I heard the most amazing thing the other day.  I was on a coaching call with one of our Platinum members of the Child Care Success Academy, and she told me about the results of her customer referral-rewards program at her child care center.

The first amazing thing was that her child care program has received 26 new enrolling families over the last 9 months, purely from her referral program.customer referrals

But here’s where it gets really incredible: about 5 of those referrals have come from KIDS REFERRING KIDS to their after school program!  The kids are referring their friends for two main reasons:

1) They want the reward, which is a basic Kindle reader. (The program promotes Kindle readers as referral rewards because they tie it into the importance of reading and literacy for kids.  Smart, right?)

2) The children are having a blast in this after-school program and want their friends to have fun, too.  The program features delicious food and fun snacks for after-schoolers, as well as a strong homework club and a great afterschool teacher who makes the whole thing super-fun.

If you want to grow enrollment AND retention of families in your child care, daycare, or early childhood education program, I recommend you model these best practices and strategies with an effective referral-rewards program.

So what is the simplest, easiest way to create a customer referral program? Follow my simple three-step acronym: EAR. Earn-Ask-Reward.

I’ve taught this in previous blog posts and the system is easy!

Step 1: Earn. Do what you do so well that others can’t resist telling people about you.  Ask yourself “how can we provide child care so well that people will be amazed at our service and how great we are” and they won’t be able to resist telling other parents about it. In other words, provide a “WOW” experience.

Make a list of what’s special, unique, and different about your center. When prospects call and then visit for the first time, what “WOW” reactions will they have? Or will they have a ho-hum reaction? If they visit you along with two other competitors in the same day, what will make them remember YOU as opposed to the other two centers? If you want others to rave about you, you’ll need to refine your “WOW” experience.

Step 2: Ask. Create an easy-to-follow process for you and your staff to ask happy customers to refer you to friends and family. This could be a simple flyer that spells out the details of your program, including the reward for providing a referral. You can go further by communicating your Referral Program throughout your center materials, in your newsletter, via email to your customer list, on your website, and in flyers posted on the Parent Communication boards.

Step 3: Reward. Make sure you’ve identified a valued prize that will reward your customers for their hard work. Don’t appear “cheap” and don’t give a discount related to your child care business. One of the best gifts that parents can receive is a complimentary “date night” including dinner and a movie, or perhaps even free child care for the evening. Another idea is a $100 gift card to a popular retail outlet, or a generic $100 cash gift card.

Typically, the reward is given when the enrolling family names the referring family. For example, on the Enrollment Form you should have a field for “Please Let Us Know Who Referred You to Our Center So We May Thank Them”.

Using these three simple steps, you’ll soon find yourself with many prospective families interested in enrolling in your center, courtesy of your current customer base.