As a child care provider, one of your best marketing tools is free; your local child care resource and referral agency. As a former Center Director as well as a Resource and Referral Program Manager, I've seen it from both sides.
First of all, you need to understand what your R&R can and cannot do for you. They cannot recommend your program to parents. This would open them to huge liability issues. But, what they can do, and get paid by the state to do, is to help parents find child care that meets their needs; they can provide referrals.
So, how do you maximize your referrals from the R&R? Get on their list and keep your listing up-to-date. When the R&R counselor talks with a parent about their child care needs, they ask very specific questions. They then plug those answers into a computer and the database spits out referrals that meets the parent's needs.
Making sure that your provider profile in the database is complete and up-to-date will help you make sure that the referrals you receive are appropriate for your program. For example, if you don't provide infant care, but the R&R doesn't know that, you may get referrals for parents looking for infant care. This is a waste of the parent's time and your time.
I was amazed when I ran R&R's at how often I would get calls from providers complaining that they weren't receiving referrals. More often than not, when I looked up a provider's profile, I saw that the list indicated zero vacancies listed. The provider would complain that he or she had vacancies for months, but when I looked up the last update, it was six months earlier. Many R&R's have systems in place to contact providers every three-to-six months to update profiles, but that doesn't mean that you can't, and shouldn't, contact them in the meantime. I would recommend calling in every month and any time you have a change in your program; vacancies, fees, services, etc.
Remember, updated profiles translate into more, and more appropriate, referrals.
P.S. If you don't already know your R&R, you can find them at http://childcareaware.org/child-care-providers. Just plug in your zip code.
When someone calls looking for child care, do you have a form to fill out that makes sure that you, or your staff, collect all of the important information? If not, check out our Initial Inquiry Form.