Chances are, especially if your IEC business is in its early stages, most clients will find you through a recommendation from a friend or family member. This is a great way to get your first few clients, but eventually, you’ll want and need more prospective clients coming your way. So, what are some proactive things that you can do to increase the number of word-of-mouth referrals that you receive?
1. Provide Top Notch Customer Service
It’s easy to understand that in order to benefit from effective word-of-mouth marketing, you need an exceptionally happy client. And in an unpredictable, results-driven industry like college admissions, the client experience is even more important. So, if you can’t guarantee results, how do you make a client that happy? Here are some key things to keep in mind:
Empathy and authenticity are essential in every interaction with a client.
Responsive, comprehensive and consistent communication that aims to reduce effort and relieve stress will go a long way with a client.
Educating a client on the boundaries upfront avoids customer dissatisfaction. Letting clients know exactly what you can and can't do, when you will respond, and when you work provides them with a feeling of security.
Don't avoid customer service issues. Lean into those uncomfortable moments. If you go above and beyond when fixing an issue or dealing well with a bump in the road, it can actually be more powerful than the smooth sailing interactions.
2. Showcase Positive Client Reviews
Receiving a written review from a happy client will continue to serve your marketing efforts long after your student has moved into her freshman dorm. The easier you make it for families to provide you a written testimonial, the more likely they’ll be to follow through. Do you have a Facebook page or a Google listing that you’d like them to leave their comment on? Include a direct link on your website, in your email signature line, or when you ask via email. If you’d rather collect testimonials for your website, you can create a simple Google Form to collect the family’s information and written review.
Timing is everything. To get the most compelling and complete review of your services, you’ll want to find the perfect time to ask for it. Did your client just get into the school of his dreams? Send a note of congratulations to the family and ask if they would kindly review your services. Did you receive a glowing email thanking you for the work you have done? Respond to the email with appreciation and ask if you may use their words as a testimonial on your website.
Prominently feature these collected reviews on your website, social media pages, and marketing collateral to showcase the wonderful success stories of your students.
Clients who make an effort to refer your services will likely refer again, especially if you take the time to offer a sincere thank you. If a prospective client inquires based off a recommendation from a current or former client of yours, take note. Follow up with letter of appreciation and maybe even a small gift. Showing your gratitude will keep you top of mind and hopefully have them referring again and again.
CollegePlannerPro Tip: Use the recruitment source field when adding a new parent contact to track word-of-mouth referrals. Use the specific family’s name so that you can record and track the number of referrals they’ve made on your behalf.
4. Be an Expert Resource (even for non-clients)
Not every prospective family you meet is going to be the right fit for your services. However, there is value in being referred as a source of industry knowledge, advice, and help.
When appropriate, ask families to opt in to your newsletter list, regardless if they move forward with your full services. Occasionally send out newsworthy content, helpful tips and resources, or reminders and timelines to this email list. You may even want to start a public blog that families can subscribe to.
The more content you produce and distribute, the greater the chance it will be forwarded on to other prospective, good fit families.
CollegePlannerPro Tip: Add all contacts who have opted in to your email list to CollegePlannerPro. (Note, these contacts don’t count toward your subscription plan number!) Create a Broadcast Recipient list and task yourself to send periodic emails with helpful content. Bonus, track open and click rates to evaluate your email’s performance!
5. Engage a Community
Get yourself involved with local community groups or tap into your existing communities. Word spreads fast within tight-knit circles and a few positive relationships can help you quickly establish yourself as the go-to IEC in your community.
The same goes with your professional network. Build relationships with complementary service providers or even other IECs in your community. Oftentimes these professionals will have to refer families out for a number of reasons. Referring families to these professionals when appropriate is a great way to build this reciprocal relationship.
CollegePlannerPro Tip: Add professional contacts to your CollegePlannerPro account under the contacts tab. Once added, you can keep track of contact information, notes, and files similar to how you would with a parent contact.
What tactics do you use to boost word-of-mouth referrals?