May-June 2014 | Mindful Marketing | Target Audiences

By Misty Lown

Your biggest competition isn’t the studio down the street; it’s the other activities that vie for our students’ attention. With a vast array of afterschool activities available to most kids, it’s more important than ever to create a sense of urgency and excitement about your dance studio’s registration season. Delivering unique messages to different target audiences can move potential clients from inaction to action when it comes to registration and commitment.

The point of marketing isn’t merely to get your brand noticed or your story “out there.” What you want to do is get your message into the hands and hearts of specific audiences. I divide my audience into four sub-groups and cater my marketing to speak to the interests of each one.

The point of marketing isn’t merely to get your brand noticed. What you want to do is get your message into the hands and hearts of specific audiences.

The first category is “prospects.” There are plenty of 2- to 6-year-olds who have never taken dance lessons. My goal is to get my message to their parents. These parents are “newbies”—new to dance and children’s activities in general. They are looking for entry-level programs that have great reputations. My task is to shape our marketing messages to show the value of dance as an activity. My themes often include joy, grace, fun, and positive classrooms.

The second category is “nibblers.” You might not recognize the label, but you know them well. They try a summer sampler and seem to enjoy it, but don’t register for regular classes. My goal in marketing to this group is to remind parents of the fun their kids had, the joy of learning a new style of dance, and the excitement that awaits them in the full school-year program. Parents of nibblers value the same things prospects do, but they need a better reason than fun to commit to a full season of classes.

The biggest reason that nibblers don’t dive in is that they liked dance, but they didn’t love it. This is a great reminder that our job as teachers is not only to teach kids steps but to help them to fall in love with dance. If they do, the weekly lessons and skill mastery will follow.

The third category is “dabblers.” The child is enrolled in dance but is also signed up for soccer, basketball, hula, and underwater basketweaving—all on Monday nights. This is perhaps the most challenging group to reach. Dabblers tend to tune out traditional marketing messages because they think, “That doesn’t apply to me because I’m already registered for classes.” Enrolled, sure, but I wouldn’t call them engaged or committed. This is the group for whom I shift my message from painting a picture of the fun and excitement of dance to the value of teamwork and being in a community of learners. My objective is to get dabblers to think of the studio as their home team and to want to spend more time honing their craft.

The last category is the “marathoners.” We don’t have any trouble getting these dedicated dancers to re-enroll each fall. Our challenge, however, is keeping them growing and passionate about their classes and team. You’ve heard the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt”? So can 15 hours of class per week with the same people. We’ve all seen students who have put in 10-plus years of training walk away from classes in favor of school teams and social time. The challenge with this group is to balance the discipline of daily classes with the camaraderie and excitement of opportunities such as master classes, auditions, and study outside the studio.

I have one studio with four different audiences and four different messages. Your audiences might not be the same as mine, but I guarantee that you do have more than one group to market to at any given time. Before you sit down to write your next promotional piece, ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?”