Growing enrollment seems to be a hot topic at almost ANY dance studio seminar I speak at or attend! It seems like even studios who have maxed out many of their classes are still looking to increase their leads and prospects for future enrollment, which I think is super smart. My studio itself, like so many others, is actually in a growth phase … one of our goals is to optimize our programming to attract even more dance families who believe in our mission.
Whether your studio is jam-packed already or has room to grow, you can’t go wrong with continuing to build relationships and involve more kids in your programs. Relationships lead to trust, and when you build trust, you build your business! By offering a variety of ways that parents can experience your studio, you are opening up more than one “door” of opportunity for their kids.
Even though the fall enrollment rush is over, the momentum at your studio doesn’t have to stop! Enrollment can keep going all year long if you can find the sweet spot of what works best at your business. Tap into your studio’s strengths by using my 4 Keys to Growing Enrollment in the Spring Semester!
Here are my 4 Keys to Growing Enrollment in the Spring Semester:
“Closing the gaps”
Your studio, like mine, probably has classes where there is a gap between current enrollment and maximum enrollment. Between now and February (our recital cutoff date), I prefer to focus on closing the gaps for specific classes that I know will be great for newcomers, like beginning hip hop or a preschool ballet class. I notify my team of these classes to target, and they direct prospects there. I believe the key to a successful “closing of the gap” is finding just the right dance families … have your team identify prospective parents and children who are eager to start class right away and have expressed strong interest in participating in the recital.
Hosting dance camps
Camps aren’t just for summer! That’s my philosophy anyway. We offer one-time, themed camps that parents can sign their children up for throughout the year. You could easily come up with a series of themes for camps like this and have a weekly or monthly offering. With a nominal fee or no cost at all, dance camps let folks “try before they buy” in a low-pressure, fun way. For us, this bite-size way of trying dance often leads parents to enroll their children in other programs, since they’ve formed a relationship with us and learned to trust our interactions with their kids.
Mini-mesters are a series of regular classes offered in short sessions, usually anywhere from four to eight weeks. For us, they allow families to try out our dance classes without a school-year commitment, and without needing to invest in the recital. I’ve even seen some studio owners package mini-mesters with all-inclusive pricing, where you might include the classes, dancewear, shoes, and a summer dance coupon in one affordable bundle. At my studio, we’ve also seen great success with our mini-mester students “graduating” to a school-year class the following year. Mini-mesters are an awesome stepping stone for the commitment-shy parent.
Adding brand new classes
Does your schedule have an opening here or there? Adding a brand new class to your schedule can seem risky mid-year, but it won’t be if you do your homework. Look at your enrollment numbers to see which ages and/or class styles are most popular. Then comb through your class schedule to see where you have classroom and teacher availability for a new class and determine your break-even enrollment number. Reach out to your current clientele for referrals and advertise the class’s start date to your existing waitlist. Bonus: if you can still fit the class into your recital, do it! Find an in-stock costume and promote the picture of it along with the class information … sometimes a sparkly tutu is all it takes!
PS Don’t forget the adults. We just added an Adult Tap class and it’s going like hot cakes! It’ might help that my sister has been recruiting in the lobby, but it really goes to show that students can come from all places.
Looking for more great ideas to help with growing enrollment? Check out the following articles:
You’ve held your open house. You’ve put out your back-to-school social media campaigns. You’ve advertised in a local parenting publication. If you’re like me, you are feeling like you are on a roll for getting new students into the studio this time of year!
The good news is, new students are coming in and you are VERY glad to see them. The bad news is, maybe you feel like your existing students need a little extra attention now, that they need to be thanked and loved on for choosing your studio.
Retaining students—not just getting them in the door—is at the heart of sustaining your business over time and demonstrating that you have happy clientele. We often think of retention mid-year, when some kids want to quit, or at the end of the season, when we want them to re-register after recital. But this crucial back-to-school time can’t be ignored. It is an excellent time—right out of the gate—to show you personally care about your dance families and appreciate their business.
So classes are in session, and you’re meeting new faces every day….how can you best use this time to show the love? What can you do to increase retention and keep those families engaged?
Keep reading for 4 Way to Boost Dance Studio Retention Early in the Season.
Meet people in the hallway – OK, I know this might seem like an obvious one, but hang in there with me. Make a point, every day during the first week of dance classes, to walk the hallways and mingle with your customers. Learn names and ask about their summer, and you’ll begin forming real relationships. It’s these high-quality relationships that have much more meaning than just a “hello” or “goodbye” …. you get to know people! You won’t do this every week, but be sure to do it during the most important weeks. But the positivity you gain from making a true effort to know your customers is priceless.
Have a “withdrawal turnaround” plan – You know these calls will start coming about the third week of classes: “She’s too tired.” “They moved her swimming lessons to Tuesday.” “She doesn’t seem to like ballet anymore.” It can seem like the beginning of the year is rife with people who get started, and then want to withdraw from lessons. Turning attrition to retention isn’t guaranteed, but it’s worth trying a few extra steps. Having a “withdrawal turnaround” plan with your staff can completely shift the process and help retain customers who might have otherwise disappeared. Be prepared to offer families a new day of the week or a different style of dance instead of withdrawing right away – a free trial of that new class couldn’t hurt! Chances are they didn’t realize what else could work for their schedule, or they didn’t know that their tiny dancer might really love a jazz class.
Calls, emails, and cards – A personal “check-in” phone call, email, or handwritten card to every enrolled student’s family can go a long way to show they are not just a number at your studio. Decide what you can do yourself, and delegate the rest to a staff member or two. The phone call could be as easy as saying, “Thank you for dancing with us this season! How is Sara enjoying her classes?” And then just listen (and take notes)! An email can say something similar, along with a special message from the teacher. And a gratitude-filled, handwritten card – well, that is worth much, much more than the price of the stamp. Choose the method that makes the most sense for your time and your studio, and run with it! Not only do you get to show that you care, these communications may open the door for you to solve problems that you didn’t even know existed – saving you AND your customers from future frustrations.
Ask for feedback – Although we may typically survey our customers at the end of each season, why not reach out at the start too? A simple “How are we doing?” can go a long way. Maybe you had no idea that parking was an issue for families during the 4-5pm hour, or maybe there were inconsistencies with the way welcome folders were distributed. Hearing this valuable feedback right from the get-go can help you make immediate improvements for some things, and plan for others – keeping your customers happy. When your dance families feel truly heard, they’ll feel more invested in staying at your studio over time.
Retention is something you ALWAYS want to strive for, and starting right away during the back-to-school months is imperative. Take these four tips and customize them to your studio, then tell us in the comments what worked well for you! You can also find me on social @MistyLown. I’d love to hear from you. Until then, I wish you a successful start to the year with your retention only going up and up and up!
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About seven years ago I was a partner in a business that managed five daycare centers. It was an excellent learning experience, but one lesson continues to rise above the rest:
The concept of “break points” in enrollment.
And, this is how I learned that 9 students are less profitable than 8!
Curious about this math? Keep reading for an explanation of way break points are crucial for a profitable dance class size.
Daycares have very strict rules regarding student-teacher ratios by age. For example, for five year olds students, the ratio is 1:8. Practically speaking this means there can only be eight students in the care of one teacher. Financially speaking this means that enrolling eight five year olds is very profitable for daycares because they have maximized their income opportunity for the hour of paying the teacher.
And this leads to the concept of a “break point”.
If enrolling eight students in a day care is optimal, enrolling nine students destroys profitability because the daycare center will have to open an additional classroom and hire an additional teacher for just ONE student.
It simply doesn’t make sense for a daycare center to add that additional expense for just one student. So they manage their risk by closing enrollment until their waiting list builds to 5 or 6 names before committing to open another classroom and hire another teacher.
The lesson of the “breakpoint” caused me to look at my “always enrolling” philosophy at the studio a little closer. I found that although our enrollment was “bigger than ever” our bottom line wasn’t reflecting that growth. Digging a little deeper, I found we were running several classes with a small number of students that would’ve been better served to be combined into fewer, but more fully utilized, classes.
Have you ever felt like you were working harder, serving more students, yet making less profit? If so, now might be a good time to take a closer look at your enrollment distribution as you start planning classes for next year. Just remember the lesson I learned from my time in daycare management: Be careful about crossing breakpoints. Fewer, fuller classes is better for the bottom line.
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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:
As I travel the country talking to studio owners the question I hear exchanged more often than any other is some version of: “How big is your studio?” I understand the motivation behind the question and have asked it several times myself. I believe the enrollment size questions are motivated by a few things:
We are all just trying to figure out how our studio measures up with the rest of the world.
“Am I big?” “Am I small?” “Am I normal?” We really just want to know that we are doing okay.
We want to find other people like us. It makes sense that I might face the same challenges and benefit from the same solution as a studio of a similar size.
But the number of students you enroll is far from a complete picture of your actually enrollment.
If you are looking for a more complete picture of your enrollment, keep reading for 3 Ways to Measure Your Dance School Enrollment:
Student count is the easiest measurement of enrollment. Simply stated: “How many students take classes at your studio each week?” But for a more accurate picture of enrollment consider tracking the following information:
The term “units” refers to the total number of classes, or spaces in classes, that are filled each week. Here’s a little story problem to help you see the relationship between student count and units. Imagine that you have 200 students and your studio offers 50 classes per week. There are 10 spaces available in each class, which mean that you have 500 units of class for sale. If your 200 students each take one class, you would have an enrollment of 200 students taking 200 units of class. However, imagine that those same 200 students take an average of two classes per week. Now you have 200 students taking 400 units of class per week. Financially speaking that is a much healthier situation for a studio owner. Same number of students, but a completely different outcome for the owner.
The term “structure” refers to the shape of your enrollment. A “triangular enrollment,” with lots of little ones at the bottom that slowly tapers as kids get older and explore other activities, is normal and healthy. However, sometimes the structure of an enrollment can become a little more “rectangular.” This starts out as a good thing because it means more dancers are staying longer, but if you find yourself in a situation where you have as many older dancers as young dancers, it may be time to work on building your preschool program. If you don’t, you might end up with an “upside down” enrollment where you have more older/competitive than younger/recreational students and that is not a stable enrollment.
And then there is “Stress Factor.” This is term I use to describe the relationship between enrollment and “workload.” For example, several studio owners of large studios have shared that they feel they are doing too much work for the end result. On the other hand, I know some studio owners with smaller enrollments who feel like what they earn and the work required are aligned. It’s important to remember that not all enrollment is created equal. Some programs are easier to manage than others. Some programs are very labor intensive. As you seek to grow enrollment, the value of the “Stress Factor” cannot be underestimated.
So where are you this year with your enrollment goals? Now is a good time to take a closer look at the relationship between Units, Structure and Stress Factor to make sure you are building a business that is in alignment with how you want to spend your time and energy.
Looking for more great dance studio enrollment tips? Check out
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!
I live in a place affectionately called the Frozen Tundra. It’s not exactly the Arctic, but Green Bay Packer fans claim the whole state is pretty close to that from about mid-December to mid-March.
No matter where you live, don’t let the colder weather or busyness of the season lull you into taking your foot off the gas in terms of seeking new enrollments. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel! Registration incentives, pre-planning for upcoming classes and events, and getting creative with marketing ideas are just a few of the tools you can use.
Winter is a GREAT time to plan for Spring dance studio enrollment boosters. Here are 6 ideas to get you started:
FB contest for tuition credit. Last week we started a unique FB contest that has gotten a lot of traction. The promotion is a picture of our “Give the Gift of Dance” basket. It’s basically a dance class starter set with a value of $130, but sells for $95. The contest component is that everyone who shares it and comments that they did so below the picture is entered to win a $100 studio tuition credit. We got 68 shares the first day! What’s better yet? Many people not only mentioned that they shared, but they commented what they loved about the studio.
“Summer in Winter”! Winter is the best time to plan for new summer classes. Tie up loose ends on guest artists now! Strong planning now means the ability to begin taking enrollment for summer by the end of February.
Line up Spring community performances now. Now is the time to line up community performances for the spring. Community performances are a great way to showcase what is great about your studio, pass out information and teach kids how to use their gifts and talents to serve others.
Call the local dance teams. High school dance team is a big deal around these parts. Instead of trying to compete, we partner with them several times a year. We offer free rehearsal space for teams as needed. We also offer a special “cleaning” session with one of our teachers that can be purchased. Once you establish a relationship with a team, it’s an easy transition to promote an audition workshop or classes in the dance team style.
Move your fall enrollment date up. Our registration date for fall used to always be June 1, however, when I had children of my own I realized that all of the good preschools held their registration for fall in February! While I haven’t quite been able to move our registration up that far, we have moved it to April, which has helped enrollment tremendously. The parents encourage enrollment in groups by talking about which classes they will take next year while they wait for classes to let out.
Keep taking students! Sounds simple, but the impact is powerful! There is NEVER a time at Misty’s Dance Unlimited where someone is not able to enroll. We take school year students until Jan. 31. Beginning Feb. 1, they can sign up for summer classes. Now imagine if I still cut off enrollment in December with the costume order (which I used to do!). Last year we took 20+ enrollments in January. Many will become long-term students. If I hadn’t accepted their enrollments, some might’ve waited for fall…but most would’ve kept looking for another studio.
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Dance classes for most studios in North America tend to follow the school year schedule, beginning sometime in late August to early September and ending with a run of recitals or spring performances in May or June.
By the time the calendar flips to October the rush of registration has calmed down and the daily rhythm of studio life is setting in. But, don’t let the calmer waters of October lull you into taking your foot off the gas in terms of promotion and enrollment! October is a GREAT time to promote your studio to new and former students.
Think about it: Families are getting into a routine so adding a new activity may not seem as overwhelming as it might have in September. Soccer and other fall sports are coming to a close and exciting announcements about spring recital and costumes are starting to roll out.
Last year 10% of our enrollment came in between October and January!
Read on for 5 ways to get last minute dance students in the door.
Renew relationships. Take advantage of different reporting features on your dance studio management software to find out which students from last year have not re-enrolled for this year’s classes. Reach out to former students with a compelling and personalized offer. It doesn’t cost anything, but time to send an email inviting students to get back on the dance floor. Go a step beyond and send a letter directly to the student. As Dale Carnegie said, a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Be personal with your offer.
Host a free Frozen themed camp. Every other Saturday since the studio opened we have hosted a free Frozen Fun Camp for an hour for students age 4-7. We teach a short routine, make a craft, review the routine and then do a mini show for the parents. At the end of the camp, all children leave with a gift bag including a studio pencil, stickers and a gift certificate for free pair of shows if they register within one week. We have had over 165 children participate in this special camp over the last two months, most of them new.
Take a field trip. If you can’t get the students to come to you, go to where the students are. Currently we send teachers out to two different day cares, the local Children’s Museum, our regional performing arts center and a church each week. This allows us to provide services to busy parents during the day and as well as to reach to the edges of our market where parents might not be willing fight traffic at 5pm to get to the heart of town for a 30-minute dance class.
Put on a show. We perform heavily in the community in the early fall. It’s still warm enough to do outdoor performances in our area, so we take advantage of the beautiful fall weather by performing at area expos, fall festivals, trick or treating events, breast cancer awareness and Down Syndrome walks as well as sporting events. Whenever possible we include our studio information in participant welcome packets, help to sponsor the event or have a booth.
Track results and don’t give up. While there is no magic bullet when it comes to getting students in the door, the key is to continually put effort into getting the message across that even though school has started, you are still open for registration. One initiative may bring 2 students. Another may bring 8 students. But wouldn’t you rather have 10 more students than no more students? Absolutely! That is 10 more little lives that you get to positively impact☺.
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