Picture this scenario: You’re researching potential colleges and have two or three in mind. Costs are similar, and they all offer your preferred program. Any one of them would provide you with a good education, but one has been recommended time and again by friends and acquaintances who are already enrolled. That tips the scale, and you choose the one they recommend (Getting Referrals). Once you’re on campus, you know you made the right choice, and that your friends were looking out for you.

That’s the power of referrals. When satisfied students tell others how much they enjoy going to your school, there’s a good chance some of their friends or siblings will want to attend as well. After all, people feel better choosing a place that has already been vetted by people they trust versus one they aren’t as familiar with. It elevates their comfort level, and that makes your job — recruiting potential students — a little easier.

Getting referrals can benefit your institution in several ways. I’ve already said that referrals often convert to starting students at a fairly high rate — generally much higher than from other types of leads or inquiries. They can also cut down on your marketing expenses because word of mouth is free publicity. Finally, when you have happy students, they’re more inclined to stay and are eager for their friends to have similar good experiences. Student retention is golden.

So you already know why referrals are good for business, but what may be fuzzy is how to generate them. There’s a simple approach to generating referrals that starts with trust and good communication. Here are a couple of tips that can get you started on the right track.

Ask for a referral the proper way.

You could ask your contacts if they know of anyone who might be interested in attending your institution, and you might get a name and email address. According to Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, the better approach would be to ask someone permission to ask for a referral later, after they’ve personally seen the value you provide. You might say something to a current student like, “We’re really happy that you have enrolled here, but I’d like to ask you for just one thing. Once we’ve proven to you how wonderful this place is, could you please introduce me to friends or family members who may also benefit from what we have to offer?” This type of  “ask” is a much safer, more effective way to request a referral because you aren’t blindly asking for a list of names and numbers.  You are building trust first — and once you’ve delivered on your promise (i.e., a really good education), the contact is likely to be more than happy to accommodate your request for a referral.

Expand your network of contacts.

The more people you know, the better your chances of getting referrals. You have an opportunity to network and solicit a referral every time you’re out and about.  You can spread your network even farther by asking people you know to ask others to spread the word for you, too. Think about places where you can connect with people — the laundromat, the line at the coffee shop, your doctor’s waiting room, the movie theater. Then step out of your comfort zone and decide that you will meet two or three new people each and every day. There’s always the possibility that one of those new contacts will give you the ultimate referral.

You have your work cut out for you because generating referrals isn’t easy. It requires creating a plan and sticking to it. However, enlisting others with whom you’ve established trust to help you promote your business and get viable leads makes the process a little less daunting.

For more tips on generating referrals, visit careereducationreview.net.