Boost Enrollment by Jazzing Up your Referral Program

Boost Enrollment by Jazzing Up your Referral Program
Referral programs are a low-cost, easy to implement marketing tool that encourage your existing students and dance parents – your greatest asset – to recommend your dance studio to their friends. Referral programs can transform your students and/or their parents into “marketing missionaries”, who spread the word and convert friends and acquaintances into customers. 
 

A lovely by-product of the referral program is that students/parents who give referrals become even better customers in the process. Once someone stands up and makes a public statement about you, psychologically they will become more loyal to you and your studio.

Using a referral program can boost your dance studio's enrollment!
Setting Up your Referral Program
Rewarding customers who share positive feelings about your studio to their friends and acquaintances encourages them to do just that. The incentives, whether a percentage or dollar amount off fees, a free class or a tangible reward such as a t-shirt or gift certificate, need not be excessive, but should get your students to take notice, and hopefully, action. 
 

From a simple thank you to unlimited referral discounts, below you’ll find rewards used by actual dance studios (although the names have been changed). Use these as a guideline to create your own reward system, if you haven’t already done so:

 
  • Thank you to our loyal customers for your gracious referrals; it is your support that makes Figtree Dance so successful.
  • Refer a friend to Miss Natalia’s! If they pay registration and first month’s tuition, you receive $25 off your tuition!
  • When you share your dance experience with your friends, they get excited. When you bring them along to class, they have a blast. When they join because of you we want to say THANK YOU! We will CREDIT 50% of your friend’s first month of tuition to YOUR dance studio account when they register. Make sure to inform our office when your buddy registers so you get credit!
  • If you pass the word along to a friend, we will thank you by crediting your account $25 towards your recital costumes. There is no limit to the number of referrals you may get! Your friend just needs to mark your name in the “Referred By:” section on the back of the registration card.
  • Earn Free Dance Classes: Ask the front desk for our referral discount cards and give them to your friends. They get a $50.00 discount, and you receive a $50.00 credit towards your next enrollment when they register!
Remember the Students!
The above examples aim at the parents of students, or the persons paying the bill. Don’t forget the students themselves in your referral program. Young people are famous for influencing each other; they might as well be influencing each other to take classes at your studio!
 
Try, for example: “Encourage one of your friends to sign up for classes (must be a new student), and you’ll receive a $20.00 gift certificate to Discount Dance Supply (or a new leotard from our studio shop, or…)”.
 
Turn it Into a Contest
Another way to maximize the potential of your Referral Program is to have an annual contest, with the person responsible for the most new customers receiving a more valuable prize. For example: “Once the referring student recommends 4 new students, their name will go into a drawing to take place at the 2013 Recital for a chance to win 1 full year of FREE TUITION.”
 
Getting the Word Out
Here are some excellent ways to spread the news about your referral program:
 
  1. A great way to introduce your new and/or improved referral program is to write about it in your studio newsletter, and ask dance parents and dancers for their help. After mentioning how much you value their business, explain that you’re creating a referral program and that their referrals would benefit you both. Then outline the referral program, with its discounts or rewards and rules.
  2. Of course, promoting your referral program through your website makes a whole lot of sense too. Elite Dance Academy in Boulder, CO does an excellent job of this.
  3. Why not provide your existing customers with the tools they need to recommend you to their friends even more effectively? You can do this easily by providing referral cards for your dancers and dance parents to use. Misty Lown wrote an excellent post on this for the Dance Studio LIfe blog.
  4. I recommend using professionally printed business cards that customers can give to their friends and acquaintances. They are incredibly inexpensive these days at sites such as Moo.com and Vista Print.com. (No affiliation here; let me know which online print company is your favorite!) This technique works particularly well when there is a clear benefit for both your existing customer and the prospect they are approaching.
     

    The card may offer, for example, a $20.00 discount for the new customer, and a $20.00 credit for the existing customer. Assign a number or code to those who wish to participate in your referral program, and put that number on the back of their cards (or have them do so). When the new customer presents the card in order to receive their discount, you will know who was responsible for the referral, and reward them in turn.

Keep in mind, your customers will most likely want to refer your studio to others. They’ve found a great dance school that fits their needs perfectly, and they want to share their “little secret” (you) with their friends. Perhaps they will be seen as a hero, or someone “in the know.” Your students may feel like special club members or rebels for your cause. And when their friends grow to love your studio as well, your referring customer will feel as though she/he was able to do them a great favor.
 
You can significantly increase new business by developing a referral program, alerting your students and their parents, and encouraging them to participate. You’ll be nurturing an all-volunteer sales force that boosts student enrollment and leverages your marketing dollars. So why not give your students and their parents a reason to talk positively about you and begin your own referral program? Doing so harnesses the power of word of mouth and creates a win/win situation for all.
 

Best wishes!
Stacey

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