January 2013 | Mindful Marketing | Selling a Message

By Misty Lown

Are you offering quality dance classes in your community? Great. Are you creating an experience for your students, keeping them engaged and talking about your program? Even better!

Why is that important? Take the iconic brands Apple, Nike, and Starbucks, for example. Each sells quality products, but more important, each has created a tribe of enthusiastic followers. Apple sells membership in the “think different” club, Nike peddles motivation, and Starbucks brews up as much vibe as coffee. These companies sell an experience. And they talk about the experience so much that it becomes their message, creating a positive and powerful marketing cycle.

So what is your message? In a crowded market in which everyone is selling the same service—dance lessons—what are you doing to set yourself apart? What makes your studio yours and not the place down the street?

At my studio I have been selling the message “More Than Just Great Dancing” for 15 years. I do this by continually pushing this message to the front lines of our advertising, communication, and customer contact: “We have a quality curriculum, trained teachers, professional management, and we are very involved in the community.” Repeat. The medium and the pictures are rotated for freshness and variety, but the message never changes.

In a crowded market in which everyone is selling the same service—dance lessons—what are you doing to set yourself apart?

Truth be told, we don’t do much selling of actual dance lessons these days. Instead we focus on painting a picture of the kind of experience families will find when they come in our doors. Pictures of organized classrooms, smiling kids and teachers, and community performances dominate our website and Facebook page. And we stay on message with this in all of our print materials, public relations announcements, and speaking opportunities at community performances. If there is a chance to advertise, present, or perform somewhere in our community, we use it as a platform to share our message.

Having a great message isn’t enough, however. What families experience once they sign up has to match the message or people will become disillusioned and leave (or worse yet, be unhappy and stay). For example, it wouldn’t do me any long-term good to sell a message of elite competition teams when we value camaraderie and community service above getting awards. Somebody who is looking for a super-competitive experience isn’t going to be happy at my studio. You will attract what you put out in your message, so be sure your studio’s message matches its DNA.

In talking with studio owners from across the country I have found a spectrum of messages, ranging from non-competitive to super-elite, from very approachable to super-polished. Some focus on people, others on programs or price. It doesn’t matter which way you go, as long as the message you put out represents what you value and the service you deliver.

A quick online search of dance studios turns up the following messages: family-friendly; character education; award winning; singing, acting, dance; non-competitive; world-renowned choreographers; specializing in beginners; huge variety in classes; beautiful, clean facilities; affordable; voted the best of county; fun for all; personalized attention/small class size; growing young women (and men) of achievement; triple-threat training; pre-professional; home away from home; age-appropriate choreography and costumes; teaching kids to love dance; professional performances.

It is important that the keywords, meta tags, and meta titles used in your search engine optimization reflect your message. That way, if someone is typing “family-friendly dance studio” in the search bar, and that is your message, your studio will show up. The person who handles your web design should be able to help you with this.

And, now for the best part—taking action! What gets you excited about owning a dance studio? What do you hope to accomplish in your classrooms? What do kids learn in your program? You can start by creating a message and then building the experience for your clients around it, or you can observe the experience already in place and create a message to match. Either way, you will boost your marketing power by selling a message instead of a service.

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