Parent surveys reveal that over 85% of young families turn to referrals from friends and family when investigating early care and education services for their children and family. Beyond that, research shows that some 57% or more also check online reviews. Furthermore, they trust those referrals and reviews as reliable sources to help them move from investigation to consideration. The consideration stage of the prospect search is when they inquire via web form, call, or tour self-scheduler, reaching out to a “shortlist” of schools to seriously consider.
How can you bump up the number of positive referrals and reviews your school gets, so you can increase the flow of qualified inquiries and the opportunities to convert them into enrollments?
- Keep your current parents happy. Continually check on their satisfaction, unmet expectations, and needs for communication in general and specifically about what their child is doing in your school. Ask in multiple ways and often. Address small issues before they lead to dissatisfaction or dis-enrollment. The quicker you unearth and resolve even small problems, the more likely they are to tell several others how satisfied they are.
- Develop and promote strong referral programs. Parent referral programs work. Choose acknowledgment gifts that are meaningful to your parents, promote your referral program in multiple ways, and run special short-term promotions when you need to increase inquiries in a certain age group. Don’t forget about staff referral programs if your staff lives near your school. And absolutely build strong referral partnerships with opinion influencers in your center’s draw radius. Acknowledgment gifts for community partners may be different from those given parents, but the leads they send you are often the same kind of enrollment opportunities your parents send you.
- Ask for referrals and reviews. Be sure your families are aware of your referral program and the immediate acknowledge gift they will get for sending friends and family your way. Remind them in digital and print communications, that you always appreciate new referrals. When you run a special short-term referral program, ask them if they know anyone whom you should take the lead to contact. When a parent says something great about a teacher or their overall experience in your school, ask them if they would post a brief review, right then if it is an opportune time.
Sometimes directors tell me all this feels pushy. However, when you think in the parent’s perspective, you will realize happy parents do not mind supporting your capacity-building efforts. They know the benefit to them is their referrals mean you will enroll more like-minded families to your school with whom they can build a strong community that will last for years!