I’ve never met a dance studio owner who said, I opened my business because I love sales and marketing.
Rather, most of us started with a dream of owning or operating our studio because of a love for teaching dance, choreographing, creating productions and more.
That said, the success of any for profit business lies in the ability to have paying customers. And most of the dance teachers and studio owners I meet are in this business because it’s their career and profession – it’s how you make your living.
It’s sad and frustrating when you spend hundreds or even thousands of hard-earned dollars on advertising and marketing methods that are ineffective. The fact is there are many ways to find new students that can cost either very little or way too much.
Here are four mistakes that dance studios make when it comes to advertising and marketing their business.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these methods, rather it’s the way in which some people use them.
Mistake #1: Spending money on Facebook ads without a clear goal.
A studio owner recently told me, “I have spent over $400 on Facebook ads and I have absolutely no idea how it works or if I’ve gotten any new students but we have more people that like our page now!”
Before starting any ad campaign, have a measurable goal set so you can track your progress to determine if the ad is successful or needs tweaking.
If your goal is to grow the amount of likes you have on your studio’s public page, be sure you’re adding value with the content you’re sharing on social media so that you can gain the interest of this potential student to take the next step to call or register. (If holding a giveaway or drawing, follow the Facebook promotion guidelines properly).
Maybe your goal is to draw users to your website for class information or registering. Too often I see Facebook ads direct the reader to a studio website that is not up to date, lacks a call to action, or makes it difficult for that person to take the next step to either call you, come in for trial class, or register.
Mistake #2: Using expensive one-time saturation mailings to fill programs.
I sort my mail over the trash. The goal is to recycle as much paper as possible and find the few items that are important.
Saturation mailings, a direct mailing that promises to reach thousands of households may be a great strategy for lawn care companies, local restaurants, residential cleaning services, or florists. This blanket approach strategy, in my opinion, is not the best use of that amount of advertising dollars for a dance studio.
Let me show you why with a little story:
A dance studio owner who was about to invest $3,000 in a one-time saturation mailing contacted me to see if I could review the piece. We didn’t even get that far.
Together, we discovered that her schedule of class offerings couldn’t even support the demand if say, just 1% of the potential reach of this mailing were to actually interest new students. There were not nearly enough classes for beginners or young dancers at the studio. This investment wouldn’t pay off even after a year.
The text in this mailing was intended to direct people to her studio website. However, on her site there were limited program descriptions, no proper links to social media, no online registration and a confusing tuition page that would turn off any parent of a new dancer.
Lessons to take away:
- Make sure your basic fundamentals are lined up before you spend any money on a mailing.
- Do the math! Ask yourself, does it even make sense to spend X on a one-time mailing campaign?
Mistake #3: Relying on newspaper ads as your only source of advertising.
I mostly use the local paper to help start fires in my fireplace during the winter.
In all seriousness, raise your hand if you still read the local paper. If you do, have you noticed changes in the type of ads? Better yet, if you’re still spending money on advertising in your local paper what kind of results have you seen? Does your target market still look in the local paper when making buying decisions?
We stopped running ads for our studio in our local paper over a year ago; the same goes for the phone book.
If you feel compelled to invest in newspaper ads, make sure you have a sense of urgency tied in with the copy. Registration deadlines, early bird savings, incentive to hold your spot before the class fills, special guest events such as master classes or intensives. Give people a really, really good reason to contact you.
Mistake #4: Ignoring online reviews.
Most people cringe at the thought of an angry parent or former student going online and writing a negative review of their experience at your dance studio. You can’t make everyone happy, nor will you, but in today’s age of consumer-driven reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google Places, Yahoo and more, you have to take the leadership role and get involved in managing your online reputation. Know what’s being said about you!
Too often I search for local businesses and see none or only one review posted online – and many times that single review is negative and the business owner has no idea if or how to respond.
The Internet has made the power of word-of-mouth (free!) advertising faster than ever. In years past, studio owners would ask for a testimonial for a printed brochure. Now is the time to ask for those raving fans to take their positive comments to a review online. If you don’t know what to ask for or how to ask, this post, 6 Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials may be helpful. When reading the questions, insert the words “registering at our dance studio” for buying this product or “our dance studio” for this product to see how they may generate some helpful reviews and comments from happy students.
Summing it up…
Make sure you’re maximizing the core no-cost and low cost marketing methods first before you pour hundreds or thousands of dollars into paid advertising. Advertising (paid or otherwise) can be highly successful, but only when the fundamentals are covered.
Suzanne Blake Gerety will be presenting seminars on the topics of low cost marketing and dance studio start up at this summer’s Dance Teacher Summit in New York City July 29-31. She’d love to meet you there! If you would like specific, personal support to start, run and grow your dance studio you can connect with her at DanceStudioOwner.com. If you are looking for and easy to follow guide: Get More Students Now! A Guide to Low Cost Marketing Strategies to Fill Your Classes All Year Long.
Spent too much and only realized it later?
Missed putting a call to action on your site?
Help others learn from your marketing or advertising mistakes (don’t worry, we’ve all made ’em) in the comments.
Suzanne Blake Gerety is not only the very busy mom of two young children but is the owner and co-founder of DanceStudioOwner.com, and the Vice President of Kathy Blake Dance Studios. She is a regularly featured contributor in various pieces for Dance Teacher Magazine including, “Ask the Experts”, business articles, and has presented live workshops at Dance Media’s Dance Teacher Summit New York City.
Suzanne experiences the ups and downs of studio ownership too, which is what inspires her to help studio owners and teachers keep their passion for dance alive as they grow their business. You can connect with Suzanne on Twitter @SuzanneGerety and at DanceStudioOwner.com.