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I want to talk about one of my strategies that I am using for the next season to try to grow my enrollment; grow my studio; make us serve our customers and our community in a better way.

What do we know about our customers?

This is what we need to think about first. This is what I know about my customers:  we are competing with multiple activities – gymnastics; soccer; girl scouts. Whatever it is, drama club, something like that, we’re competing with that activity. And I’m sure you’re struggling with that same thing.

We also have families that have multiple children in activities, so they’re busy. They have unique scheduling needs; their finances might be a little bit stretched across all of those activities. You know sometimes we have families that say: “I only can come if it’s on a Tuesday” and either of, “I only can come if it’s on a Saturday.” I’m sure you have those families, too. And then the other thing is, because of that we know that some families either aren’t willing or aren’t able to commit to full programs; to full school year programs; or full year programs if you run a full-year studio.

So, what do we do? We don’t want to eliminate those families, we want to figure out how can we serve those families and still attract them to us; still bring in those families and show them what we’re about and then maybe if they decide that dance is something that is for them, they will commit to more classes, more programs, something else.

My response:

This is the big thing that I’m doing for the fall - I’m adding more low-commitment classes. I know you have this in your area; you have the competing dance studio; you have the little gym; you have the recreation center that you’re competing with; kinder-dance, for expample. You’re competing with these other activities because they offer this lower commitment; 8-week, 12-week, 6-week, 4-week, whatever classes that are really easy for parents to fit in their schedules. Let’s do some of that. It is a little bit more work to get organized; it is a little bit more challenging when you’re scheduling, but you can do this! Think about variety of ages; variety of styles; variety of times, days…what we are doing is just having a block like certain blocks of certain days that are just going to be rotating mini-sessions throughout the year.

Pro’s for families:

  • Flexibility

  • This is what you’re going to be emphasizing and playing up when you are promoting these classes. It’s flexible for their scheduling needs; it can work around their other activities; it can work around siblings; it can work around holidays, vacations, whatever you seem to becoming up against, whatever their objections are as far as scheduling goes, it’s flexible. And you can decide whether it’s like a punch card system or it’s a set class day and time, you know, they’re only coming on Saturdays or maybe they can come on the Tuesday class or the Saturday class depending on the week. You can bend your own rules for these, that’s the cool thing about this. Bending your own rules for these types of things, it totally works because it’s almost like a separate division of your school.

  • Try it before committing

  • It gives people a chance to try things out before committing. You know, when you have that mom that’s like: “she’s only 3. I don’t know if I can commit for the whole year. I think that’s a lot to ask of a 3-year old”, it is! But you’re also asking the parent to commit too and sometimes those parents of 3-year olds aren’t ready to commit, as well. So let’s get them going with like a 6-week class, an 8-week class, something like that so they can get used to it and see if they like it before they hopefully invest in a higher commitment program or a longer class.

  • Less expensive

  • So we talked about flexibility; they try it before they committing; it’s less expensive for them. However you want to format this, I usually do this as a one-time tuition fee. They just pay it upfront and they’re paid up, we don’t do monthly usually for these types of things, so it’s simple and it’s less expensive overall because they’re not buying the costume; I don’t make them buy a uniform usually; I don’t usually make them buy shoes; they don’t buy costumes, nothing. It’s just less expensive, just way for them to try it out. And then it’s got that simple tuition structure, like I said I just do the one flat fee that’s what I recommend. If you wanted to divide it into two or given option to divide it into two or three or something like that, I would definitely take your 2 payments more towards the front end of your mini-session rather than have your last payment be like two weeks before ends because you might have people who have disappeared by that point and don’t want to give you that last payment. So I would kind of lean those payments towards the front half of your session.

OK, so that’s the pro’s for the families…flexibility; they get to try it; less expensive, there’s no costumes, no recitals to deal with, you don’t have to worry about ordering costumes for them or figuring them, and it’s got that simple tuition structure.

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 Pro’s for you and your studio:

  • Can be run year round

  • These can run year round or for your full school year. Like I said, what I did when I was creating my schedule I picked certain blocks of time that were always going to be, whatever…ninja tumbling, this block is always going to be ninja tumbling; this block is always going to be baby ballerinas; this block is always going to be bop and babies. So that class is going to keep rotating and rotating and rotating, unless we noticed that enrollment isn’t happening and then we’ll switch it out for another one that is popular. So that’s what we’re going to be doing with that.

  • Gateway to more classes or longer commitment programs

  • It gives them the chance to try if they’re doing great in this. We have lots of people that tried our babies class and then they graduated into the next class up after one or two sessions, they were ready for more. It’s a good way to get them to try it and then you can say: “she’s definitely ready for this class.” But if you’re ordering costumes, that’s something you want to do sooner rather than later.

  • Gauge interest in new programs or styles

  • For instance, we are adding a couple new dance styles this year to my studio; we’re adding a ninja tumbling class (thanks to Amber and Lindsay. Lindsay Roberts and Amber Brackett run a more than just great cheer organization and they have a ninja tumbling curriculum) we’re going to try that; we’re adding cheerleading to the mix because of them as well and we have some other mini-session classes for some different age groups that we’re trying. We’re gauging interest in them before we decide: OK, we’re going to expand this to a full year class or we’re going to expand this to a semester class or expand this to a performance ensemble or something like that. It’s a good way to gauge interest and see if there is a desire for that sort of thing in your studio.

  • Easy sell for families

  • This is an easy sell for families because of the low commitment; because of the lower cost and it’s just so simple, it is an easier sell. If someone is not sure about enrolling in a full year you can always bring these up and say: “do you want to try this?” or you can run sales or promotions on these sorts of things year round and get a lot of visibility and a lot of interest in your studio. So that’s really great about it.

  • Repeatable for instructors

  • It’s really simple and easy for you to teach at once, create a lesson plan in the curriculum and then just rotate through. Have all the instructors, they can rotate through teaching it or the instructor can just have it… it’s just laid out for them and they can teach it time and time and time again. It’s the same thing, they don’t have to spend a lot of time creating lesson plans or developing any choreography or anything. It’s done after the first time, it’s done and it’s repeatable nice and easy.

But Alicia, what if they enroll in these instead and not in full year classes? I want them in the full year classes, that’s really where I want them. I want them to fill those classes first. I make more money that way. I fill my classes that way, that’s where I want them.

This is what I would say to you: “How do you know that if they…there isn’t a mini-session class for them that they’re going to enroll in a full year class?”

  • Make these different options than what you offer for full year (I look at it as - I’d rather have them try us out for 2 months than not at all - possibly come back, bring a friend, tell a friend)

  • I would rather have them for two months or month or six weeks or whatever and come try us, get a taste of what we are like, see our culture. See our teachers; maybe bring a friend; maybe tell a friend, than not have them at all because they’re parents can’t make the commitment or can’t make the schedule work for the full year. Because there’s always a student that are like, well she can make it until October and then soccer starts and then she can’t come back until February so we’re just going to take the whole year off. I’d rather have them for August and September or September and October and then have them come back than not at all, right? The other thing is, you could say, OK, did many sessions or going to be options that we don’t offer for a full year classes, so it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different types of classes that we don’t normally do for the full year, that’s going to differentiate it.

  • Make a goal to roll them from session to session

  • And, you can make it a goal to enroll from session to session. We have a promo that we run when one session is ending we always reach out to them and try to get them to re-up for the next session. We always get them some sort of a bonus, some sort of a discount or something so that encourages them to stay session after session after session.

I hope this helps as you plan for your fall season. Leave your questions in the comments! I’d love to hear how you are tackling this.

XO,

Alicia