Ask the Experts: Referral Programs

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Q: Do you use a referral program? How do you structure it?


A: Create a referral program that you feel excited about sharing. It's a great way to thank your customers, so you can have fun with it! You may choose to allow earned referral credit to go toward current students' tuition, costumes and/or dancewear.

First, determine what your incentive amount will be. Some studios offer a $5 credit per month to the student who made the referral, up to a $50 limit, if the new student remains enrolled for 10 months. Then, decide who qualifies and what restrictions to impose that make sense for your business. For example: Is this offer only for new students, or will it include returning dancers from at least two years past?

As an added incentive, you could do a grand prize drawing at the end of the year with the names of any families who have referred a student throughout the year. The winner could receive a free week at summer camp or a class for the following year. Though a prize like this could be worth $200 to $300, it would ensure that the winning student stays at your studio for a future program—and encourage an enterprising family to accumulate multiple referral credits.

Make sure you have a way to track referrals, such as a field on your online registration form that asks, “How did you hear about our dance studio?" Some studios create physical gift certificates that current families can “award" to noncurrent students planning to try a class. Be sure to factor in the time you need to manage the accounting for applying credits and to add notes on customer records in your studio management software.

When it comes to spreading the word, you have more options today than ever. Use a studio-branded hashtag on social media; create a referral page on your website with program details; remind in e-mail campaigns and post in-studio.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

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