By Meghan Seaman
School owners are always looking for new and exciting ways to market their businesses. But for most of us, many opportunities already exist in our studios’ perks, programs, and other offerings. In marketing our current studio offerings as something special, we save money as well as time and creative energy.
Your facility is a great place to begin. Do you have sprung floors? High ceilings? Be sure to mention them as desirable safety features in your marketing materials. Make note of viewing windows, free wi-fi access, or quiet homework areas in brochures and on your website.
It’s likely that you spent quite a bit of money building or equipping your studio space, designing the dance rooms, and hiring quality instructors. While these things may seem like minimal requirements to seasoned dancers, for new customers they can be presented as perks. For example, Lori Laumann Weil, owner of Creative Dance & Music Studio in Harvey, Louisiana, has attracted and retained more than 200 dancers by such practical policies as accepting credit cards, keeping class sizes small, and offering only well-trained, adult instructors—all things she says set her studio apart from others in her area.
School owner Hedy Perna offers a raffle—the first 100 returning students who pre-register are entered into a drawing for a free dance class for the entire upcoming season. “It really works!” Perna says.
On a similar note, don’t underestimate the selling power of your location. I use the convenient downtown location of my studio, On Stage Dance Studio in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, as a selling feature. Its central location means that after school many students can take a city bus or walk to the studio together. Parents love the fact that they have one fewer trip to the studio to make, and older dancers help out by walking the younger students from their schools to the studio. When parents do need to make the drive into town, they can take advantage of the many nearby shopping centers to run errands or enjoy some quiet time in a coffee shop.
Registration is a great time to add some perks that might entice current students to return for another dance season. At Perna Dance Center in Hazlet, New Jersey, owner Hedy Perna offers a raffle for all returning students. The first 100 returning students who pre-register are entered into a drawing for a free dance class for the entire upcoming season. “You’d better believe that when they bring in their pre-registration forms, they all ask, ‘Did I make it into the first 100?’ It really works!” Perna says.
Another registration bonus offer might be a gift to the first registrants or all who register before a certain date. Things like car decals, water bottles, and T-shirts with the studio’s logo on them are low-cost options for freebies, and they work double duty— not only can they persuade families to register more quickly, but they serve as free advertising.
Marketing to current students works as well as marketing to new clients. Melanie Boniszewski offers a “Customer Appreciation Week” at her Tonawanda Dance Arts in Tonawanda, New York. During this week, all students may try any class in any dance genre, for free. Not only do the families feel appreciated and rewarded, but the trial classes often convince students to add a new style of dance to their weekly schedule. It’s a win–win.
Teffany Comeaux-Ibarra, owner of Teffany’s Dance Studio in Corpus Christi, Texas, has implemented a creative—and very successful—program for her preschool dancers: upon registration, they receive a free “Class of 20XX” T-shirt. She says this plants the idea in parents’ minds that “they are committing to the entire 12-plus years.” Since beginning this program, she says, only six preschool students have dropped out.
New marketing plans are always desirable, but first, don’t forget to look around at what’s already in place. Anything that sets your business apart can be advertised as a reason to choose it over others, and these existing selling points have the advantage of involving little time or cost.