As the manager of your own dance studio, you’re faced with critical decisions every day that could dramatically affect the longevity and success of your business. Sure, this responsibility may seem front-loaded. After all, you certainly have a lot to consider in the early stages of getting your studio off the ground, as you decide on a managerial style and approach that best fits your personality and your vision. However, one of the areas in which your management can make the greatest impact as far as growth is in its marketing.
When finances are tight, the marketing budget is so often the first part of your business expenses that business owners and managers are looking to cut, and at first glance, it’s easy to see why that’s the case. Since its effect on business isn’t “necessary” for day-to-day operations, you might think that making some drastic cuts to your marketing efforts won’t have a negative impact on your studio. And in the short term, you may be right. But you may also be limiting your studio’s potential to attract new customers and ascend to that next level.
It’s always a fine line between investing in your studio’s future and blowing out your marketing budget with tools that just aren’t bringing a return on your investment. Your results will vary based on a number of different factors, but here are a few suggestions for marketing tools you may wish to think about adding to your studio’s repertoire.
It may not be considered a “tool” in the traditional sense. But make no mistake. Developing and maintaining a keen insight into your market is absolutely a necessity. In fact, without it, you risk misappropriating the rest of your marketing budget. So, before we address any other marketing tools, let’s stress the importance of market analysis.
Learn the details of your community, who your competitors are, and how you can position your studio to set itself apart from other studios who cover your discipline and therefore are likely targeting the exact same demographic. This will help you decide how best to reach your ideal customers and make it that much easier to win their business.
The best place to start is to change your mindset toward other studios, even those who you consider your direct competitors. In many cases, these are your very best resources. Take a close look at what other studios in your field or surrounding community are doing to distinguish themselves. How are they approaching their own marketing, and where can you either emulate or diverge from this path?
Of course, we’re not suggesting you copy your competition outright, but drawing some inspiration by assessing what appears to help them draw crowds and retain a solid foothold in the market can represent a tremendous step forward for your studio. You might even find that you can significantly improve upon a tactic that a competing studio is using to win business.
Best of all, you might be able to swoop in to fulfill a need that your peers have overlooked. A fresh perspective can often draw out the most innovative and rich marketing ideas.
We may live in a time ruled by technology (more on that in a second), but nevertheless, you shouldn’t bypass the possibility of relying on print to attract prospective customers. Even though your first inclination may be to turn to the wilds of the internet to market your studio, the very nature of your studio lends itself to the benefits or printed materials.
Think of it this way: the vast majority of your customers will be coming from the community directly surrounding your studio’s physical location. So, by ensuring that you make your presence in the area known via fliers, print ads and the like, you’re able to target them directly without having to invest much time and money in online ads (though these can work too if handled properly).
Find out if local businesses whose mission aligns with yours will allow you to leave some brochures or fliers inside. Consider placing advertisements in local newspapers and magazines. Most major metropolitan areas have several community-focused publications that would be the perfect place for you to spread the word about your studio and begin to kickstart word of mouth surrounding your services.
So much of marketing centers on brand awareness, and you’re fortunate enough to be working in the kind of business wherein you don’t have to rely solely on your digital footprint to stand out from the sea of other studios who cover the same discipline and share the same business model. You’ll be positioned with more options. So don’t presume that print media isn’t a viable way to market your studio to the people who need it the most.
You knew it would come to this. As much as some of you may still be reticent to engage in social media, it is here to stay. And if you hope to reach prospective customers in the most efficient way possible, social media is absolutely a tool you need to have on your side.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can go a long way toward building a community around your studio, especially when it comes to gaining the kind of word-of-mouth momentum you need to expand your reach to prospective students who might otherwise have never found your studio.
There’s a lot more involved than simply starting accounts on the various social media sites, however. You’ll need to be strategic with the content you post. Be sure that you convey your expertise in your given field, but don’t overly concentrate on self-promotion. You want to ensure that you’re providing value to your social media followers in addition to spreading the word about your services.
This may involve simply posting links to third-party content you find related to your discipline or even some of your site’s own original content marketing pieces. Creating blogs, ebooks, videos, podcasts, and other content will help boost your search engine rankings and naturally feed users to your studio’s website too.
Brevity and frequency are the keys to a successful social media presence. Post as often as you can, but keep the content itself short and sweet. You want to get attention without demanding more than a few moments or so of your followers’ time. If you begin to become too focused on self-promotion or inundate readers with long posts, your social media endeavors may backfire. Be mindful of striking the right balance. And use hashtags!
Few marketing techniques are as useful or as attractive in creating long-term patronage than giving potential customers a taste of what you have to offer. Case in point, offering a free lesson to prospective customers (and spreading the word through some of the above tactics) can be a great way to get people in the door without making them feel like they’re committed to anything.
Remember, most people are hesitant to try something new at first, and offering a free lesson to newcomers can help assuage this consumer anxiety. Once you get prospects introduced to your studio, you’re far more likely to be able to convince them to sign up for a set of classes.
In addition, you might try offering discounts or other incentives for customers who come in for their first class. The secret here is to get them in the door and overcome any reasons they might be clinging to why they wouldn’t give your studio a shot. You’d be surprised how many consumers might have noticed your studio, are considering to learn more about your services but still haven’t found the right opportunity to finally do so.
Complimentary lessons or other similar discounts can bypass this natural inclination to procrastinate and get them to finally pop in. From there, the chances that you’ll be able to convert them into loyal patrons skyrocket!
Dance Studio software
As important as marketing is for your studio’s future, we know that your biggest hurdle in making marketing a priority — other than expense, of course — is time. Managing your studio is such a demanding role, one in which you already feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up with your to-do list. That’s one of the best parts of dance studio software.
While programs (yes, like our own The Studio Director) eliminate the need for you to devote hours to the administrative side of things, they also help to automate your studio’s marketing.
Communication is such an integral part of developing brand loyalty, but you don’t want to spend so much time trying to win new business that you neglect the students who have already stepped foot into your studio. Studio software can maintain an ongoing flow of communication with current and prospective students, taking the guesswork out of the process. That means a closer bond with your customers and a much, much higher rate of return among past students. And along the way, you’ll be boosting your referrals as well, helping to expand your reach.
Using email marketing, you’ll be able to schedule automated messages to gauge customer satisfaction, share promotions, or simply share your appreciation for their patronage. If you really want to make the most of your studio’s potential, dance studio software is one easy way to do so across the board with just a single decision. Marketing should remain an important part of your business, but it doesn’t have to be nearly as expensive or time-consuming as you might think.
On the Grow
From the first day you opened your dance studio, you knew that the road ahead would be fraught with challenges. Anything in life worth the effort always requires you to push yourself through tough times to emerge victorious on the other side. Such is usually the case when you open any business, let alone your own studio. However, by strategically applying your marketing budget — no matter how much that may be — to your business, you can make the very most out of your resources and maximize your growth.
The tools and strategies we’ve discussed above aren’t a one-size-fits-all answer, of course. You may still need to overcome a bit of trial and error to find the ideal way to reach your prospective customer base and build a community around your studio. But we’ve offered a solid starting point through which you can begin the journey to pushing your studio to become the best that it can be. Only then will you be able to execute your mission and create a lasting impression on those who stand to benefit most from the service you provide.
We know that your studio is the product of the undying passion you have for your discipline, but even if you specialize in something other than dance (martial arts, music, fitness, etc.), you’ll find that it takes more than passion to keep the financial fires of your studio burning strong. When employed just right, marketing can be what stokes that fire and makes it last. So think twice before you misdirect your marketing funds or callously trim it back. You may very well be doing your studio and its students a major disservice.