fruit. Make the foods reflect your childcare center and what you offer daily. Just be sure that the snacks are also age-appropriate to avoid choking hazards or other issues.
Have teachers on hand to greet visitors
Your teachers are your greatest assets. Show them off by making sure they are on hand to answer questions and greet your visitors. Make the visitors feel welcomed and guide them through what to expect during the open house. If your visitors have never attended an open house event, they might be a bit apprehensive or unsure of what to do.
Invite your teachers to show off their classrooms and the work that their students do there. Have them talk about what a typical schedule might look like each day. And be sure to ask the visitors how old their children are so that you can pair them up with the right teacher to show off the right classroom for their child.
Prepare plenty of enrollment packets to make things simple
Childcare centers that use paper enrollment should have plenty of enrollment packets prepared and ready to go for the open house day. Those that process enrollments digitally should have laptops and tablets charged and ready to take new enrollments.
Given that the primary goal of an open house is to showcase your facility and get new enrollments, you want things to be as simple as possible. And when you get that exciting question of “how do I sign up,” offer the appropriate paperwork to the parent.
Collect contact information and send a follow-up message
When parents walk through the doors, invite them to sign-in on a sheet with first name, last name, phone number and email address. This way, anyone who does not enroll that day is someone you can still reach out to following the event.
Send a follow-up email to all the parents in attendance and offer to answer further questions or offer additional materials about your childcare center to help further motivate them to enroll.
A well-managed open house can be a great opportunity for you to enroll new students.