Word of mouth marketing for private schools

How to Activate Referral Marketing for Your Private School

Let’s discuss referral marketing and how to use word of mouth marketing for private schools.

Many private schools take a passive stance on referral (a.k.a. word of mouth) marketing. For a lot of administrators, referral marketing is either left up to chance or it becomes an afterthought, something to focus on after you’ve invested in “serious” marketing efforts. Sure, you would love to get more referrals, but can you truly influence your families to tell others about your school?


You can create a strategy for word of mouth marketing, and it starts with this post. Below, we’ll discuss the steps you can take, starting today, to build an effective referral marketing strategy for your private school.

Focus on Delivering a Quality Experience

Before you ask for referrals, make sure that your school is worth the referral.

Okay, let me take a step back because that sounds a bit harsh. Of course, your school is worth referrals. But let’s shift perspectives. What is the typical experience for your average parent? In their mind, does your school go above and beyond the regular? Do you make attempts to establish a personal connection with each of your families? Do you reach out to them beyond progress reports and invoices?

What would make enrolled families so excited about your school that they want to tell others about you? Do you offer a farm-fresh lunch program, an active PTO, an effective, multi-course after school tutoring program, or an unparalleled list of extracurricular activities? What makes families fall in love with your school? This is what will make them tell others about you.

Not only do you need to identify your unique selling point, but you also need to invest more resources into it. Even if your unique selling point is accidental, you can make it intentional.

Think about it: When referring others to your school, your families aren’t going to share a laundry list of reasons why they think you’re great. Most likely, they’ll focus on what’s most important to them, so concentrate on making those things great.

Not sure what’s most important to your currently enrolled families? Send a survey and ask. Surveys are easy to do and can provide incredible insight into what motivates your families.

Need help coming up with survey questions? Here are 15 survey questions to ask your enrolled families.

Find the Story

The human mind loves stories. Stories are powerful, and beyond that, stories are inspirational. This is why stories belong in your referral marketing strategy.

But how?

Start with your survey answers. What are the most important things about your school that stand out to your enrolled families? Perhaps you have an amazing after school care program that your parents rave about. What’s the story there?

You can highlight an average “day in the life” where you share what the kids do in the after school care program. Then, include this story in your newsletter, and end it with a simple call to action such as, “Do you know someone who needs a school with an aftercare program like ours? Tell them about us!”

Your story doesn’t need to be lengthy to be effective. It also doesn’t need to be poetic. It just needs to paint a picture that families can share with others. Remember that stories are better than bullet points.

Create a Formal Referral Program

Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and create a formal referral program.

Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be too formal. In fact, it can be just as simple as a spreadsheet with the list of referrers and referrals. But, to make it easier on you, I do recommend that you do the following:

Create a list of rules and rewards for your referral program. To do that quickly, answer these questions: Is anyone free to join this referral program or will it be open to a select few? How many times can they refer others to your school? What rewards will you offer for referrals? Is there a limit to these rewards?

Figure out how you’ll keep track of your referrers and referrals. Will you use a spreadsheet to collect information or will you ask your families to sign up on their own via an automated landing page?

Decide how they’ll tell others about your school. How will you make relevant resources available to your referral sources? Will you create a landing page with downloadable informational packets? Will you upload an introductory video about your school to your landing page? Will you send flyers to parents?

Use these questions to help you and your team develop an effective referral program.

Send Emails

Word of mouth marketing for private schools

Emails have been around for a while, but that doesn’t make them any less amazing for word of mouth marketing purposes.

You absolutely need to include emails in your referral marketing strategy. There are several ways to use email to encourage referrals:

Add a link to your referral program at the bottom of your email signature. When sending out emails specifically to your enrolled families (this includes newsletters, fundraisers, calendar events, and more), you can effortlessly promote your referral program at the same time. Using Hubbli, this can be set up so that only enrolled parents receive this special link.

Create a top 10 list of reasons why a prospective family should tour your school. Or swap it out with the aforementioned aftercare story. Then, send it as an email to your enrolled families and ask them to forward it to their social circles. By creating a forward-friendly email, you erase the guesswork and make it easy for your families to share with others.

Simply ask for the referral. At the end of your monthly newsletter updates, ask your readers to refer others to you. While this may seem simple, it’s also rarely done. Trigger “word of mouth” by merely asking them to tell others about your school.

Ask During the Application Process

While you can ask for referrals any time you want, the very best time to ask for referrals is while someone is most excited about your school. So, what better time to ask then during the application process?

Are they excited about your school? Check! They’re applying, after all, which means that they’re invested. This is the perfect time to ask them to share the name, phone number, and email address of someone else who may be interested in your school, too. Or, you can switch it around and hand over a school packet or two to the applying parent. Ask them to share the packet with someone that they know. This can be an effective strategy for spreading word of mouth about your school.

Create a Facebook Marketing Campaign

Word of mouth marketing for private schools

When you use Facebook, don’t limit yourself to only posting updates about your school. Take it a step beyond free posts and invest money into Facebook marketing. You can activate referral marketing through Facebook marketing. Here’s how:

Upload an email list of your currently enrolled families. Then, create a marketing campaign specifically targeted to them. Ask them to refer their friends and family to your school. Or, better yet, create a shareable post that includes photos of your school or even an introductory video, and ask your currently enrolled families to share the post with their social circle on Facebook.

Sharing is easy to do once you’ve taken all of the hard work out of it.

Final Thoughts on Word of Mouth Marketing For Private Schools

With the above tips, you won’t struggle to get referrals for your private school. Remember that your enrolled families will only share what they care about. As long as you deliver an amazing experience that’s worth telling others about, they will. Use our tips to make it easy for them to share.

Don’t forget to download this list of questions to ask your currently enrolled parents.