The recital program is a staple of the annual recital experience. An usher hands you a program, you settle into your seat, the house lights go down and it’s time for another great show. The recital program isn’t just a way for the audience to keep track of the show order and who performs in each dance, it’s also a lifelong keepsake for families and a perfect messaging and marketing platform for dance studios. Here are some tips on how to have a successful and profitable recital program this year!
DO: Sell Program Ads Having a recital program without selling program ads is a missed revenue opportunity! Every penny counts when it comes to owning a dance studio, and recital program ads are an easy way to increase your recital income, pay the studio’s summer rent, or even use it to take a vacation this summer (imagine that)!
DON’T: Send the Program to print without proofing Be sure to check over every piece of the recital program before sending it to the printer. Check over the spelling of dancer names, the show order, and make sure that no one is missing. While proofing the program yourself is important, don’t let your eyes be the only ones to catch mistakes. Have a few staff members or parents help you proof the program. They will be sure to catch errors that you’ve missed – it’s understandable, we’ve looked at the same pages so many times, a fresh set of eyes are needed!
DO: Shop around for printing prices Just like you shouldn’t buy the first car you see; you shouldn’t say yes to the first printing quote you receive. It’s important to shop around for the best printing prices. You’d be surprised how much printing costs can vary. Get quotes from local print shops and online national printing chains. When comparing quotes, make sure you are comparing apples to apples; print costs will fluctuate based on page count, paper size, color vs. black and white, paper weight and quality, and binding. Don’t forget to factor in turn-around time, tax, and shipping costs into any quote you receive.
DON’T: Concentrate on Selling Full-Page Ads Only Program ads are typically priced by ad size. Instinctively, full-page ads cost the most, while smaller ads cost less. An easy trap to get caught in is to focus your energy on selling as many full-page ads as possible. At first glance, that strategy seems to make sense: sell as many of the most expensive product as you can. However, it’s important to think of each page of your program as a piece of real estate. The printing cost is the same no matter what is printed on the page. If you sell full-page ads for $100, half-page ads for $60, and quarter-page ads for $40, you would make $160 on a page with four quarter-page ads, while making just $100 with a full-page ad. That’s 60% more–with the same printing cost! By all means, sell full-page ads to whoever will buy them, but smaller and more affordable ads will be easier to sell and will get you higher revenue in the long run.
DO: Advertise Your Program Ad Sales Utilize the same creativity and energy you would put into advertising your dance classes into advertising your program ad sales. Although you are selling a product to an existing client, rather than a new one, the same marketing tactics still work. Make sure everyone knows that program ad sales are going on. Send out emails, post on social media, and have posters up around the studio. Make sure the ad deadline is super clear. Parents will naturally wait until the last minute to purchase their program ads, so don’t worry if the sales are slow to start. Pro tip! Have copies of last year’s program around the studio for parents to browse for quality samples, message examples, and design inspiration. If this is your first recital program, feel free to make your own “sample ads” to give people an idea of what to expect and some ideas on how to make their own ad special.
Follow these tips for a successful recital program that will be a lifelong keepsake for your dance families as well as a profitable recital revenue driver for your studio!
Growing up in the studio family business, Joe Naftal is the marketing director for Dance Connection in Islip, New York, and the CEO of the Penny Prima® brand. Joe has taught seminars, classes, and workshops for dance teachers and studio owners from around the world, has been on the seminar faculty of the Energize Conference, the Dance Teacher Summit, the UDMA Dance Teacher Expos, and has been a contributor for DanceStudioOwner.com and Dance Teacher Magazine. He is the author of Standby in the Wings, which has been sold across North America, the UK, and Australia, and is the creator of Check In Pointe and RecitalProgramAds.com. As an advocate for arts education, Joe serves on the Board of Directors for Robin Becker Dance and CM Performing Arts Center. Aside from his work at the studio, Joe is a lighting designer and production manager for classical and contemporary theatre, modern dance, ballet, and opera. He holds a BFA in Lighting Design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Literally speaking, producing a recital is the act of looking back and showing what you have learned or accomplished over the course of a school year. It’s all about making great memories that can be enjoyed for years to come. The whole recital experience is full of memory-capture elements such as the recital program book, the celebratory trophy, the annual t-shirt and the commemorative DVD and group photos.
In fact, if you really think about it, most of what we promote at recital celebrates what has already been DONE. Today I hope to convince you that we should be spending as much, if not more time, promoting what IS TO COME at our spring shows.
Don’t miss promotional opportunities at your recital this year.
Keep reading for 5 ways you can serve your audience by promoting what’s coming up at your studio at recital 2017.
The captive audience
Marketers know the best audiences are captive audiences. As a dance studio owner you have better than a captive audience. You have a captive and INTERESTED audience. Consider the other places that companies try to market to captive audiences: taxi cab screens, bus ads, airplane commercials and posters in waiting rooms. Even the backs of bathroom doors in restaurants have become the target of ad placement! Take advantage of the fact that you have a captive AND interested audience by promoting things they might be interested in at your show.
The recital program book
The recital program book has a long shelf life. Not only is it read by many of the attendees for much of the show (i.e. pretty much anytime the dancer they came to see is not on stage), but it is likely to stay on the kitchen table for weeks to come. Placing promotions for summer and fall classes throughout your program book is a great way to get parents and grandparents thinking of the next thing their dancers can sign up for. Be sure to include an easy link to sign up and don’t be surprised if you actually receive a registration at intermission.
The pre-show video
I was recently teaching for a convention that had a high energy announcement video playing on a loop before the showcase began. One of the prompts in the video was a reminder to sign up for nationals as well as an announcement of the next season’s event dates. The video gave us something to focus on while waiting for the show while informing us of how to take the next step with the convention. So guess what I did? I ordered a video and looked up their summer camp info. Their promotion definitely worked on me (and I was on staff!)
The on-stage announcement
Whether you do your own announcements or hire an emcee to play host at your recital, close the show by thanking the families for their participation. Enthusiasm for dance will be at an all time high immediately following the success of recital. Ride the momentum by inviting kids back to the studio in the week after recital for auditions, placements, parent-teacher conferences or registration for fall classes. And, yes, do it right from the stage as a small part of your closing comments.
The follow up thank you
Immediately after recital parents should get an email (or better yet a text) with a short, but heartfelt appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Include a link to sign up for next year’s classes or to audition for teams for upcoming season. Make it easy by writing the thank you a week ahead of time and them scheduling the delivery for an hour after the show. Don’t worry if you are not tech-savvy. There are several email or text service providers that can do this for you. All you have to do is write a few sentences from the heart and provide a link.
Promoting at recital doesn’t have to feel sales-y. Promoting what you provide for kids and informing them how they can take them next steps at a time when they are most interested in learning more is SERVICE.
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
When I was a child and my mom went to enroll me in dance classes, there was only ONE OPTION: sign up for a weekly class for an entire school year. In fact, enrolling in a weekly, 9-month class was the ONLY way to get involved with dance lessons for my entire childhood and it became the primary offering we used to attract potential first-time clients for the first fifteen years of business.
And then times changed…as they always do.
About five years ago we started seeing fewer parents who were willing to make their very first experience with dance a 9-month trial. Parents would say, “We’d like to try it before we buy it.” I was opposed to offering trial classes for two reasons. First, I felt that a steady stream of trial students would be disruptive to regular classes and secondly, I felt that our reputation should speak for itself. But the millennial moms didn’t want to sign up for a year’s worth of lessons and the requests for trial classes didn’t go away.
So we decided to do something even better than just offer trial classes; we built an entire staircase to getting involved in dance at our studio.
Keep reading for tips on moving towards increased full-time enrollment with 4 New Ways to Increase Dance School Registration.
Step #1 – Free Dance Day Trial Class
The free trial class is now my number one source of enrollment referrals. We recently ran a Free Dance Days promotion during which time we opened all of our low enrollment classes to the community for one week. The event, which was promoted on Facebook with a link to a simple enrollment form within our website, attracted 144 trial students to the studio in one week. At the end of the free trial class, students were given a small gift for attending and a an opportunity to register for regular weekly classes on site (with an incentive of free shoes). We converted 22% of the trial students to regular weekly students during this promotion. But what about the 100+ kids who did NOT enroll in regular classes? This is where Step #2 comes in.
Step #2 – The “Mini-Mester”
We offered students who were not interested in enrolling in regular classes, or were not able to make a commitment to an entire school year of classes, an opportunity to enroll in an 8-week “Mini-Mester.” Thirty students chose the “Mini-Mester.” This was a huge improvement for us because we normally would’ve just run the free promotion and called it a day after making the offer to enroll into regular classes. Making a smaller commitment to classes available made it possible for more trial students to become actual students.
Step #3 – The “Monthly Class/Camp”
So we now had roughly half of our trial students enrolled in our programs between regular weekly classes and the “Mini-Mester.” But what about the other half? To the remaining students, we offered an opportunity to come to an hour and a half long theme-based camp at the end of the month. These monthly class/camps have become so popular for busy parents that we offer them every month with an average of 20 kids in attendance.
Step #4 – Nurture
My feeling is that if we give someone a free trial class and they still don’t sign up for anything after an invitation to join regular classes (with an incentive), an opportunity to enroll in a shorter “Mini-Mester” and the ability to take a monthly camp/class, then they simply aren’t ready to be students at this time. Students who fall into this category are offered free tickets to one of our shows and put into our regular monthly newsletter.
The bottom line is that as time goes on there will probably be more parents who want to try before they buy or who are looking for smaller commitments. We will serve our studios and future students well by working to create more opportunities for new families to become involved. And who knows? Your next great senior company dancer just might be a three-year-old whose mom will smile and say someday, “I never knew when I signed her up for that trial class that we would be here all these years later.”
Looking for more great dance studio enrollment tips? Check out:
There’s a great deal of work that goes into running a successful dance studio. From balancing budgets to managing staff, studio owners do so much to help create an environment where new generations of dancers can grow and learn. The fact of the matter is, however, that all that work can’t amount to much if there are no students to take classes or patrons to attend events. While there’s much to be said about the value of word of mouth from satisfied customers, dance studio owners can’t rely on other people to do their advertising for them. It takes a proactive approach to create an appealing marketing campaign, and it takes creative dance school advertising ideas to make those marketing plans inspire new clients to walk through the door.
1. Know Your Target Audience
While it’s great to imagine a world where every single person wants to buy your product and to give business to your studio, you know that simply isn’t the case. Some people will be more likely to use your services than others, so it’s important to target them with your ad campaigns.
The first step in being able to write ads for your demographic is to determine who that group of people is. Forbes reported that business owners must start by identifying who will be most likely to use your product. For dance studios, that may mean considering the ages you serve, the styles of dance you offer and the level of competition that students can expect. If you run an all-inclusive studio that allows for varying levels of novice dancers, or you primarily focus on younger students, you don’t want to write an ad that’s too focused on elite dancers, as you’ll alienate students who want to learn and take your introductory programs. Conversely, if your biggest sell is that you offer a rigorous training program for top-level dancers to expand their skill sets, you want to make sure you use the language that will appeal to their goals instead.
Regardless of the kind of services you provide, you need to remember that you have two separate groups you need to appeal to – the students of course, but also their parents. Parents and students will have some overlapping goals, like ensuring safety, fun and education, but they’ll take different factors into account. Parents will be more likely to focus on costs than their children are, for example. While it’s all well and good to create dance school advertising that appeals to the students’ desire to perform and enjoy their time, it’s ultimately up to the parents to decide if they’ll sign up for the lessons or not.
Consider ads that can do both, like an ad with flashy images that can attract new students but uses language that will draw in parents. Think of terms like “flexible class schedules” or “personalized payment plans” or appealing ways to describe any other specialty you might offer that will ease any parent’s worries about the time or costs that can be associated with an extra curricular activity. You can also choose to create separate ad campaigns that run at the same time: one that targets students and one for parents.
2. Choose a Platform to Spread Your Message
Once you’ve nailed down who it is you’re writing to, you need to determine the best way to let you message reach them. Fortunately for studio owners today, the internet and social media have dramatically increased the channels that business owners can use to communicate with clients.
One of the biggest mistakes that any business owner makes when trying to advertise a company is not tailoring content to the right platform. Carefully consider where your dance school advertising piece is going to appear before you start writing. Facebook ads, for example, have a different set of space and character limits than a Google Display Ad. Don’t waste your time writing out an ad only to discover afterwards that it doesn’t fit the restrictions of the site you’re using. Do a little research on what the requirements are for what platform you want to post on and then go from there.
Social media ads can be helpful because they let you target certain groups. On Facebook, for example, you can target by age, location and other interests. You could target a specific dance school advertising piece so that it’s only seen by people in your area that have listed “dance” or “ballet” as an interest, or whose favorite movies include “Center Stage.” Social media can also let you advertise for free in some cases. If you have a strong social media presence, simply making new posts can help you get the word out. Just be aware that this strategy will rely on other people helping to share your content so new people will see it, which can be risky.
While digital advertising is effective, don’t completely overlook traditional methods like newspapers and radio commercials. A lot of this will be geographic – do a little research, even if it’s just a quick search engine query, to find out which channels are the most popular in your area.
3. Answer Their Questions Before They Ask
People often don’t like advertisements, so it’s important to write dance school advertising content that can quickly grab their attention and tell them what they need to know before they get bored and move on. Start by answering the “five w’s an an h:”
What are you offering?
Who is it for?
When does it take place?
Where will it be?
Why should people be interested?
How do they get involved?
You don’t have to spell the questions and answers out, but make sure your wording is clear, concise and provides that information. Entrepreneur recommended that you read your ad copy out loud to yourself. It should only take a few seconds to read all of it, and you shouldn’t be stumbling over any complicated phrases. If you want to say more, instruct people to contact you directly, or to visit your website. There you can have pages that list the important cursory details on top for the people who are skimming for information, but you’ll also have room for more stories and anecdotes for people who want to read more.
You’ve jumped and soared to incredible heights throughout your dance career, but now it’s time to make your biggest leap yet. With a love of dance and a passion for sharing it with others, you’ve decided to open your own brand new studio.
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, TutuTix has created an even more in-depth resource for studio owners looking to take their studios to the next level. It even includes an example business plan for a new dance studio!
Starting a dance studio involves considering a wide variety of categories that concern everything from advertising methods to payment processing systems. It’s a lot to think about, but following a checklist will help make the process a little less stressful. We’ve outlined the major categories involved in how to start a dance studio, and the smaller tasks that they encompass:
Of course, after passion and determination, the most important thing you need to open a dance studio is money! While you can’t predict every expense, try to prevent surprises.
Hiring a financial advisor is a smart move to make sure that you have sufficient savings to not only start your dance studio but continue operating it for the long-term. An advisor can also help you determine if you need to take out loans to help finance your business.
The first category you need to consider when starting a dance studio is location. You need to reconcile your studio’s ideal location with the facility size and layout that best suits your needs.
A studio located in a populated, busy area that’s visible to passing traffic will get you noticed the most and draw in more customers. The location should also be in a neighborhood that’s safe for children. Research the demographics of the area and how many other dance studios are located in the proximity.
When looking at building layout, consider how many rooms you want the studio to have and the number of office spaces, storage rooms and bathrooms needed. Make sure the lobby and reception area is spacious enough to be comfortable.
Your studio will also need to have more than enough parking spots to accommodate not only the daily class load but the added influx of parents and students during performances and other special events.
A strong, well-developed brand communicates who you are and what you have to offer to clients. Branding involves a range of duties, including choosing the decor of the studio, deciding on a name and creating a unique logo and sign.
You should create a business plan early on, and in this plan outline your mission statement, values and goals. Think about what makes you and your teaching style unique and valuable to students. Make sure you dedicate ample resources to advertising, because you will have to rely on it as a new and unknown studio.
Create business cards, brochures, a company website and advertising campaigns on social media sites. Contact local schools and community groups to investigate opportunities for partnerships and collaboration, and see if you can participate set up a table at at town events like festivals and parades. Hold an open house day, and consider offering incentives for signing up for classes on the day, like studio-branded dance gear or a discounted tuition rate.
A strong brand helps customers recognize the value of your services, so don’t skimp on getting your name out there.
Starting any kind of business is a confusing and taxing process that gets even more complicated when you add in all the legal mumbo jumbo. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you deal with these complexities.
A lawyer can read over and advise you on the lease of your building, and can help you make sure that you register your business correctly. Take out an insurance policy and draw up waivers and other necessary forms to help protect and support your studio.
Enlist the help of other legal and business professionals to ensure that your studio complies with all health, safety and environmental standards and that you possess all necessary permits and music licenses.
Order and install the big pieces of your studio, like padded or marley floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and barres. Buy a sound system for the studio, and sound-proof each studio room as much as you can to cut down on excess noise and distraction.
Is there sufficient lighting in classrooms, throughout the building and in parking lots? Beyond dance equipment, you also need the basic equipment required for running a business, like a computer system, studio-management software and payment processing system.
In order to accept credit card payments, you’ll have to register merchant accounts with the major providers. Install locks and a security system in the studio to help ensure it is safe and protected. You’ll need to maintain your studio, too, so set up regular shipments of cleaning supplies and restroom products. And don’t forget WiFi!
“Establish your studio policies early on.”
Think about all the things that will be necessary for you to successfully run your new studio. Establish your studio policies early on, including tuition rates and attendance and discipline rules.
Create your schedule, deciding when the registration period for classes will be, how many and which types of classes you will offer each week and when and where performances will be held throughout the year. Create a document including your policies and calendar and make copies.
Determine how many instructors and staff you will need to cover all your classes and what experience and skills you require, and hire those that are a good fit with the culture and attitude of your studio.
For more in-depth information on starting a dance studio, take a look at our Studio Start-Up blog category, or choose from any of the articles below:
When I started my business, I started dance studio registration in June of each year and closed it in early November because that was when we measured students and ordered recital costumes. After that time we were technically closed to new students until summer brochures came out in March of the following year—a registration flow that left me unable to accept new students for three months out of the year.
Considering that my regular season was only nine months long, and that we were only open for classes five hours out of any given weekday, losing three months of enrollment opportunity was not a sustainable plan. So I made one of the best decisions of my business career and extended my enrollment period until Jan. 31. Last year alone, we enrolled an additional 80+ students in the months of November, December and January; 46 of whom were registered in the month of January alone.
If you are interested in expanding YOUR enrollment season, keep reading for 4 Final Push for Dance Studio Registration Tips:
Prepare your Teachers
A longer enrollment season allows you to serve more students each year. Which is wonderful for you and the students! However, mid-season enrollment can pose a real challenge for teachers if not managed well. If you are planning to expand your registration season, let your teachers know early and work with them to develop strategies for integrating latecomers into the classroom. The focus should be on getting new students up to speed quickly with as little disruption to the regular class as possible. You may even consider offering a complimentary private lesson for new students during this time to give them some movement vocabulary and context of how class will run before their first day. Parents appreciate this extra touch point as well.
Minimize the Roadblocks to Mid-Season Enrollment
Regular registration happens in June of each year at my studio and requires payment of the first and last month’s tuition along with a $25 registration fee. Dancewear is purchased in August and costume fees take place in November, which allows families to break up the cost of getting started in dance. A mid-season enrollment, however, typically has to cover all of the registration, dancewear and recital costume fees at one time in order to get started. Make it easier for families to get going with classes by breaking up those fees if possible. Even spacing registration and costume fees two weeks apart, or waiving the registration fee, will go a long way towards breaking down the barriers to mid-season enrollment, especially if families are feeling the stress of holiday spending.
The Late Costume Issue
We do the bulk of our costume ordering over Thanksgiving Break and a “catch up order” at the end of January to cover latecomers. To that end, it’s really important for parents of last minute enrollments to know that their recital costume will NOT be arriving at the same time as rest of the class. I recommend having parents sign a special statement on their registration form acknowledging that enrollments made after Dec. 1 will not receive their recital costume with the class order. It’s also a good idea to call parents of latecomers before the regular shipment comes in to give them the ability to opt of class that day if they feel their dancer will have a hard time seeing everyone else get a costume when theirs hasn’t arrived yet.
Take Advantage of New Year Mojo
The New Year is a very motivational time for adults. Between looking at getting back into shape and making resolutions, they are also looking for new activities for their children. Take advantage of this natural pattern by ramping up your second semester offerings. Consider offering new sections of class or advertising specials on specific classes (ones with lower enrollment). This is also the perfect time to promote an 8-week Adult Dance Sampler or a second semester day care class. With a little effort and organization the last months of your enrollment season may be your best of the year! Go get it!
Remember when your high school math teacher told you that you’d need to understand algebra to get by later on in life? You probably scoffed, as many kids do. But we’re here again to go over more calculations that are essential to your dance studio’s success. Hang up your dance shoes and break out the calculator, and get ready for part two of our “Crunching the Numbers” series.
Any small business has to do a fair bit of marketing, and your studio is likely no exception. The fliers you print, the ads you run and the referral program you promote are all ways that you market your dance school in hopes of drumming up new business. But how are you supposed to know if your marketing efforts are working? That’s where metrics for marketing for dance studios come in. Read on to learn how you can calculate marketing return on investment, customer acquisition costs and more.
Marketing Return on Investment
First up is return on investment, commonly referred to as ROI. The concept is simple: You need to figure out how much business you’re gaining in relation to what you’re spending on marketing. For this calculation, you’re going to need your gross profit. You can refer back to part one of this series if you need a refresher on how to find this number.
To find marketing ROI, subtract your marketing investment – how much you spent on marketing services – from your gross profit. Then, you divide the answer by the marketing investment. So if your gross profit is $5,000 and you spent $1,000 on marketing, ROI would be $5,000 minus $1,000, then divided by $1,000. This gives you a marketing ROI of $4 – that means for every $1 you spent on marketing efforts, you got $4 worth of business.
This calculation is essential when you’re evaluating your marketing strategy season over season. It’s always good to try new campaigns – whether it’s direct mail, sale sites or something else – but you should evaluate the worth of a strategy after a given season. If your marketing ROI dips, chances are your new marketing efforts aren’t paying off.
Customer Acquisition Cost
Another important marketing metric is the customer acquisition cost, also called CAC. This is essentially how much money you have to spend on marketing in order to get one new student. The calculation is a simple one.
To find your CAC, set a defined time period. A good measure might be over the course of one dance season. Take the total amount you spent on marketing and divide it by the number of new students you acquired. So if you spent $1,000 on marketing and 20 new students signed up, your CAC is $50.
This metric by itself just tells you that you need to spend $50 to get one new student in the door. However, you can use CAC to calculate other more revealing numbers that will help you adjust your marketing and prices.
Time to Pay Back CAC
One way to use CAC to your advantage is to calculate how long it takes you to make back the money spent on acquiring each customer. You can calculate this in terms of seasons or months, whichever works for you.
To calculate time to pay back CAC, start buy subtracting your seasonal cost per student from the revenue per student. Divide your CAC by this number for time to pay back. So working off the example above, if you earn $500 per student per season and spend $300 per student, you’ll need to divide $50 by $200. This leaves you with an answer of 0.25, meaning you break even on a student’s acquisition cost after 1/4 of a season. Easy right?
As a consumer, you’re probably a big fan of Groupon. After all, who doesn’t love getting 25, 50 or 75 percent off services from their favorite stores and restaurants? While this site is very popular with consumers – it boasts 70 million subscribers – Groupon isn’t always a win-win experience for business owners.
A study from Rice University showed that Groupon promotions aren’t always profitable. Of the 150 businesses surveyed, 66 percent said their promotion generated money. Despite more than half making money, just 42 percent said they would consider running a deal again. Keep these numbers in mind while you’re deciding whether to use the daily deal site.
If you’re considering offering a discount with a dance class Groupon, here are some pros and cons that you’ll want to weigh before clicking “OK.”
Pro: Groupon Helps Create Your Deal
No need to fret if you’re not a whiz with words. Groupon will not only help you pinpoint services that will sell effectively, but an associate will also give you a hand with the web copy. This comes in handy if you’re not so great at crafting compelling advertisements.
Pro: Bringing New Customers In
Getting new dancers in the door is always a good thing, especially if you’re the new studio on the block. If you choose to run a dance class Groupon deal, it’s safe to bet that you’ll see some new faces in the studio. People love discounts, so this is a good way to edge out some of the more established studios in your area and give your school a competitive edge.
Con: Having to Discount Your Services
While you’ll likely get some new students out of your Groupon promotion, you’re not going to make the same money as you do from regular dancers. No one is going to purchase your deal if you only discount 10 percent – the appeal of daily deal sites is that businesses offer services with steep discounts.
Because you’re only going to be making a portion of your usual revenue from Groupon deals, make sure you will still be bringing in enough money to pay your fixed expenses. Otherwise, you may be better off using traditional marketing tactics to bring in customers who’ll pay the full rate.
Con: Groupon Takes a Cut
After you discount your prices to attract customers, Groupon is going to take a portion of the money you make. The New York Times explained that Groupon usually takes 50 percent of the revenue, so if you sell $500 worth of classes, you’re only going to receive $250.
This can be problematic if you had to discount your prices a lot to begin with. If you offer your services for 40 percent off through your promotion, then Groupon takes half, you’ll end up with 30 percent of the money you would have made if the customers paid full price.
Pro: Getting Paid Immediately
However, one upside to the Groupon method is that you get paid right away. Even if the Groupon buyers never show up to redeem their classes, you’ll still get your money from the site.
Con: Attracting Bargain Seekers
Inc. magazine explained that another less-than-desirable outcome of Groupon is that it attracts people seeking deals. Many of the students who come in as a result of your promotion may only be looking to redeem their classes – not to sign up for more. As a studio, one of your long-term goals is likely to build a solid base of returning students, and if Groupon buyers are only interested in the bargain classes, they’re not going to contribute to this objective.
Digital marketing is a preferred method of advertising for many companies nowadays, but good old-fashioned snail mail still has its purposes. Studies have shown that consumers still enjoy going out to their mailboxes and sorting through letters, so why not take advantage of the nostalgia associated with direct mail when it comes to dance studio advertising?
Mix up your marketing strategy this year and incorporate a postcard or letter campaign. Here are some tips that will help you make the most of your marketing dollars while working with direct mail.
Pick a Specific Event
The first thing you’ll want to do is pick a specific event or promotion to promote via direct mail. It’s much better to send out postcards specific to your open house or tuition discount than just general promotional materials. A few good events to tailor your campaign around might include:
Summer workshops or classes
A seasonal recital
Your annual open house
A seasonal registration period
New classes schedules or genres.
Having a specific and time-sensitive topic to promote will help you to create a sense of urgency and encourage recipients to act immediately.
Design Your Card
Once you’ve decided on the purpose of your postcard or other direct mail piece, you’ll need to design it. You can do this yourself if you’re a whiz with Photoshop, or there’s likely a design professional in your community who can create a sleek, chic postcard for you.
When designing your postcard, you’ll want to include some sort of eye-catching graphic to grab the reader’s attention. Dance Studio Life recommended using a photo from your studio, whether it’s an adorable group of dancers or a wow-worthy action shot. Include a short and sweet statement about your event or promotion on the front of the card, and save the majority of the text for the back.
As you fill in the back of your postcard, don’t forget to include your contact information and website, as well as all the details about your event or promotion. Use actionable language to encourage readers to act soon, otherwise they’ll likely toss the postcard in a pile of mail and forget about it.
Compile a Mailing List
The next step is to figure out who you want to receive the postcard. There are two main groups of people you can market to: existing or prospective customers. Keep in mind that the average response rates for these two groups are 3.4 percent and 1.1 percent respectively, according to the Chief Marketing Officer Council. This factor is essential when figuring out return on investment – if you spend $100 on just 50 post cards, chances are that you won’t make your money back.
If you decide to target prospective customers, you can either buy a targeted mailing list from an online company or use the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail option.
Measure Your Success
After you’ve stamped all the postcards and shipped them off, you’ll want to devise a way to track the results of your campaign. If you’re promoting an event, you can ask people how they heard about it when they register. If you’re advertising a sale, have new customers bring in their postcards so you can see how many people you actually reached.
This type of data is essential when it comes to future marketing efforts. If you get a great response from your postcard, you may want to use the same strategy again in a few months. But if the results were less-than-stellar, you’ll have to revisit the drawing board to figure out how to better target your customers.
Chances are that, like most dance studios around the country, your cash flow drops during the summer. You may host dance camps and a few summer classes, but you won’t be as busy as you are during the school year. Just because your studio has hit its seasonal lull doesn’t mean you can’t continue to market your business and services. In fact, summer is the perfect time to hone in on some of your marketing tactics and see how you can revamp them for the seasons to come. Here are five dance studio marketing ideas for specific areas that you may want to focus on while you have a little extra time this summer.
1. Work on SEO
Search engine optimization best practices are always changing and evolving. The strategies that may have boosted your website in search last year may actually be hurting it this year. That’s why you should take time this summer to read up on SEO and how you can improve your studio’s site. Here are some of our SEO tips for beginners, but you may also want to look into mobile optimization, keyword strategies and best landing page structures.
2. Set Up a Referral Program
If you don’t have a student referral program, set one up this summer! The Dallas Chronicle explained that referrals are one of the most cost-efficient ways to bring in new students without shelling out a ton of money for advertisements. Think about what you could offer students who refer friends to your studio – discounted tuition? Free merchandise? Free recital tickets? Whatever you choose, just make sure that it’s valuable enough to be appealing to your dancers, but not so generous that you’ll wind up regretting it.
3. Create Testimonial Videos
You probably have some great videos stored on your phone or computer from seasons past, so why not put them to good use? Gather your videos together in one place and work to compile short films that you can display on your website. You may also want to see if a few of your long-time dancers are willing to sit down and talk about their experiences at your studio. A compelling testimonial video will likely perform well on your website and social media pages.
4. Work on Your Brand
Small businesses are always growing and evolving, and it’s essential that you keep your brand consistent across all forms of communication. If you haven’t had the time to upload your new logo onto your email newsletter or are still using outdated class prices on your website, take time this summer to update all these little inconsistencies. It may not seem like such a big deal, but potential customers are more apt to trust your business if they receive consistent messages about who you are and what you do.
5. Keep Up Your Newsletter
Your summertime marketing should ideally grab the attention of prospective students, but you also want to keep your current dancers engaged. That’s why it’s crucial to keep up your studio newsletter during the summer. Send out updates about what’s going on in the classroom during the warmer months, changes that you’ll be making for coming seasons, what other dancers are doing at summer intensives or even just tips on how dancers can stay in shape over break.
Don’t have a newsletter? Create one soon! There’s no excuse not to take advantage of this easy marketing strategy, as free platforms like MailChimp provide you with all the tools you need to put together a professional, polished email blast.
Many studio owners have experienced the following situation: Your school is doing great. Enrollment is through the roof, and just when you think it’s smooth sailing for the next few seasons, you see the sign. A new studio is opening up right down the street, and even worse, they’re offering the same classes! All of a sudden your prospective students have another viable option to choose from, so how do you ensure that your school continues to thrive? In the world of running a dance studio, studios need to stay vigilant if they want to succeed in a sometimes crowded field. Here are four steps that will help you keep your school’s doors open, regardless of how saturated your market becomes.
1. Stay Focused on Your Studio
Your first instinct when you find out there’s a competitor opening nearby is to shift your attention to learning everything you can about the new business. After all, it’s upsetting when someone thinks they can one-up your studio! However, you shouldn’t obsess about this new establishment. Instead you should start obsessing about your own.
“There are always going to be people who think they can do it better than you, and maybe some people actually will do it better than you,” Kathy Blake, owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios, explained on DanceStudioOwner.com. “But what this is all about is you have to be your own voice; you have to find your own culture.”
Blake explained that studio owners need to stay focused if they want to get ahead of the competition. If you’ve been slacking on marketing or facility upkeep, use this as the kick in the pants you need. Crunch some numbers – what’s the return on investment for your different marketing strategies? What’s your customer acquisition cost? Focus on the nitty gritty aspects of running a dance studio, and you’ll be equipped to compete in a saturated market.
2. Find Your Sweet Spot
If your new neighbor is offering the same classes as you, it’s essential to figure out what makes your studio unique. Maybe, like Blake mentioned, it’s your school’s culture and atmosphere. Or perhaps you have more experienced teachers. Sit down and think hard about what your niche is and why it makes your school a great place for dancers to learn.
Coming up short? If you’re floundering to find your differentiating factor, you may want to consider revisiting your business plan. Your previous success may have been based on your lack of competition, but now that there’s a new sheriff in town, you need to reevaluate your business model and figure out what you can do to make your studio competitive.
3. Differentiate Your Marketing
Once you’ve figured out exactly what it is that makes your studio unique, take that aspect and run with it. You’ll need to thoroughly differentiate your marketing from your competitors to ensure that potential students know exactly why your school is the place to dance. Revamp your website and social media sites. Update your fliers with a new emphasis on your sweet spot. Design new ads and do research into effective marketing tactics you may be neglecting. Your goal should be to reach students in new ways and convince them that your school is the best option in town.
4. Take Care of Your Existing Students
In the midst of all this marketing mayhem, it’s easy to overlook the needs of your current clientele. However, Marketing Donut explained that if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you’d do well to cater to your patrons like never before. Improve your customer service, orchestrate an amazing recital or poll your dancers to see what changes they’d like made. Paying ample attention to your existing students will ensure that they re-enroll for next season and that you’re not losing business to your competitors.
With your seasonal dance recital coming up, you’re probably facing a lot of costs from venue rental, lighting, backgrounds, props and more. What if we told you that there’s a way you can get back some of that money and potentially make a profit from your recital? Many studio owners have found that dance recital program ads are an easy and effective way to earn extra money for their businesses. While it takes diligent planning to pull together a great program packed with advertisers, it might be a huge boost for your studio. Here are a few ways you can sell program ads more effectively.
Determine Reasonable Prices
If you’re going to become a selling machine, you have to make sure that your prices are just right. After all, you’ll end up pulling teeth if your cost per ad is too high, and if it’s too low, you won’t make any money. So don’t just pull a number out of the air! Do your research to determine what’s a fair yet lucrative price for your program ads.
The biggest factor in determining how much to charge for ad space is what you’re going to pay to have the programs printed. For this reason, you should get quotes from your printing vendor before you start selling ads. One studio owner on Dance.net explained that she takes the per-page price from the printer and doubles it for a full-page ad. For example, if it’s going to cost you $50 per page to print the programs, you may want to sell full-page ads for $100, half pages for $60 and quarter-pages for $40. This strategy will ensure that you make your money back and then some.
However, you may need to adjust your prices if you find that businesses are balking at the cost. Be sure to look at the big picture – with higher prices, you might sell two full-page ads at $100, but if you lowered that price to $80, you may very well sell five and make $400.
How to Target and Approach Advertisers
Many studios incentivize their students to sell ads. This strategy works for some, but while 5-year-olds are cute, they’re probably not the best salespeople. That said, if you go this route, there are ways that you can help your dancers target the right businesses and advertisers to optimize on your returns.
If you are going to ask students to sell ads, give your students guidance before setting them loose in the community. For example, the North Cambridge Family Opera Company recommended that you pitch to businesses whose target market will be attending your recital. Companies that cater to children, parents and families will likely see the value in your ad space. Similarly, if your students are selling, instruct them to try businesses where they are regular customers and ask self-employed individuals if they want to purchase ad space.
When it comes to sales tactics, it’s usually beneficial to create a fact sheet and some talking points to help close the deal. Give your sellers information on how many people attend the recital, what the general demographics are and how the money will benefit the children who attend the studio. Some businesses may not necessarily need the advertisement, but if they are community-oriented, they may be interested in supporting the local arts program. Don’t be afraid to take a unique angle while selling!
Offer Ads for In-Kind Services
You may want to consider pitching a deal to some of the local vendors that your studio frequently works with. You can offer them free ad space for in-kind services. For example, if an artist helps with your set design each year, offer him or her an advertisement in return for a discount on next season’s design. Not only will this give the entrepreneur a bit of marketing, but it will create an agreement that you’ll work with him or her in the future.
When you’re bartering for in-kind services, keep your ad valuation in mind. If you’re asking for a discount, it should roughly equate to the same value of the ad you’re giving the vendor.
An Essential Checklist of Materials from Advertisers
Once you’ve sold several pages worth of ad space, you’ll need to collect the advertisements from the businesses. If you’re not organized when it comes to this step, you may end up contacting the advertisers multiple times to get all the needed materials. It’s better to put together a comprehensive list of things you need for each ad to streamline the process. Use this checklist to guide your ad collection:
The company name
The best point of contact
Multiple contact methods, such as email, phone and fax
The ad in an easily accessible digital form, like .jpg or .png
Permission to crop or resize the image as needed.
Be clear about the deadline for these materials so you’re not scrambling to get the program together last minute.
Can you imagine the following? A house builder works for nine months with clients to build a beautiful family home. The builder communicates and plans; hiring subcontractors, building walls, insuring the project, financing the materials and making the finishing touches just right. The builder takes draws from the clients for expenses along the way, but when it comes time to deliver the final product and hand over the keys, he takes a pass on getting paid for the last weeks of work.
This would never happen in the “real world,” but in “our world,” it happens all too often.
Studio owners put nine months of work into building a beautiful product and then fail to take it to the finish line from a business perspective.
If you are looking for dance recital ideas to produce a dance recital that pays you for your time and effort, keep reading!
The Biggest Expense – Producing a profitable program starts well before the show begins. When I ask studio owners what their biggest recital expense is, they will inevitably say “theater rental.” WRONG. Your biggest expense (and easiest expense to control) is most likely costume purchases. Control expenses by working with one trusted vendor. I moved 98% of my costume order to Curtain Call this year. By working with one costume house, I earned better volume discounts, consistent ships dates and a dedicated Customer Relationship Manager—which saved me time and costly returns.
Tickets – When was the last time you went to the movies for free? Oh, you didn’t? That’s because they’re not free and neither is renting a theater and putting on a recital.☺ Calculate your appropriate ticket price point by taking time to truly count the cost of all expenses associated with show production including, but not limited to, facility rental, dressing room rental, rehearsal space rental, lighting design, microphones, headsets, tech crew, sound crew, housemen, ushers, music editing, props, faculty time and insurance.
Keepsake Program Books – Part 1 – Are you producing a high quality recital program book? If not, you are missing out on a chance to not only elevate the professionalism of your show, but also to create an additional stream of revenue before the dry summer months hit. The first year I produced a Keepsake Program Book, I called the show “My Hometown.” We dedicated the dances to local businesses and then used the dedication as a reason to ask them to place a congratulatory ad for the dancers. We sold a little over 30 ads the first year and now sell 80-90 ads on a yearly basis
Keepsake Program Books – Part 2 – Businesses aren’t the only ones interested in placing ads in the program book. Take advantage of your professional publication to encourage families to celebrate the accomplishments of their dancers and graduating seniors by placing “Brava!” ads.
Commemorative Merchandise – The possibilities for commemorative merchandise are endless. We partner with a local florist to provide flowers. Our biggest seller is a branded recital t-shirt complete with every dancer’s name on the back. The students bring sharpies and sign each other’s shirts after the show. Many of our More Than Just Great DancingTM affiliate studios offer an even broader assortment of commemorative items at their shows including recital bears, bondi bands, sweatshirts, picture frames, bracelets, charms, water bottles, parent gear and more.
Memory Makers – Dance is the only art that disappears as soon as you create it. Make the celebration last by providing quality photography and videography opportunities for your families. Partner with local vendors to trade services or profit share. Or, take it a step further by investing in the equipment and training to provide the service yourself.
Most Importantly… Most importantly, a professional, positive recital experience for families is your best promotion for summer and fall enrollment—the lifeblood of your business. The time, energy and planning you put into your show will pay you dividends for months to come.
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
A viral video can do wonders for any brand. However, even if you don’t film the next YouTube sensation, you should still be using clips of life at your dance studio to engage your social media followers and reel in new customers. Video Brewery estimated that website visitors are 64 percent more likely to purchase services or products after they watch a branded video, and many marketers tout video marketing as one of the best ways to engage viewers. That’s all great in theory, but the truth is that some people are all thumbs when it comes to filming videos. If you’re struggling to capture clips that reflect well on your studio and capture the interest of online viewers, use these five tips to produce better dance studio videos.
1. Quality is King
A video that is unfocused, pixelated and shaky isn’t going to be enjoyable for viewers to watch. You don’t need to have professional video equipment, but try your best to shoot high-quality clips. The latest generations of smartphones have impressive video capabilities, so be sure to focus the lens and frame your subject when capturing video. If you’re working with a camera, you may want to pick up an inexpensive tripod to help stabilize your shots.
Que Publishing noted that shooting the right size video can also make a big difference in your results. YouTube’s default size is 320 pixels wide and 240 pixels tall, so this should be your minimum constraint. Whenever possible, shoot clips horizontally so you’re filling up a viewer’s entire screen.
2. Aim for Short and Sweet
10-minute dance studio videos of rehearsal might be enjoyable for parents, but that’s probably the only people who will watch it. Video Brewery noted that you’ll quickly lose viewers after your videos hit the one-minute mark. Short, impactful videos are also shared more frequently. Try to cut your clips down and frame only the highlights for viewers. This will help deliver your message with a powerful punch.
3. Shoot Often
You’ve probably told your students that practice makes perfect, and the same holds true for your video skills. The more frequently you work with your recorder, the more comfortable you’ll become and the more great shots you’ll capture. Try to pick up your camera or phone at least once a day and shoot a few frames. You’ll quickly build up a library of great clips that showcase the best parts of your studio. These are valuable to have stored away if you ever decide to compile in-depth marketing videos.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
The best videos capture some sentiment or activity that wouldn’t be adequately explained in words or pictures. One Market Media explained that you shouldn’t use videos to simply dictate information to viewers. The content should be instrumental in giving people insight into your studio’s culture or services. Some good examples might be a particularly well-executed combination or a great client testimonial. However, be sure that testimonials aren’t overly scripted, or else they may come across as phony.
5. Be Sure to Share
The ways your promote your dance studio videos are as important as the quality and content of the film. Don’t expect people to find your YouTube account – instead, share videos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. If you create longer films, you may want to imbed them in your website’s landing pages to supplement your promotional material. When more people see your videos, they’ll be more likely to share with friends and family, thereby optimizing the impact of the clip. However, don’t forget to have students and their parents sign release waivers so you can use your videos for promotional purposes.
Many studio owners choose to list their businesses in an online dance studio directory in hopes of gaining more students. It’s a relatively easy marketing tactic, but like anything else, there are pros and cons to these directories. If you have some extra time and advertising dollars, here are some considerations to take into account before listing your studio on a dance website.
The most obvious benefit of listing yourself in a dance studio directory is the exposure you can gain. When new students are looking for dance classes, they’ll probably start with an online search. If they come across dance studio listings, you’ll want your business to be in the mix. Put simply, you won’t get new students if they don’t know you’re there!
Con: Paid Membership
One of the downsides of being in an online dance studio directory is that the best sites require a paid membership. Most directories charge a moderate yearly fee for a basic listing and have options for premium memberships. For example, DanceClassFinder.com, one of the highest directories in search engines, charges $60 per year for a standard membership or $120 for a premium account. If you have a few extra dollars in your marketing budget, this could be a good investment. However, when your dollars a little stretched, you can always search around for free listings. These might not get as much traffic as bigger sites, but like people always say, you get what you pay for.
Pro: SEO Boost
Another important reason to list your studio in a dance directory, whether it’s paid or not, is that you’ll get a boost in search engine optimization. When your business has online “citations,” you’ll show up higher in search engine results, and online listings that include your studio name, address and contact information count as a citation. If your studio is a little low in the rankings, it might be worth your time to submit your details to a few free directories to boost your SEO.
Con: Hit or Miss
There are lots of different online directories out there, so you might find that the one you choose doesn’t get the attention you were hoping. Many sites boast that thousands of students visit their listings each day, but keep in mind that those visitors are located all over the country. Directories can be hit or miss, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you’re marketing in your local community, as well as online. It might be worthwhile to also list your studio in the directories of local businesses, such as a chamber of commerce, community center or regional dance publication. These types of companies often get a lot of queries from parents and are a great way to get referrals.