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We Heard about Your Excellent Child Care

survey referral source how did you hear about our childcare

“How did your hear about our child care?” is a great question to ask when new families inquire about your education services

Whether it’s your dentist, your minister, your doctor, or your tree doctor, they all want to know the same thing: how did you hear about us? You might wonder why they should ask since you are already their client. Quite simply, this is the cheapest and most important marketing feedback mechanism available to any organization, including childcare and early childhood education providers.

Asking is the easy part and it is the most important part. It’s a good idea to ask when you get a phone call asking about childcare availability at your center or even a simple inquiry about your tuition. This “referral source” question, should be one any inquiry form on your website or paper application as well. Most families will be more than happy to answer the question since they want you to be able to put them as to the context of their inquiry. It’s only human.

We have seen some of the best-run childcare organizations BumbleBee has met using this referral source question as part of their everyday business practice with new clients. It’s also the most common question we see clients add to their online applications in BumbleBee. As we mentioned in our webinar at Early Childhood Investigations, we have seen some childcare directors that have dedicated notepads at everyone’s desk so they remember to ask the referral source question when someone calls (we made a childcare specific notepad here that you can print on your own on the cheap here).

Okay. Once you have asked the question and received the answer, you might think the hard part is what you should do with the all the answers. Firstly, do not let this prevent you from asking the question in the first place. You do not need to make bar graphs [like mine below :o)], fancy infographics, or spend hours making PowerPoint presentations for your board of directors to get the value from asking. Proctor and Gamble, maker of everything from Tide to Pampers, makes billion dollar decisions based on a handful of anecdotal accounts from their customers. In other words, your staff hearing the answers over and over is the most important part of the feedback loop. Any other tabulation you do is just icing on the cake. This is especially true over time, since you never know how your marketing tools will change (e.g., did you think you would need a Facebook page five years ago?)

If you did want to take the next step, and make your referral source responses more actionable. Here is what I suggest. Look at how people are hearing about and think about that through the lens of how you spend your marketing budget (dollars and time). Now ask yourself this question: do I want to attract more people like my current client base of families or do I need to tap into new pools of families? If it is the former, increase your marketing resources for what you already know works (e.g., the church bulletin). If it is a new audience you want to reach, it might be time to try a Google Adwords campaign for a few months before your enrollment season or perhaps trying a print ad in the local parenting magazine.

If you learn that there is a specific family that is referring gobs of other families to your center, go ahead and honor that family by thanking them personally. They will probably be glad to hear they are a trusted reference.

In our recent parent survey, we asked a similar question of parents: how did you research different childcare options. You can see from the chart that for this small group of respondents, overwhelming favors personal referrals. However, note the large percentage of folks that are using Google searches as one of their primary research tools. That would be key information if I were recruiting this population of parents to my nursery school.

Parent survey question: How did you research your childcare center? (Select all that apply) (N=68)

So go ahead and make “how did you hear about our childcare center?” a part of your everyday practice. The answers might surprise you and, who knows, you might even meet your new best friend because of the spark in conversation.

Do you ask your clients how they heard about you? Have you learned anything from doing so?

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Jeff is the Director of Marketing and Co-founder of BumbleBee Childcare Software. He lives in Cambridge, MA, in the United States. You can hear more from Jeff on Twitter and Google +.

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