Summer. The season of dread for us studio owners. You would think that we should be able to enjoy our summer--the lighter schedule (maybe?), the time with our kids, a well-earned vacation...But for most of us, summer is difficult to enjoy. Most of the students take the summer off and we are just praying to get through on the drastically decreased income from a few classes and camps.
There are a few simple strategies that have helped me have a more a successful summer. Here are my top 10 ideas for you...
1) Get that schedule out EARLY--the earlier the better. You want to get those parents when they are in planning mode, ideally January or February, so they book dance FIRST and everything else around that.
2) Have a variety of camps, classes, workshops. All ages, all schedules. Not every parent can manage a half or full day camp. It is nice to throw in a few evening camps. And make sure the theme is interesting and up-to-the-minute.
3) Come up with some great incentives...Maybe offer a discount or a special bonus if they register by a certain date? This is only limited by your imagination but it should obviously be something pretty desirable...front row seats at the spring recital if they enroll and pay for summer by February 1st (or until there are no more seats--this would create more urgency), free leotard or studio logo wear, a private lesson...OR add value by including an extra workshop or super fun studio event (tea party, daddy daughter dance day, etc.)
4) If you have a performing or competitive team, consider requiring those dancers to enroll in summer session. You can set the terms, whether you require ballet only or more. But be specific and put it in writing about which summer classes and camps are acceptable and the possible consequences for not attending. Make sure you tell the parents about this policy in the fall, way before summer, and issue a reminder or two when you distribute the summer schedule.
5) Plan on a few classes and camps that incorporate styles you don't normally have during the school year. This may bring in some new students, helps your current students broaden their horizons, and if some are very popular it can even give you ideas for what classes may be good to add during the school year.
6) Register for fall classes starting in the spring to help with cash flow. Again, get the schedule out early (April/May.) This helps you lock in those students before they commit to other fall or school activities, and gives you some extra money to get through the slim summer months. Emphasize that they need to enroll to secure their first choice classes and on the days and times that work for them. Don't forget to send out class recommendations with the schedule, and do it a few weeks prior to registration opening. The bigger deal you and your staff make the early registration period, the more emphasis the customers will place on it, too. Plus, it sets you up great for fall classes!
7) Consider renting out your studio space during open hours. This is a good option year round, but you may have better luck during the summer if the studio has more availability.
8) Host sampler versions of classes and mini-camps. This may be more appealing to those families who travel a lot and are unable to commit to full week camps or weekly classes. This is also a great way to appeal to potential families because it gives them an opportunity to try your studio out.
9) Don't slow down on the advertising! You need to plant the seeds now so that you can "sow" them come fall. However, since cash tends to be tighter, you have to be more strategic and efficient with your marketing dollars. A $700 direct mail postcard or booth at a family expo may not be the best use of your money. I have been getting a lot of mileage out of Facebooks ads and boosted posts, and the budget is flexible which is awesome.
10) MY TOP TIP IS....Survey your customers! Don't just guess what they will want, ask them! You can create a very simple survey in Google Forms in about 10 minutes and email the link to your customers. Set a quick deadline tied to a chance to win a prize. Evaluate the results and build your schedule based on the feedback.