Quick Tips to Jumpstart Your Referral Program. If you were the greatest motivator and instructor in the world, and your headcount never decreased, I suspect you would want to continue to spread your art and increase the size of your school by recruiting new students. More than likely, no matter how skilled you are at retaining your current students, some will inevitably quit, get injured, move away, go to college, etc. This requires you as a school owner to generate new students through means such as advertising, membership drives, and referrals. One of the most cost effective methods of getting new students in the door is to utilize your existing membership base. If you are doing your job correctly and your students appreciate the many benefits they are receiving, they will gladly help your program grow if given the opportunity. All you have to do is ask: During the sign-up process, make your new students aware of your policy on referrals. If you never discuss referrals in a positive light, some members may feel uncomfortable approaching others. Initially, you must foster the attitude that you request referrals because you believe in the power of martial arts to benefit society. By referring new students you can share these benefits with as many people as possible. Explain that the greatest compliment they can pay the school is to refer someone. Here are some proven methods of obtaining referrals: 1. Require the referral of one person for first rank test Explain to your students that your martial art survives through the sharing of knowledge, and therefore it is a requirement to refer a member to the school as part of promotion to first rank within the system. This technique provides you with at least one lead per existing student. 2. Recognize the student as part of a mini-leadership program This method is particularly effective in smaller schools or start-up programs. Explain that as a future leader in the school, the first students help the school grow and assure its survival. Present them with a “leadership” patch and recognize them in class. 3. Offer merchandise incentives Another way you can encourage your students to refer friends is to offer them an incentive. For example, if a student brings in someone who signs up to one of your introductory programs they receive a free t-shirt, water bottle, headband, or gift certificate. Signing up a new student will cover the cost of the incentive. 4. Have a membership drive with prizes This can be a particularly effective promotion in the spring/summer months when enrollment typically drops off. You might offer prizes such as a mountain bike or video game system for younger students and a heavyweight gi or heavy bag for the adult student who refers the most people. You may also offer some less expensive runner up prizes so everyone who participates feels as though his or her efforts were appreciated. 5. Use follow-up calls: Get into the habit of making “2-4-6 week” calls or other such calls to students and parents to follow-up on their progress and ask how they are enjoying the program. Once you receive positive feedback, ask them if they know one or two people who may also benefit from the training they have been receiving. Then ask if they would like you to contact them and offer them a free class, trial program, etc. 6. Buddy day Are you having a “buddy day” at least once per month? If not, put it on the calendar right now. Offer kids and adults alike the opportunity to bring as many friends as they would like to a specific beginner class. Allow the buddies to wear something comfortable and train alongside their friends. Teach a high-energy class and have a raffle for a free school t-shirt at the end of the class. (Tip: kids under 18 must have a parent or guardian with them). Try this with your cardio program as well. 7. Offer family discounts Each additional family member that signs up at your school should receive a discount on their tuition. Parents have to bring their kids to class anyway, so why not eliminate the price objection by offering a substantial discount to them. 8. Host student birthdays If your facility is large enough, offer birthday parties at your school. Birthdays are a fantastic way to get kids and parents in your school and see what your program is about. The kids will want to come back because they had a great time, and the parents will sign them up because they see the value of what you are teaching. If you booked just one party a weekend, and averaged a single sign up per party, in a year that would be nearly 50 new students (in addition to the additional income you would earn from the parties). 9. Hold a ladies self-defense clinic This is similar to having a buddy day, except that you target a particular market. Invite all female students to bring one or more buddies for free self-defense clinic. You may also use this opportunity to expose them to your cardio program. If you wish, you could raffle off a free month of cardio or martial arts lessons. 10. Use common sense It is necessary to use a little common sense when implementing these techniques. Please note that not all of these methods should be used in conjunction with one another. Owners should use their judgment and make adjustments as necessary to achieve their referral goals. The suggestions listed above will help bolster your enrollment through a solid referral program. If you are serious about growing your school, then take action now! Get out your planner or calendar and write down when you plan to hold the events and take the action you need to kick your referral program into high gear. Write down how many new sign-ups you will have in one month and specify how you are going to make sure these surefire techniques help you pack your school. Remember, the purpose of knowledge is not just to know, but rather to take action.