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:
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
It’s mid-April, right? If you own a dance studio, that’s not EXACTLY true. It may be the middle of April on your Google calendar, but if you are like me, your mind is somewhere closer to September.
Not convinced? Just take a look at your to-do list.
Finalize fall schedule
Find one more teacher for Tuesday nights.
Send out teacher contracts.
Take one final look at tuition changes.
Add policy for kids who skip rehearsal and still show up at competition. 🙂
A successful Back-to-School experience starts today. Are you ready?
Keep reading for 7 things that you can do today for a successful September and a successful dance studio registration campaign.
Review Tuition Structure
Call me nuts, but every year I make an excel spreadsheet of every student and every class that they take. This is a long and arduous process, but I do it to find find and fix the cracks that can emerge over time as pricing and programs fluctuate. For example, when I started this process three years ago I realized that our “Unlimited Dancer” program was no longer viable. Not even by a long shot. It worked eighteen years ago when we only offered eight classes for high school students. But, fast forward fifteen years and I found myself in a situation where families were paying for six classes under our Unlimited Dancer program and taking twenty. Our tuition structure had simply not kept pace with our program and it was not sustainable. We had to make some difficult decisions, but in the end we ended up with a program/price structure that was fair to the students and to the studio.
Evaluate Your Teachers
There is no busier time of year for studio owners than spring. Between the daily demands of preparing for the year-end recital and the planning required to get fall classes ready there is hardly time to breathe. Even so, you must slow down enough to get into your teacher’s classrooms. Are their kids prepared to for the big show? Do they look confident, calm and happy? A positive recital experience for current students means more returning students. This is also a chance for you to make adjustments to what your faculty will be teaching in the fall. You might find, as I did, that you have a teacher on older level classes who is actually strong with the little ones, and then make a change to what they are teaching for the fall.
“Parse” Your Programs
Parse means “to analyze a sentence,” but I think it is a pretty good description of the way we have to break down our programs into details so that we can make good decisions about what stays and what goes. Do you know which of your programs were profitable? Maybe ballet is selling well for you, but musical theater has fallen out of favor. What about individual classes and levels? Are you busting at the seams in pre-school classes and pretty slim in the advanced classes. If so, combo up some of those older level classes to make room for younger ones.
Plan for Partnerships
The organizations we want to partner with in town are also planning for fall at this time. I know it’s important to get on their calendars now if we want to be able to work together come fall, so I am spending April making calls to the mall, daycares, preschools, the Children’s Museum, the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and Big Brother’s Big Sisters, to name a few. We want to be aligned with the other organizations that do good things for kids in our community.
Your Personal Schedule
I remember one time years ago when I was complaining about how hard my schedule was to keep up. I was telling my husband about the long days I was teaching and the piles of book work in between. He responded, “Don’t you know the person who made that schedule?” Point made! I’ve long since learned to make sure that my decisions on a schedule that I will have to keep for an entire year will not have a negative impact on family life.
Build a Budget
I often joke that I became a dance teacher because I don’t do math beyond 5-6-7-8. I’m kidding, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m skilled at accounting. When it comes to having my hands on the numbers for fall, I’m going to be spending time with my accountant now. An accountant can bring a valuable perspective by looking at the big picture of your finances and helping you make wise decisions for the future.
Press and Promotions
Plan now an action-packed open house to kick off your fall semester of classes. A really great event could mean an opportunity for you to share your studio story with the press, which could translate into greater enrollment later. Think of your ideal media placement (radio, newspaper, TV) and then design an event to get their attention.
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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!
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☺.
Looking for more great dance studio enrollment tips? Check out these great articles:
As a studio owner, you probably relish your free time in the summer. However, you’ll want to be ready for back to dance season before the air cools and kids head back to school. Make sure you incorporate these six steps into your pre-season checklist, because before you know it your dancers will be back!
The offseason is the best time to attend to the peeling paint and dusty corners in your studio. The Dance Buzz recommended refinishing your floors, cleaning out messy rooms and upgrading your waiting room while you have an empty studio. You can also use this time to spruce up your landscaping, clean windows and mirrors, scrub down changing rooms and plan any construction that may need to be done. It’s also a great opportunity to make space for new trophies you’ve earned. Don’t put these tasks off until the season starts, or you’ll be setting yourself up for a headache.
2. Revise paperwork
You’ll want to review and rework your paperwork before classes start up again. This includes applications, schedules, billing forms, liability waivers and general contracts. Some forms may just require a few simple date changes, but it’s important to double-check all your paperwork for policies or contact info that may have changed. If you alter any legal documents, have them double-checked by an expert. You probably don’t keep up with local legislation, but a lawyer will know if any new laws affect your practice.
3. Meet with staff
The Dance Exec explained that you should make a point to meet with all your instructors before each new season. You can choose to meet with them individually or as a group. Either way, it will give them a chance to discuss any problems or concerns they might have and brainstorm solutions together. You should also go over any new policies, talk about your goals for the year and reiterate how much you appreciate their hard work. Keeping your staff included in the business will ensure that they are dedicated to their work and aligned with your goals.
4. Reorganize and redecorate
If your filing cabinets are a mess and the curtains are faded, take the time to reorganize your office and spruce up the studio. Evaluate what aspects of your file storage system are working and what could be improved. It’s a lot easier to establish a new system in the offseason than trying to implement one between classes. You should also evaluate whether your studio is aesthetically appealing. A bright and happy dance space will make a good first impression on potential students, and summer is the best time to repaint the walls and design a new sign.
5. Strategize your marketing
If you’re looking to expand your class offerings or raise your prices this season, plan ahead with your marketing efforts. Dance Informa recommended having your graphics and advertisements designed in advance. Make a calendar of which publications you’ll be sending ads to and when each one is due. Clear a special spot for it on your cork board so you won’t be scrambling to meet deadlines.
6. Book performance space
Finally, use your free time to book performance space for next season’s recitals. This way you can include the dates and times of each performance on schedules for parents. It’s just one more hassle that you can get out of the way early. Plus when you book a theater far in advance, you’ll get the best dates and times.