Community ties lead to a wealth of low-cost marketing options
Marketing—it’s a dreaded part of running a business for many dance school owners. It takes time and money and can drain even the most enthusiastic entrepreneur of creativity. But it doesn’t have to be that way. How can you build enthusiasm for your classes and your product without feeling that pressure? One great way to get the word out is by having new faces continually flowing through your school. Sometimes the joy the students show in their dancing is a better marketing tool than a brochure or website—the trick is to get people into your school to experience their enthusiasm, and that means tapping into the community. So if you’re looking for ways to bring in new faces but don’t have a huge marketing budget, these innovative, alternative marketing methods are for you.
Give each current student five coupons for a free class to distribute to five of their friends or relatives. During the first month of classes, coupon holders can try a class of their choice. Some will decide to register and some will not, but even the ones who don’t are excellent prospects; get everyone’s mailing and email addresses and add them to your lists. Send them newsletters, brochures, performance notices, and registration forms. Also, if you know you will have a lot of empty seats at your recital, send these prospects a couple of comp tickets. They’ll fill the auditorium, and if they’re on the fence about taking dance lessons, an impressive recital or performance can entice them to enroll.
Pick a class or group of students and offer them a bonus class. Make it a Friday night open hip-hop class for the students and one guest each. Why hip-hop? It’s beginner friendly, cool for everyone to do (even the boys), and it seems to help kids lose their inhibitions. That doesn’t rule out a jazz class or other forms of dance, however (though a ballet class might be too intimidating). The students will appreciate the free class, and they’ll introduce potential new students to the school. Be sure the teacher understands that the class should be fun and appropriate for beginner students.
Next, take the idea one step further and offer the same class for the parents. Ask them to bring a friend who has children who might be interested in dance. When the class is over, thank everyone for coming and hand out the school brochure, along with a coupon for a free class for their child.
An audience of future students
The next time you hold an in-studio run-through for a competition or a performance, let the dancers invite their friends to act as an audience and experience the excitement of preparing for a show. Again, hand out brochures and build your client lists.
Business to business
Identify the businesses in your community that offer a product or service for children: karate, piano lessons, gymnastics, preschools, daycare centers, and so on. Offer to do cross-marketing with them. You will stock their literature at your school and share your mailing list with them, and they agree to do the same for you. Offering links to each other’s website is an excellent way to cross-market, and it won’t cost you a penny. Also approach students’ parents who own businesses with the same cross-marketing idea. Good things can happen for both of you!
Another business-to-business concept is a performance exchange. For example, your students could do a dance demonstration at the karate school and the karate students could show off their skills at your school.
Consider offering six-week programs that can start at any time of year. Courses might include creative movement or preschool, mommy and me, hip-hop, ballroom, or any kind of class you think would work in your market. Charge a flat fee without any strings attached—no costumes, no recitals, no extra expenses. Simply give them your best product: dance lessons. These short sessions often bring in those who are afraid to make a longer commitment or who aren’t sure whether their child is ready for dance classes. They might be just what the adult who always wished she had danced as a child needs in order to fulfill her dream—without jumping in full swing. Six-week programs also work well during periods when taking in new students isn’t practical—perhaps because you’re in the middle of recital choreography or the potential student doesn’t fit into the normal cycle. January is an excellent time to offer these programs.
These marketing ideas take some thought and energy, but what they don’t take is a lot of cash. Try a few of them—or come up with your own— and you may find that building ties with the community is a great way to boost enrollment.