Multi-Faceted Marketing: Kiddie Academy's Wendy Odell Magus Talks Customer Acquisition

Wendy Odell Magus is quite familiar with consumer and franchise sales marketing strategies. She has worked in both corporate and agency marketing roles and for more than 20 years has developed marketing and communications strategies that have gotten results. She has served as senior director of marketing at Sylvan Learning and is currently the vice president of marketing for Kiddie Academy, a child care franchisor with 110 locations in 24 states.

Magus also is familiar with the types of strategies--and how to implement them--that can help franchise brands acquire and retain more customers. We asked Magus for her thoughts on today's rapidly changing customer acquisition strategies and techniques.

What customer acquisition strategies are you using at Kiddie Academy? Driving growth in our brand through customer acquisition and customer loyalty is a multi-faceted process that continues to evolve as our customers' behavior changes and new channels of communication and engagement emerge. The principles of going where our customer is going and surrounding the customer with opportunities to gain information and engage are the two constants.

Since selecting the right child care provider is a very considered decision, it is important for us to cultivate brand affinity with our target audience. Our customer acquisition strategies are focused on keeping the Kiddie Academy brand front and center so that we are the first provider they think of when they begin their search.

We use a mix of traditional channels, such as print grassroots marketing, and broadcast to "surround" our prospects and reinforce the values of the brand for existing customers. We then layered in newer media elements and aspects of interaction into traditional media to help drive engagement. These strategies include social media, QR codes, customized online destinations, and in-person events.

Describe your customer loyalty program at Kiddie Academy. Because we are not a transactional business, our customer loyalty programs are all about personalized interactions. Some of our locations provide child care so parents can go on a date night. Some locations will take children early or stay late to accommodate a parent's schedule. The loyalty perks are as unique as each of our customers and each of our franchisees


How do profiling, targeting, and loyalty programs drive greater revenue and market share? The ability to understand who our customers really are, through psychographic modeling, has a major impact on every aspect of our business. It certainly drives our customer acquisition efforts, all the way from channel selection to messaging. It also enables us to take our direct marketing to a whole other level.

How do you create "fans" that talk up your brand and send new customers your way? Creating fans begins with great customer experiences. We have to delight our families with our services and develop strong relationships with them. Then we empower those happy customers to share their enthusiasm for our brand. We motivate fan behavior through tuition incentives, with thank-you events, and by making it easy for them to share through social networking. Certain social networking activities can be directly tracked back to our fans through our online customer satisfaction program with Systino. This measurability extends all the way to the bottom line, which is a powerful metric for our franchisees.

In what ways can "revitalizing" your brand help build your customer base? We continually look for ways to differentiate our services and brand. For instance, four years ago we introduced Life Essentials--Kiddie Academy's curriculum, supporting programs, methods, activities, and techniques that help better prepare children for life. It was amazing how quickly our internal audience adopted Life Essentials, and how quickly our customers clearly understood the value proposition for them. It continues to be a differentiator for us, and it's given our customers a shorthand way to describe our services.

We also keep our brand fresh and relevant to our customers through value-rich experiences and programs that extend beyond our traditional 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. business hours. Whether it's a weekend event where they can invite friends along or use-at-home educational resources, we work to give our customers new and enriching experiences they can share with their children.

What role do your franchisees play in the customer acquisition process? Franchisees are a vital part of the customer acquisition process because they are the local embodiment of the brand. The reputation of the academy is a key element of prospect receptivity. The interaction of positive grassroots programs with efficient national marketing amplifies the impact in a way that neither channel could accomplish by itself.

Are you using any unique or innovative customer acquisition techniques/tools? Recently we launched a new customer acquisition campaign using a system-wide event to engage current and prospective customers. We focused messaging in every marketing channel on building awareness and attendance and used direct marketing tactics to specifically drive prospects to participate. The campaign was a success on every level that we measured. It was easy for our franchisees to implement. It was universally well attended. We drove equal numbers of current and prospective customers to the event, where our fans were able to sell the brand for us. And most important, we were able to measure a strong ROI through enrollments.

How do you establish franchisor and franchisee roles in customer acquisition strategies? From day one, we establish clear parameters around the roles and responsibilities for different levels of marketing. From a franchisor perspective, we focus on efficiently driving leads from a national perspective. This means implementing programs that are either too complex or too costly for our franchisees to do locally. Franchisees are coached on the most effective local tactics that complement the national campaign. There is an unbeatable positive interaction between these two levels of marketing that drives educated prospects into our individual locations.

How do you support franchisees in acquiring and building a customer base? Because there is some seasonality to our business, we provide three comprehensive seasonal promotion kits to franchisees and support them in their local implementation. The kit has many turnkey elements, and everything is easily customizable. The messaging and creative for each promotion is consistently carried through all of our national strategies as well. So no matter how a prospect experiences our brand, it's consistent and motivating.

What's the cost-to-investment factor of acquiring customers? The lifetime value of a Kiddie Academy customer is significant. So we could justify a relatively high acquisition cost. However, we are consistently able to keep our acquisition cost fairly modest by having a well-rounded strategy that includes a strong grassroots marketing program and multi-faceted brand awareness and direct response strategies.

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