By Carlye Cunniff
Attracting teen beginning dancers is a wonderful way to grow your studio. Here’s how to market beginning programs in ways that will capture the attention of teens and get them talking, posting, and texting about your school.
Reach out. Unlike parents of preschoolers, most parents of teens don’t research activities for their kids. Teens have many options at school, may already be committed to a sport or an instrument, and are probably strapped for time. That means you can’t expect them to come looking for you.
Reach out to other kinds of programs that attract teens; their organizers might be interested in cross-marketing with you. Or create marketing materials that these programs would be willing to make available to teens. High schools with performing arts programs are a great place to start. Music or art schools in your area might consider giving counter space to your flyers or offering discounted advertising space on their websites.
Keep in mind that your programming needs to be an asset to the community you want to work with. High School Musical summer camps, anyone?
Keep it casual. A few teenagers might be aspiring bunheads, but most of them will feel more comfortable in a pair of stretch pants and a trendy top than in a leotard and tights. Meet them where they are, and keep them coming back. Beginner teens should not be turned away because they aren’t confident dancing in a leotard. Parents want to know that their kids will feel safe enough to develop body positivity and confidence. Your marketing strategy should reflect the casual dress code and reassure parents that their teens will be celebrated and confident.
Capitalize on relationships. Help teens feel confident and comfortable by encouraging them to take class with their friends. Along with a “bring a friend” day, try advertising group discounts for teen-specific classes, or offer private group lessons for groups of teens who want to learn something together. If these first-time dancers enjoy the class, they might sign up for more. Group classes for teens work especially well for offerings such as swing, ballroom, or hip-hop.
Offering dance-specific parties (for example, where everyone learns the choreography in a popular music video) or combining a dance party with a class are great ways to attract teens. These are ideal if you work with a community or rec center that has a built-in audience for this type of programming.
Emphasize movement. Teens who have gotten most of their dance education from So You Think You Can Dance may be shocked when they have to spend 45 minutes stretching, strengthening, and covering basics before learning choreography. If you hope to meet the needs of multiple sections of the community, your marketing materials need to state which needs are being met in teen beginner classes. This doesn’t mean you should throw out technique and teach tricks to beginners; however, beginners want to move as much as their more experienced peers. To get kids moving, use set warm-ups, simple combinations that get repeated, or opportunities for improvising during class.
A program that gets teens excited about working up a sweat while dancing is a valuable marketing tool. Emphasize that your teen programs boost confidence and promote healthy lifestyles in kids who are brand-new to dance.
Talk up chances to dance. Even teen beginners want to feel like dancers—that’s why they got involved in the first place. Your marketing materials should promote the fact that there are opportunities to perform—in the recital, or perhaps in a dance club your studio offers. Teens, and their parents, are looking for more than just movement opportunities—highlight leadership skills, mentored teaching opportunities, or chances to do community service.
Carlye Cunniff, a freelance writer and user experience designer based in Seattle, Washington, directs and performs with Seattle Irish Dance Company and teaches creative movement, ballet, and Irish dance.