We all know that word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. So why do so many daycares lack a customer referral program? Maybe we figure that if people love us, the referrals will come naturally, without us having to ask for them.

This might be the case, but there’s one problem: unless you reward existing customers for their hard-earned referrals, they’re unlikely to help you get new customers.

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

Step 1: Earn . Do what you do so well that others can’t resist telling people about you. A great example is Disney. 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.