by Teri Mangiaratti
“Marketing” can be a loaded word—and it means different things to different people. I believe studio marketing should happen year round and take different forms: social media ad campaigns, flyers, postcards, direct email, referral programs, press releases, cross-marketing, community events, and student-retention special events. So let’s make a marketing plan.
Last season, what did you spend to market your studio? Add up Facebook and newspaper ads, flyers, direct email monthly charges, referral incentives, and community event expenses. Brainstorm all expenses involved in getting the studio’s name out into the community. From business cards to parades, it’s all marketing.
Take a deep breath and process that big number from step 1—then decide: do you want to dedicate the same funds this season, or adjust? To scale back and manage spending, reduce the amount. If you’re looking for enrollment growth, increase it. Decide the total budget you’re willing to dedicate to marketing this season and place it in a separate bank account. You’ll see your marketing budget with clarity and watch it dwindle as the season goes forward. This will empower you to make wise decisions when those last-minute “Can you place an ad in our school program/sports team shirt/fundraiser?” phone calls occur.
Create a spreadsheet with rows for 12 months of the year. (I start with September, to line up with our season.) Divide your total from step 2, equally or unequally, among the 12 months. For my studio, I allocate more funds from May to September, when we’re pushing fall registration; from October to April, I allocate less, as we’re focusing on retention, studio events, and press releases, which are less costly. If my marketing budget is $5,000, for example, I might allocate $600/month for the five busy months, $200/month for the other seven months, and a $600 rainy day fund for anything that comes up.
Now fine-tune your marketing plan by filling in concepts and costs. A month shouldn’t go by without a social media ad campaign, so allocate funds for Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads. Look back at last year’s studio events; fill in the months when you typically rent a table at a school fair, march in a parade, or participate in a community event, and allocate funds for participation, payroll, giveaways, printed materials to distribute, etc. If you’re still placing newspaper ads, add those too.
As you start to see the big picture of your season’s marketing plan, make a note of slow marketing months. That’s when you’ll add a press release, studio event, referral push, or email to make sure you’re getting the word out year round. Remember: whenever you order signage, place ads, boost a post, or support a community event, use money from that marketing account.
Helpful hint: keeping track of how many new client inquiries you received from each marketing concept will help you make budget decisions next year. (To know what’s working, ask where clients heard about you, or identify each campaign with a different special offer.) It’s said that people need to hear about your studio seven times to recognize it, and retention is even harder to gauge. Measure your results—but also remember that marketing is a long game. Careful planning and budgeting will get you where you need to go.
Teri Mangiaratti owns In Sync Center of the Arts in Quincy, Massachusetts, which opened in 1996 and today welcomes more than 1,000 children into its dance, music, and art programs.