We talk a lot about teaching method here on Ballet Uni, but today is going to be a bit different… We are going to talk about marketing for dance studios. Specifically, how to market your small ballet/dance school to attract the most dedicated students who will LOVE what you have to offer and keep coming back year after year (even when there are already a lot of other dance studios in your area)!
I asked my Ballet Uni subscribers to tell me their challenges, and here are some of the answers that the teachers in the group gave me:
“I know that my program is REALLY good…I would even venture to say that it is better than any of the other schools my area…and yet my competition has TONS of students and I have only a handful. What’s up with that?”
“I have some challenging parents who keep picking fights with me and/or other parents… How do I keep the drama in check?”
“I only get to see my students one day per week, and that is so frustrating because it seems like we never accomplish anything… We are at a perpetual standstill and I don’t know what to do!”
“My students are leaving to go to the competition, even though I offer a better program. Why is this happening and what can I do to stop it?”
I believe that all of these problems can be fixed–or at least greatly alleviated–by simply implementing a solid marketing strategy to attract more of the RIGHT customers for your business.
I can’t tell you how many dance studios I have seen who offer a really great program but their marketing is HORRIBLE. Oftentimes, there is no real strategy at all (unless you call slapping up a Yellow Pages ad, getting a website and printing out a bunch of brochures you created with Microsoft Word doc a “strategy”). The old methods may have worked before, but we are out of the Stone Age now, and even having a website won’t guarantee your success. You are going to have to put in a lot more effort if you want to get noticed. (But don’t worry– in this article, I’ll make it easy and painless for you to get started implementing some solid techniques which actually work!)
On the other hand, I have also seen some highly successful dance studios, who’s actual program is really sub-par when you take a close look at it, and yet the students keep flocking in! What’s the difference? The difference between the two is all in the marketing, and I’m going to share some simple, proven strategies with you so that you can be successful too. Of course, I hope that you will use this info for good and not for evil! ;-)
The Dance Studio Marketing Plan
There are a lot of dance studio marketing strategies we could go in to, but since most of us with a small dance studio are starting with no real marketing plan at all, this article will lay the foundation by giving you a basic place to start with some real action items which you can implement RIGHT NOW to get more of the right business for your school!
Step 1: Identify your “target market.”
Your target market is your ideal customer. Who specifically do you want to do business with? Now here’s where a lot of dance studio owners get tripped up because they think that their customer is the student who walks into the classroom and takes the ballet lesson, right?
Your customer is the student’s PARENT. The parent is who actually gets out her checkbook and pays for the lessons, so the PARENT is who you want to market to.
So who exactly is that parent? Take out a pen and paper right now and right down as many attributes as possible, such as these (I’m assuming we are primarily marketing to the female parent, but you can adapt these attributes to your own situation):
- Where does she work?
- How much does she make per year?
- In what neighborhood does she live?
- What other activities does she enroll her child in (i.e. who is she already doing business with)?
- What values are important to her, and in what areas does she want her child to succeed? Academics? Or fitness and sports?
- What is her one biggest challenge that keeps her from being able to help her child achieve in that area which is most valuable to her?
Be AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE when answering these questions. To do this, you are going to need a lot of empathy. Put yourself in her place… What really matters to her and what is she struggling with?
The point of this exercise is NOT to assume that this ideal parent already understands what you have to offer and why it will help her. She has no clue about why your particular program is better than the others or why it would be beneficial for her child to go to your school. All she knows is what she WANTS, but she may not even understand exactly what it is that she really NEEDS. Which brings me to the next step…
Step 2: Identify the gap between what your ideal customer WANTS and what you have to offer (i.e. what they NEED).
Let’s assume that your ideal parent really wants her child to succeed academically because she envisions her child becoming a doctor or a lawyer someday, not a ballet dancer (this may not be your ideal customer, but let’s just assume that it is for the sake of this example). However, her daughter keeps bugging her about this ballet thing, so she may be open to the idea of putting her in a ballet school… IF she decides it would be worth her while to do so. Right now, this parent has no clue about how much the discipline of ballet could actually help her daughter to succeed in another career. She does understand the value of the arts to a certain extent, though, because she puts her daughter in piano lessons and makes her practice every day. She knows that learning the piano is a valuable skill.
So now we have identified the gap between what your customer wants and what you offer (what she needs): She wants her daughter to be focused academically in order to go to college and have a successful career in the future. Your dance school offers a highly disciplined, strict ballet lesson which will give her daughter the mental tools she needs in order to achieve those goals. As another benefit, her daughter already wants to do ballet anyway, so it’s a win-win-win solution!
Step 3: Bridge the gap
Now you need to do some hand-holding and bridge that gap for the customer by coming to her where she already is and educating her. Your goal is to: 1) grab her attention, 2) give her what she wants, and finally 3) teach her that studying ballet at your no-nonsense school is just as valuable for her daughter’s academic development as her piano lessons (maybe even better because learning to dance and performing on stage in the annual Nutcracker is something that really appeals to the daughter.)
This approach is something I have personally used and it really works. I once heard a well-known business and marketing expert put it this way, and these words really stuck with me:
“Give them what they want, then teach them what they need.”
Giving them what they want means that you are going to tailor your whole marketing strategy around the customer’s so-called “pain points”: in this case, the “pain point” is having difficulty getting their child to be focused on her studies. You can use this approach in any shape or form that you want, such as in an advertisement, but I believe the most successful way is by offering FREE value.
For example, I am offering free value to you right here on this blog. Before I even had a shop or a teachers course to offer, I was able to attract a faithful following of subscribers who eventually became customers when I did have something to offer. I was also able to educate about the value of what we offer at Ballet Uni: instruction in the pure, complete Teaching Method of Classical Dance, how the preservation of this exact teaching method is so important in order for there to be true artistry in classical ballet, how it prevents injuries, and how it is such a valuable discipline for young people to have under their belts for their entire lives. Now Ballet Uni has hundreds of loyal subscribers (and counting– we are rapidly approaching our first 1,000 subscribers!) who are excited to hear what I have to say and who are anxiously anticipating the next big thing we have to offer… and I haven’t paid a single cent on advertisements!
But I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that if I hadn’t addressed the concerns of my readers. What most ballet dancers are really concerned about isn’t the preservation of teaching method… it’s about increasing their flexibility, or increasing their turn-out for example. So, I wrote a whole series de-bunking the myths surrounding stretching and obtaining flexibility here and I shared how I was able to increase my own turn-out here. Teachers are interested in learning about the famed Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg but many don’t even realize that they can learn how to teach using this exact method in their own home, so I wrote about why Russian dancers are better here and about why the great Russian schools are in a serious decline here. By understanding my readers and providing really good FREE value, I am able to attract the kind of people who I WANT to be my customers.
Remember, you want the customers who are going to truly benefit from what you have to offer. You don’t have to be everything to everybody… Not everyone likes this blog, and there are many people who dislike what I have to say and the fact that I speak my mind. That is OK- those people are never going to be my customers.
So it’s up to you. What kind of customers do YOU want for your business? You don’t have to have back-stabbing parents, parents who don’t care, or those who don’t want to invest in ballet lessons more than one measly day out of the week if you don’t want to.
Tell me about your target market in the comments, and if you liked this article and you want to hear more about marketing your dance studio let me know! I have MANY MORE strategies I can share with you if you would like me to.