Updated: Sep 17, 2019
1. Post on your local community Facebook groups.
Most areas now have community groups on Facebook. Search for your suburb and surrounding suburbs and join as many of them as you possibly can. Then read the rules about whether or not they allow businesses to post, and what restrictions there are. Some only allow one post per week, and others have a specific day that these sort of posts are welcome. Create a document or a spreadsheet on your computer outlining each group and what the specific rules are. Then post as often as possible. I recommend once a week if you can. Video posts tend to do better than just still-image ads, but either can be effective if it's eye-catching and looks enticing. Make sure you put your website link in the description so that it's an easy click for anyone that might be interested.
(SNEAKY TRICK... I have, once or twice before, asked a bunch of current loyal parents of mine to "bump" up the post every time they see it, so that it doesn't get lost in a busy community group.)
I also recommend scheduling your ads to go out on different days for different local groups. There's often a lot of members in common across these groups and if you post at different times you're more likely to be seen.
2. Look after your Facebook page
Have a Facebook page for your business with regular engaging posts that tell a story, demonstrate the heart and soul of your brand, and really showcase your studio to your audience. The more you post and the more interesting and "shareable" your content is, the faster your Facebook page will grow. Eventually your page won't just be followed by students and their families, it will also be followed by their friends, people in your local community and fans of your studio. And that is when you will be able to start gaining new students through your Facebook page.
These days Facebook pages are the new website. For so many social media users, they will tend to automatically go to the Facebook page of a business to check it out before even checking their website. A good Facebook page, with plenty of photos and videos in its gallery, a bunch of reviews and regular posts gives your studio CREDIBILITY. People who don't already know your studio will be trying to guess the professionalism of it based on your Facebook page. It's a very important thing.
3. Optimise your website
Your website should be the very centre of your brand and your business. It's a perfect opportunity to communicate not just information, but also the vibe, narrative and soul to your potential customers. If you're good with technology then make it yourself but put enough time into it for it to be an effective "enrolment factory" for you. If many people are coming to your website and NOT booking a trial or enrolling on the spot, then it is not optimally working. And if you are not great at making websites, then consider it to be one of the most important investments into your business that you can make.
A dance studio website is where customers come to find you, to research about you, and to contact you. A really great website can make a huge difference to the number of students that enrol at your dance studio each year.
If you are outsourcing your website, make sure you shop around. There is huge price variance in the web design industry and it's not always the case that the most expensive is necessarily the best. If you're paying more than $1500 per year for your website, then get some quotes and look into other options.
(I do my own studio website at the moment on Wix, but one day I want to hire a professional to take it to the next level, especially with the analytics and behaviour measuring so that I can make clearly see the weak points along the customer interest and enquiry journey that we are losing them. But for while I'm doing it myself, I'm paying less than $300 per year.)
4. Check your Google listing
What happens when someone Googles "Dance classes" and your suburb? Are you the first listing? Are you even near the top? What does your website description say? If someone had never heard of your studio, what are the chances they'd click on your website or contact you?
Website SEO (search engine optimisation) is vital!
You need a Google business listing. You probably already have one, but when was the last time you updated it? Is the address up-to-date? The business hours? The photos? Take some time to get all that looking amazing. You could be missing out on dozens of new enquiries just because of a bad google listing.
Check out your reviews and encourage your current customers to write some reviews on there. Average Joe or Julie are going
to be doing some research before choosing a dance school for their little precious child and will undoubtedly be basing their decision on the reviews they read and the photos they see.
5. Pay Google to be at the top
Once you've set up your Google listing to be everything you want your future customers to see, then put some budget into Google ads. You don't have to put much money behind it to start seeing results. You will be able to choose key words and phrases that you want to be associated with eg. Dance Studio, Kids dance classes, Hip Hop dancing etc.
6. Flyers distributed at your local schools
Contact your local pre-schools, primary schools and high schools and ask if you can pay them to distribute your flyers to their students, or alternatively if you can advertise in their newsletter.
7. Work closely with your local schools
Meet with the Principal of your local pre-schools, primary schools and high schools and cultivate a relationship with the school. Perhaps offer some free dance classes within the school for sport time or a lunchtime dance group. This is a great way to introduce more kids in your area to dance, and by establishing a connection with the local schools, it makes your dance studio the one that kids from that school are more likely to choose to go to if they want to take up dance as an after school activity.
Maybe you could offer to choreograph a flash mob for them, or a dance festival routine, or a Wakakirri piece? (The work I did with local schools when my studio was in its first decade of operating, is what I credit most with the growth of my business.)
8. A good old fashioned letterbox drop
It's not great for the environment, but it's a cheap and effective way to reach your local community. Ask around and you'll probably find a business near you that offers distribution services for a couple of cents per flyer, if you're not wanting to do it yourself. Alternatively if you don't have the budget for that, then reach out to your parents and students and see if they will do their block or their area.
Make sure your flyer is looking AMAZING though, it's just not worth it if you're not giving out a high impact, super professional looking piece of advertising that will make anyone reading it WANT to sign up right away. And my advice is, don't waste money on a tri-fold. A simple two-sided DL is much cheaper and you'll be able to fit enough info on there to entice and attract interest. These days, people will just call or check the website if they want to find out the nitty gritty. So don't try and fit your entire studio info pack onto a flyer. Stick with a great photo, some basic info about your studio, and something that will make a mum or dad go "YES! This is just what we've been looking for! What a great idea, let's put our child into dance classes!"
9. Flyer swap with other businesses
Walk around and ask local businesses if they will let you put piles of flyers on their counter or in their waiting room, in return for them doing the same in your waiting room. Most will even just be happy to let you do it without expecting the return of the favour. This is such an EASY way to get a nice slow constant source of new enquiries. I invested in about 300 clear plastic flyer holders on eBay a few years ago. They cost about $2 each. And so I have one of my staff go around to all the businesses within about 8km and ask if we can leave the plastic flyer holder (filled with flyers) on their counter. There's so many businesses like butchers, optometrists, real estate agencies etc. that are wanting to support their community and they are happy to help. And then there's all the businesses that have waiting rooms, like doctors, dentists etc. People are literally sitting around desperate for something to read other than a 2003 copy of Woman's Day. Your flyers should be on that coffee table.
I'm constantly surprised at the number of people that will say "I picked up a flyer from such and such business" when I ask them how they found us. And it's often a business that we haven't even approached with flyers for years. They'll just sit there in their cheap little clear plastic flyer holder waiting for people who are interested in looking at one to take one then to call. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
10. The ultimate mailing list
Have a well-managed mailing list of all the previous customers you've ever had (minus that ones that left in a huff), and every enquiry you've ever had that didn't result in an enrolment. And once every few months, send them a little update on the studio. Like a newsletter aimed at the community. A couple of exciting things that are happening at the studio, upcoming performances and new classes. Maybe a special offer for if they happen to want to come back to dancing, or if they have a sibling who is interested, or even an invitation to refer your studio to any friends they have who might be looking for a dance school.
More than half my referrals come from ex-customers. Just because their child doesn't dance any more doesn't mean they're not still willing to be a huge supporter of you. And if you made a really good impression when their child was at your studio, then you've likely got a life-long fan.
More than half my referrals come from ex-customers. Just because their child doesn't dance any more doesn't mean they're not still willing to be a huge supporter of you. And if you made a really good impression when their child was at your studio, then you've likely got a life-long fan.
11. School fetes/fairs and local events
Public performances are a great way to promote your studio and get new students. Fill your calendar with as many performance opportunities as possible, especially for events that draw a big crowd. Keep your performance simple and clean, with minimal make up and funky costumes. And make it easy for your parents by just having one costume for the whole performance - because there's rarely change facilities available. You could have various classes take turns performing at local events on the calendar, so that it's not too much of a burden on the parents and doesn't eat up all their weekends. And because the stage management side of things is usually very simple, you could also get your teaching staff to take turns being in charge at each event, so you don't have to be there. Just write up a checklist and instruction document for them.
Maximise your impact at these performances by showcasing a few different age groups and performing crowd-pleasing songs and cool choreography. Get one of the confident speakers in your dance group to introduce the show and talk about your studio, then after the performance have them say thank you for watching, and give more details about how to sign up for dancing. Get the kids to walk around in their costumes handing out flyers before the performance and telling people that they will be dancing on the stage in 10 minutes so please come and watch - this will help draw a bigger crowd. And if you have pull up banners or something similar, take them to the performance and set them up on the stage so people know who they're watching.
12. Make a cool promo montage video
Film some of your students in class and cut it to some music then post in on Facebook and Instagram and invite your customers to share it. It's unlikely to go "viral", but you'd be surprised how many views it can rack up once it's been shared by a few dozen people. Remember, the more kids you have in the video, the more likely it's going to be shared. If the video looks slick and fun and showcases the awesome vibe of your dance studio, and it has a call to action at the end like "enrol now on our website" then it will be a great promotional tool for your studio. If you're not super tech savvy with filming and editing then outsource it to one of your senior students or seek out a local film student who will do it for cheap as a project. And if you have some budget to put behind it, then the quality improvement is likely going to pay for itself in the effectiveness of the video. How many new students (multiplied by a year of tuition) would you have to get to cover a $2000 professional videographer? 2 or 3? But if you had a really really incredible 30 second video, it could be used for a few years.
13. Get an article in the local paper
Sure, hardly anyone is reading papers any more, but there are some people who still do so let's take full advantage before these type of media ceases to exist forever. I would never suggest paying for an ad in the local paper, it's one of the most inefficient ways to advertise. However if you can get a write-up for free, then TAKE IT. Local papers have dozens of journalists who are desperate for exciting news about things happening in their community to write about. So make something exciting happen (or make something that happened sound exciting) and get in contact with your local paper.
The best way to do this is to find out the email address of the features editor and write up a PRESS RELEASE and send it to them. Google press release for an example of how to lay it out. It's essentially like your own article as if you were writing it yourself, and include quotes and photos. Then if the story sounds worthy, then they will pick it up and usually call you for an interview over the phone and send a photographer to your studio to get some professional photos. This kind of publicity is awesome, because people see it in the paper - but also when it comes out you can promote it yourself on your socials and the very fact that you were in the paper (for some reason) provides a perception of professionalism and creditability. Think about what is newsworthy in your studio recently, now or soon. A trip overseas to perform? A new type of class being offered? A special award at a competition? A bold statement about a commitment to conservative costumes? An exceptional batch of exam results? A student that has been given a contract or exciting gig?
14. Paid Facebook and Instagram advertising
This, if done well, can be your best ticket to fast growth in your studio. With the right content, and a carefully targeted audience, and a bit of budget to invest in building up your numbers, Facebook advertising is powerful. Kylie Power is the Studio Savvy resident expert in this field, and she will be releasing some trips and tricks for how to make the most of your Facebook advertising dollar.
15. Bring-a-friend-for-free Day!
You should have one of these each term. Students are encouraged to invite a friend to come along with them to class and join in for free. It's an old concept, but there are some things you can do to leverage this event to make it more effective for your enrolments.
First of all, really do a big job of promoting it in your studio. Give out little invitations to your students that they can take to school and give their friends. Offer a prize for who can bring the most friends. The more the merrier.
Plan some extra fun things to do in classes that week. Maybe some partner choreography, some games, a popular new song? Make the lessons be so awesome that all of the friends go home to their parents RAVING about it.
When the friend arrives at the studio, require that they check in at reception, and get their details. It's good for insurance reasons anyway, but it also means they can be contacted the following week to invite them to enrol. And it puts them on the mailing list.
At the end of class, chat with the friends and ask "Did you enjoy the class?" if they give a positive answer to you (even out of politeness), their more likely to give the same answer to their parents. It becomes the self-reinforced truth (A silly little psychology trick).
Give them a special gift bag, with some candy, a magnet or sticker or branded balloon, an info pack about classes and an invitation to join with some kind of special offer or discount.
Remember to take lots of photos so that you can post them on social media and the parents will share them with the families of the "friends" who came to try. Which will be another visual reminder of the fun they had, and trigger to remember to enrol.
Give them a call or an email about a week after to invite them again to enrol.
16. Shopping centre stall
This is a huge one! Your local shopping centre is an ideal space to promote your studio to your community. Most shopping centres provide casual leasing opportunities - that's the stall holders in the middle of the walkways... usually book stalls or gym membership promo booths. The cost can be quite high to rent this sort of space for a week, but consider how many new students you'd need to get to make it worth it. Usually only 3-4 if you consider the annual income from each customer - or better still, their lifetime value.
Generally they provide tables and a chair, then you provide the rest. Bring nice table clothes, some TVs with promo videos (or even concert footage) playing on repeat. Remember to bring plenty of signage so that your branding catches the eye of everyone walking past. Try balloons or disco lights for extra eye-catching magic. You can give away lollies, or stickers. You can have a couple of your students there handing out flyers in their studio uniforms. Make sure you bring plenty of enrolment forms and info packs to hand out. And be there with a smile on your face.
The reason why these shopping centre stalls work so effectively is because it provides a real in-person interactive experience (as opposed to just browsing a website or Facebook page) and this helps build QUICK trust. Leveraging your customer service skills, personable nature and genuine sincerity hand in hand with your strong powerful and professional branding, and proof of quality (via your videos on the TVs) it's often easy to convert a curious enquiry all the way to an on the spot enrolment. Especially if you offer a money-back guarantee and some sort of enrol-now incentive like a free t-shirt or uniform.
Some will enrol on the spot, others will just want to book a free trial, others will only want to take information away with them to peruse at their leisure. The trick is making a real connection with each potential customer so that they are more likely to form trust with you and your business. And also to try to get the details of every enquiry onto a contact form so that you can chase up and add them to your mailing list.
17. Run a big referral campaign
Referrals happen all the time in your studio, and the happier your existing clientele are, the more likely they are to rave about you to their friends, family and neighbours. The goal for studio owners is to create a tribe-like culture within your studio so that every member is waving a flag as a huge fan, and HAPPY to help bring in new students. Going above and beyond customer expectations regularly is the best way to do this. It also is great to explain that new students will help the studio grow, which will provide more teachers, better opportunities and allow budget for greater facilities. The growth of the studio is in everyone's best interest.
There are some things that you can do to help encourage even more word of mouth and direct referrals. Consider implementing a short-term campaign that rewards those who bring in new students with discounts, gifts, tickets or something awesome. Running the campaign all the time might cannibalise your organic referrals, but doing something occasionally to specifically reward and encourage this behaviour can be effective.
18. Leverage your existing clients on social media
In this social media era, it's such an exciting opportunity for studio owners to help use their existing customers' natural "share culture" to build brand awareness and bring in new students. Mums and dads (and grandparents too) love to brag online about their children's achievements and therefore every single photo opportunity should be offered - and BRANDED. Using a step-and-repeat media wall, or some pull-up banners in the background, or taking the photos yourself and adding a logo to the bottom of it. Posting regularly on your own studio social media with photos featuring as many different students as possible and encouraging the parents to share them.
Start a "student-of-the-week" program - what parent wouldn't share a social media post that tells their friends and family how awesome their child is... but it's an ideal way to reach their followers. The more photos and videos (especially if they're branded) the better. Awards, achievements and celebrations. Think big.
And you can also tag parents in your studio photos if their child is in them, this way you get the benefit even if they don't click the SHARE button.
19. Run an event
The goal is for your dance studio to be a FIXTURE in your local community. A place that everyone knows about, whether they are a dancer or even know a dancer. Think of all the businesses that you know in your area that you've never once bought anything from. But you know they're there. And if someone came up to you and asked for you to recommend a great restaurant - even if you hadn't been there, you'd likely know which one is the best one in the area. Your dance studio needs to be the same.
Running an event for your community is a PERFECT way to connect with people and for your business to be seen. You could run a charity event, hold a small fete, attempt a guiness world record... anything that is aimed to more than just your current client base. Something that the whole community can get behind.
Build your presence in your local community to become the best known dance studio in your area, and the new students are going to pour in. This level of brand awareness also acts as a multiplier for the success of your other advertising campaigns, because the trust is already there.
20. Cross-promote with other local businesses
This is something that I don't think dance studio owners take advantage of anywhere near enough. As a niche business, we don't have many competitors (compared to other industries like food or clothing) and so it places us in a unique position to be ideal partners with many other local businesses. Offer to promote them in your studio newsletter (that isn't costing you a cent) in return for them promoting your business in their next email blast, or allowing you to put a poster in their window.
Perhaps they might like to offer your customers an exclusive discount, which in return will incentivise your customers to choose their business for whatever needs or products they provide. Cross-promotion is a win-win and a great way to boost your business.
21. Write a parent blog
I've seen this work, and I've seen it be a waste of time... it all has to do with the quality of the content and the promotion of the blog itself, but imagine this. A blog article aimed at mums for "FUN THINGS TO DO THIS HOLIDAYS" in your local area. And 1 through 10 are genuine awesome things to do, then 11 is mentioning your holiday camp / workshop.
Or a blog post about "HOW TO RAISE A CONFIDENT CHILD IN 2019" aimed at parents, and it's a really insightful article that has value and readers want to share it... but it's on your dance studio website under a BLOG page, with your studio logo in the top corner, and an "enrol now" panel down the side. If it's a great article, it'll be shared around - and you can post it to local groups on Facebook without it looking like an ad... even though it sort of is.
22. Bumper stickers
"Our daughter goes to Harvard"... no they don't... but they do dance, and they are proud of it. And bumper stickers are a cheap way to facilitate the natural boast of a parent, and leverage the TEAM MENTALITY and "cult-like" following that all businesses now are trying to create within their customer base (think Apple). Order some from a local print company, or look online at Ali-Express for really cheap ones. Give them out for free and soon these cool branded bumper sticker ads (put your website on there for effective call-to-action) will be stuck here there and everywhere. On cars, or kids' pencil cases and bags... it's marketing heaven.
23. Be represented at all the youth events
Research task: Figure out every single youth-aimed event in your local community each year. School fetes, festivals, shows, markets, carnivals, expos... then find out how to have your dance studio be present at every single one of them. Book a stall, arrange a performance, sponsor the event... do what you can to be there! Why? Because you need to go where the mums, dads and kids are going. This is your target market right here, and your presence is important for building next-level brand awareness and helping potential customers FIND YOU.
24. Run a free workshop
FREE is good. It grabs people's attention. Don't be afraid to offer something for free. It doesn't devalue your product or service. It promotes it. It allows opportunities for people to try it and then fall in love with it. And in our industry especially, when we're trying to SELL something that lots of parents (potential customers) don't fully understand or see value in. But once given an chance to SEE that value (eg. in the smile of their child who walks out of an amazingly fun free dance class they tried) then it's a much easier sell.
Advertising for FREE holiday class, and get that message out to as many people as you possibly can in your area. Use an online booking service to manage the bookings and remember to remind all the registrants the day before the event. First of all, BOOM suddenly you've got contact details for a bunch of people to add to your mailing list... second of all, you've got people coming in to the studio to see what it's like. Some won't enrol no matter what (maybe they can't afford it, or maybe they can't fit it into their schedule), others won't intend to enrol - they're just their for the freebie - but if the parents suddenly sees huge value then they might! And others will see this as a perfect opportunity to have their child TRY DANCE without feeling the pressure of a formalised "trial class". They will participate. They will love it. They will enrol.
25. Create a snapchat filter
I don't know how to do this yet. But it can be done. And it should be done. Because kids and teens love Snapchat, and they will use it. And their friends will think it's cool. And will want to join that really cool dance studio that even has its own Snapchat filter.
26. Create a Facebook profile frame
This one is easy to do. Make a graphic for your studio that works in circle form and doesn't cover up too much "face space". Save it as a PNG file so that it's got a transparent background. (If you're not great at graphics, then outsource it.)
Go to https://developers.facebook.com/products/frame-studio/ and upload it. This might take a few attempts testing to be happy with how the final design looks when actually over a face.
Share it on FB, do it to your own profile, and watch how quickly it spreads. Facebook has even got a button that comes up for other people to say "click here to add this frame to your profile picture". That's why it spreads so fast.
Do one for students, one for teachers, one for parents... do as many as you want.
And make seasonal ones, for Christmas, for concert/recital time, on big 10-year anniversaries of your studio etc.
Why is it good? Because again, it promotes your dance studio to the friends and families of everyone who has that as their Facebook profile picture. So the more people do it, the more people you can reach. It spreads brand awareness. Plus it's not something that is currently being overused, so it's still got huge cool-factor.
27. Advertise differently
Try something new. Switch up the design of your ad. Experiment with a new approach. Different people respond differently to different things. And also look at what your competition are doing, and do the opposite. You want to be a trend setter, not a trend follower. Think outside the box. What is going to capture the attention of someone? Then what is going to capture their imagination? Get into the mind of the potential customer... who are they? What do they do? Where do they hang out? What to they love? What do they want? Don't just make a dance studio flyer that looks like every other dance studio flyer, because it will be lost in the sea of your competition and the goal is to stand out.
28. Launch a new class
Don't currently have an adults class? Put one on. Launch it with some big publicity and plenty of communication and see how it goes. Not only is it a potential source of additional revenue, it's also perhaps a great way to open your studio up to a wider audience, which will in-turn lead to more enrolments in your main classes.
(Currently my highest paying family - with 3 siblings all in elite comp teams - come to my studio because 15 years ago, before the girls were born, the mum used to come to my adult Jazz classes in the local community hall.)
But it doesn't have to be an adults class... what about martial arts? acrobatics? singing? drama? pilates? yoga? irish? scotting? cheerleading? Diversify, even if it's intended to only be a smaller niche segment of your business. Because it exposes your main business to a whole new circle, and all of their circles too.
29. Get better signage
Update your signage. Make it as big as possible. Make it as striking and eye-catching as possible. Make it as professional as possible. A studio owner friend of mine recently got new signage for her building and she has had a HUGE increase in enrolments JUST from that. Put your website on it too for easily remembered call to action.
Where else on your premises can you put up signage? Do you have a sign in each room behind the dancers so that your in-class videos are well branded? What about on the fence outside your studio? Or can you buy a cheap A-Frame and put it on the grass outside your studio? Or maybe those display flags that stick into the ground?
30. Pay for billboard or permanent advertising space
Many dance studios are in light industrial areas, a little off the beaten path - because of the more affordable price of real estate, and the nature of our businesses requiring lots of space. The downside to this is that we often get very little passing traffic. Consider investing some of the money you're "saving" by being in a non-retail location into a billboard or permanent arrangement with an owner of a building in town to advertise your studio there. The latter is potentially more affordable, since standard billboards are run by advertising companies and can be quite expensive.
Think in reverse, let's say you owned a butcher shop in the main street of town and it was a freestanding building, with nothing on the side of it. And every day thousands of people drove or walked past it. And imagine someone came up to you and offered you $5200 a year to let them put up a big sign advertising their dance studio. Would you take it? I would. It's extra money for them, with little to no downside. And for us as a dance studio owner, it's $100 a week... that's maybe 4 students? Do you think such a big sign in a busy area would bring in at least 4 new students to your studio every year? I do. If it's a good sign.
31. Give away something free
Everybody loves free. FREE catches the eye. As consumers we are conditioned to be attracted to FREE like a moth to light. So what do you give away for free? A month of classes? It could work... there would be some that would only come for that and would quickly leave (the low hanging fruit, as they are sometimes called). But there would also be some you would come for that, then get hooked on how awesome it is and then find a way to fit it into their budget. And having an extra child in a class that is already running for a few weeks doesn't cost you ANYTHING. And what if someone is choosing between two studios and one is offering a month for free, and the other is charging a trial free and a registration fee... I think most would choose the one with a free month.
Or give a free uniform. They're expensive yes, but offer it for free ONLY upon enrolment and payment of a full month or a full term of classes. Then it's impossible to lose money on it. Let's say they enrol in 1 class per week and pay for one month and class fee is $13.50 per week. And let's assume you have no registration or enrolment fee (because you shouldn't... but that's a different article). Total income paid upfront would be $54. And let's say that your uniform costs $48 WHOLESALE, but you normally charge parents $75 for it. Well the new customer who has joined because they saw the offer of "SIGN UP NOW AND GET A FREE UNIFORM", which has appealed to the mum because at her child's last studio before they moved house the uniform seemed to cost an absolute fortune... has paid MORE than what you've given them. You made $6 off them for the first month. That's still a huge win. That's still $6 in your pocket. Woooo!!! Ok, maybe not worth celebrating over, but what about the next month? And the one after that? And the 3 years after that? And do you know what's going to make them waaaaaay more likely to stay? The fact that they already own the uniform. They're in the club. They've got the merch.
Some of you might be saying... "but you lost $48 worth of fees, and $27 worth of potential mark up on the uniform!" Ok, so the $75 of potential revenue is forfeited. So what!!!! The average customer at your studio probably stays for 2.5 years, and spends over $1000 per year on fees, costumes, additional uniforms, concert DVDs, photos, workshops, at the canteen.... so it's $2500 AT LEAST!!! Would you lose $75 so you could get $2500? Of course you would. Big picture.
32. Make your uniform highly recognisable
Stand out from the crowd. Your studio uniform is a wonderful opportunity to create hundreds of walking billboards for your business. When your customers stop at the shops on the way home from dancing, they will be seen in your striking, cool uniform. It's also brilliant for studio pride, when you have a uniform that your students and parents LOVE and are excited to show off because it's cool.
33. Make a youtube channel for kids
YouTube. The underestimated social media. We all spend plenty of time on it each week, but did you know that most kids spend WAAAAAY more time on it than we do. For many kids it has overtaken TV. This is something we can (and really should) leverage. Put some content out there. Dance tutorials, stretching sessions, tours of your studio, clips from class, concert routines, interviews with your teachers, group discussions about dance.
The downside of YouTube from our point of view as marketers of a local business is that it's not algorithmically designed to sort content by location. It's a global audience and we as dance studio owners are only really equipped to cater to local customers. But that's not enough of a reason not to go for it. Even if you're using it mostly just to provide additional content for your current student base, boosting their fandom, feeding their obsession (love) of dance (and your studio) and increasing retention.
You can share links for parents on local community groups and they might show their kids if they think the content is good. And you can use clever keywords to reach an interested audience.
34. Hire a sales team
The gym model does work. They have people hired solely to promote the gym and sign up new members. Consider hiring someone on a commission-based pay scale to promote and bring in new students. How much is a new student worth to your business? How much would you be willing to pay? If in your dance studio the average lifetime value of a customer is $4000, then I'd say investing $100 to get that customer is a worthwhile investment. If you offered someone (the right person) a job where they got $100 commission for every new students they brought into your studio, that'd be a decent job for them (I think) and a great opportunity for you.
This wouldn't work for everyone. It's just something to consider. And it can be done on a small scale. Even perhaps with one person working one day a week at first to test it out.
It could also work to do it simply with a salary rather than commission based. Especially if your studio is large enough to support an additional staff member's wage. Even part time, if you paid someone $50K per year to take over your entire marketing and recruitment process, and with the time, effort and skill they were able to put into it they brought in 100 new students, how much money would that bring in each year? Even on conservative maths I'm seeing at least $50K profit increase no matter which way I calculate that. Work out the maths for your studio, just to see. What's 100 x (average customer spend per year) or even (average profit per customer per year). But remember, if you've got empty spots in classes, then filling them up doesn't much increase your costs.
35. Open satellite schools in nearby suburbs
Depending upon the population and demographics of your area it might be worth exploring the option of opening up in multiple locations, around 15-30 minutes from your main studio. Not only can this help fill your teaching week, and open up new markets for you, it can potentially be a feeder to your main school if you only offer certain "entry level" classes at the smaller satellite schools. Once a student is attending and loyal to a studio, they're more likely to travel for it - as opposed to a new student starting dance, where the parent is likely to choose studio mostly based on proximity.
With multiple locations, the risks are that you'll spread yourself too thin and rarely have I seen it work where all the locations are providing the same level of customer service and quality of education. But perhaps it could work for you with recreational classes and pre-schoolers, then students are encouraged to transition to "HQ" as they progress.
36. Streamline your enrolment process
So far we've mostly talked about promoting your studio and getting leads and new student enquiries, with the assumption that the more leads you get, the more students you'll get - but equally as crucial to increasing your enrolment numbers will be optimising your enquiry-to-enrolment process. Generating interest is one thing, but how many (slightly) interested potential customers are getting turned off by an over-complicated website or an enrolment process that is difficult or daunting.
Take time to strategise with your staff and really think about the progression from initial enquiry to enrolment for your customers. Are you contactable easily by phone and email? Is your website easy to navigate and appealing? Are you following through on every enquiry? This is where a system is absolutely 100% crucial, and a GOOD system that is executed consistently, will make a HUGE difference to the actual number of enrolments coming in each month.
37. Chase your lost leads
Did you reply to an enquiry only to never hear from them again? Did you organise a free trial and they never showed up? Did you send someone home with an enrolment form to bring in with them for next week's class and they didn't come back? Leads get lost, but we need to chase them. There's no point pouring all of our energy into developing strong branding and excited interest from potential customers only to lose them due to an unopened email, an unreturned voicemail or them simply getting a bit busy and forgetting. Again it's about logging EVERY enquiry into a system, and following them through right up until they actually enrol (and then they're followed-through further into an on-boarding process.)
Call them back. See what happened. Maybe they forgot, then when they remembered it had been a bit too long and they were embarrassed. Worst case, they'll tell you what the deciding factor for them choosing not to go ahead with the enrolment is and you'll get a better insight into the mind of the customer. Best case they'll be grateful you reached out, and you'll have a new student.
38. Get amazing opportunities for your students
Be that studio. The one that gets their kids on TV, or performs at a major event. It's hard but it's not impossible. How awesome would that be? Since Dance Moms, Abbey-Lee's studio has exploded with popularity. Exposure is big for business. And it doesn't just have to be for the studio, it works individually too. There's value in the bragging rights, and professional credibility and reputation (as well as marketing story) that come from having trained a successful professional dancer, helping a young performer get a paid role in a musical, movie or TV show, or finalist on a major talent TV program. And it's not only good for business, it's good for your students too. All of them. The ones who get the opportunity and the ones who dance at the same studio as them who now have inspiration to achieve and proof that these opportunities exist and are achievable.
How? Network. Email. Send promo videos to event managers, producers and agencies. Train your students well, and teach with a focus on performance skills and confidence. Offer singing and acting, and nurture those who show great potential.
Touchy subject? I'm not saying that you shouldn't stay true to your values. Your business should be exactly how you want it to be. But more often than not, our dance studios are less how we WANT them to be, and more just sort of how they kind of... ended up. Reality vs expectation. But my point is... it would be remiss of me not to have at least one point on this list of 50 ways to get more students, without at least throwing the idea out there that maybe some changes can be made to the energy, culture, policies, vibe etc. of your studio. What can be improved? Customer service? Communication? Premises? Teachers? Basically what I'm saying is... you can advertise until the cows come home but the BEST way to get more students is to make sure that everything you are doing is outstanding. Be incredible and your customers will rave... and your studio will grow.
"It's not you it's me".
40. Open up more timetable options for all the busy classes
I'm a firm believer that a studio's timetable is one of (if not THE) most impactful decisions a studio owner makes each year. It's make or break. And though the patterns of customer behaviour are sometimes hard to predict, it's important to have a strong understanding of what classes and age groups have the most demand.
As you're designing next year's class timetable look at this year's and what the class sizes are. And try to figure out what classes/ages your current students move up into next year. But also think about what other days you could put double-ups of your most popular classes on. As an example I have 6 Junior Hip Hop classes running every week at my studio, because it's one of our most popular classes.
Remember, parents are BUSY and between balancing all of their children's activities, it often just comes down to what fits. So the more options you have for them, the more chance one will fit their schedule. Often that's just what it comes down to. Dance is OUR priority, but maybe dance is lower on a customer's list of priorities and they're just trying to fit it in between soccer, karate and horse-riding.
And this is the same for class times. If all of your preschool classes are in the mornings, then there's no chance students with parents who work full-time. Saturdays? Sure, but what if older brother does soccer on Saturday mornings? Suddenly, quickly (and with great probability) they can't be your customer. Even if they wanted to.
If all of your Junior Jazz classes are early in the afternoon after school, then kids who go to "after-school-care" because their parents work until 5pm will not be able to join either. So try offering a later class on one day.
41. Alleviate the fears of tentative prospective clients
Whether we want to blame Abby Lee or not ;) there are many concerns and misconceptions that the general public have about dance. That it's expensive, competitive, bitchy, inappropriately sexualised and that it takes up too much time as a commitment. These are our PR challenges that we need to overcome.
In your advertising you can speak to this.
- Put your pricing clearly on your website, it's probably cheaper than people realise
- Explain you have non-competitive classes on offer as well
- Use words like friendly and welcoming
- Include testimonials that mention how refreshing the customer finds the child-appropriate costumes and choreography
- Specifically mention a package that is just a few hours a week
42. Hire a new teacher that has a following
InstaFAME is a thing. A ridiculous thing, but a thing. And whilst some people have online followers simply from doing make-up videos or posting silly memes, there are many dance choreographers who have developed a strong reputation and significant fanbase across the dance industry, especially with young dancers.
As business owners this is valuable. Think of it like Harvard hiring a celebrity guest lecturer (which they have been known to do). Whether it's for a workshop, or a series of classes, reach out to some popular dance choreographers and start networking. See if they will come out and do some teaching at your studio.
Will they BRING in new customers straight away... no.
But if they are as good as their hype. And if there's plenty of social media content about it, with videos from in class, photos in the lead up etc. then soon it will be a point of difference for your studio... and maybe enough to attract some new students.
43. Diversify into other after-school activities
You are all about dance. We get it. But if your studio space has ANY available time sitting there not in use, then it's worth looking into what other things you can offer to fill that space up. And you could hire a specialist to look after the program of whatever you decide to offer. Perhaps Martial Arts, Pilates, Yoga, Music, Fitness... you could HIRE out your studio, or you could HIRE a teacher and make more money managing the programs yourself - because you've already got the infrastructure for the admin side of things, and you've probably got a bunch of potential customers already with siblings of existing clients.
44. Offer a course
If you have a decent number of students ages 16+ consider offering a course that provides some accreditation (like a Cert II, or Cert III). There are companies that provide the support to help you offer something like this, and it might be a point of difference in your community that helps you stand out from your competition.
45. Focus on 5 wow-factor things
"WOW!!!" When something is good, a customer enjoys it. When something in AMAZING, a customer raves about it. They rave to friends and family. They post about it on their social media. They become fans of you and your business. This is what we want. Because it's at this stage, that the customers do most of your advertising for you.
Focus on 5 major magic moments that you can create each month. Incredible memorable stand-out special things. Something that parents will talk about. Something that students will go out of their way to thank you for, and will mention to their friends at school the next day. Something that you can take lots of photos and videos of and share online to maximise the exposure. A free pizza party at the studio? A ridiculously awesome special guest choreographer? A free teddy bear or necklace (or some sort of free gift) to all of your students at Christmas? A big screen TV for the foyer? A giant easter egg hunt throughout the studio? A red carpet presentation night? Personalised birthday cards for every child sent to their address for their birthday? A dance video project on location with a guest choreographer? A free photoshoot with some unique props and backdrops? A friendly family picnic with a crazy water balloon fight?
46. Offer free tickets to your concert/recital
Unless you're selling out your concert every season, you may as well use some of those empty seats for promoting your studio to potential new students. Towards the end of the dance year in the lead up to concert, I often offer free concert tickets to customer enquiries - especially if they're "transfer students" who have danced for many years and are looking for a new studio and are still in the process of choosing which one. I know that once they see the quality and energy and fun of our end of year performance, they're going to be more likely to feel comfortable committing to an enrolment.
47. Allow enrolments all year round
There is no time in the year that you should be saying no to new customers. Let them enrol. There are plenty of ways to "catch them up" for concerts or exams... with private lessons, or videoed classes they can use to practice at home. And even if it's way too late in the year for them to catch up, and they won't be able to sit an exam or participate in the recital, they can STILL enjoy class.
And if your studio is strict about no late enrolments because you don't want it to interfere with the progress of the other students, then consider opening a mid-season class especially for new students. A holding zone for them to start learning with you so that they can transition into the regular classes the following season.
Naturally a couple of months before the end of your season, leading up to your concert/recital, you probably won't be taking on new students - but that is when your following year's enrolments should already be open so that they can enrol immediately ready for next year.
My studio enrolment calendar looks like this... November - the following year's timetable is released and enrolments open
December - concert/recitals and end of dancing year December to February - PEAK enrolment time February - new dancing year begins
April to August - enrolments flowing in slowly but consistently
September to October - enrolments naturally slow, and advertising efforts and budget ease back (but they don't EVER stop completely)
November - the following year's timetable is released and enrolments open
48. Do those damn birthday parties
It's not just about the extra revenue from utilising your studio space on weekends. It's also because it physically gets new people INTO your studio. Suzie has her party, she invites 14 friends. If the studio looks amazing, the teacher was delightful and the whole experience was exceptional then chances are that some of Suzie's friends will join.
49. Double down on what works
Are you measuring your enrolment statistics to see what works? You really need to be. Have something on your registration form that asks where the customer heard about you. And get someone to plot that data into a spreadsheet and graph for you. It's imperative that you have a strong understanding of which advertising initiatives are working best for you, and which ones are wasting your time and money. So that you can adapt your marketing plan accordingly.
50. Just be brilliant
We can advertise until the cows come home. Shouting our message from the rooftops and posting on social media every time one of our kids chucks a half-decent leg mount, but in the end it all adds up to maybe like... 25% of the game? Because there is NO BETTER WAY to get more new students, than to just simply be brilliant at what you do. Offer great training and great customer service. The end. Done.
Great advertising alone might work for the sort of business where a customer is only needed once... like an end-of-lease cleaning service. But we run dance studios where we want long term customer retention. So the quality of the service is EVERYTHING.
And as extensive as this list above is, I do know many studios that have thrived and succeeded with minimal advertising efforts - simply by being the best. Ideally you want both. If you are consistently outstanding, and consistent about communicating your message to your community and helping those who are looking for your service find you, then numbers will continue to grow until you've reached market saturation. (At which point it's time to start focusing less on increasing your slice of the market, and more on increasing the size of the market itself - through more customer education.)
And remember, none of us want to have customers that don't really want to be our customers. That is when we have whingeing, whining, complaining parents that are a nightmare to deal with. So think less about how to CONVINCE someone to join your studio, and more how to ATTRACT the type of customer that will LOVE your studio and is out there right now LOOKING for exactly what you are offering.