How's business? Are you slowing down, holding your own, or growing? The first step in facing tight economic times is not to panic. Many bankers, real estate experts and business forecasters are saying that our greatest problem is fear. The more fearful you are, the worse the future looks. Instead, ask the question: How will I manage and grow my studio during the next 12–24 months?
A good place to begin is with your marketing. With other businesses going into "hunker-down" mode, your efforts will get more exposure. You won't be spending lots of money; you will be spending time and energy. Here are five ways to get started.
Make a date.
Pull out a calendar to use as the basis for your two-year marketing plan. Mark notable dates from dance history; note birthdays of dance legends you love and admire, like Nureyev, Balanchine, Graham, Joffrey. Write down the anniversary of your studio or group. Create at least one date every quarter that will be a student, parent, family or school appreciation day. You can use these celebrations to create promotions and gain publicity.
Show 'em some love!
Retention is key in difficult times, so over-serve your current students. Do a better job of encouraging students and parents and say "thank you" more often. Are there low-cost incentives you could offer current students to raise the value of their experience? Extra classes, information about other learning opportunities, and giving them the chance to teach/demonstrate are all ways you can add value. This may especially help parents—who may be asking the "Is dance an expense or investment?" question—decide in your favor.
Also, give your students an incentive to reach out to their friends. Offer a discount to families in specific neighborhoods, or to families with more than one child taking class at your studio. The discount does not have to be monetary. It could be, again, additional classes, or other opportunities to be engaged.
Expand your reach.
Identify individuals and groups who have a need for your service. You don't have to convince them of the need; simply persuade them that you are one to fill it. A percentage of the people you contact will enroll. Remember, sales is all about the numbers.
Once you have identified potential students, find low-cost ways to expose them to your message. Post flyers on a bulletin board in an office building. Make a short presentation to a parents' group about the fact that dance can improve students' grades. Or, demonstrate to a business how they can use dance as an energy pick-me-up. The key is to hit as many individuals and groups as possible.
If you offer ballroom classes, think about promoting an evening as an opportunity for singles—different promotions for different ages—to meet. Or, market a "Cheap Date" night for couples.
Go where the money is.
Look for potential groups and individuals who do not seem to be affected by the economic downturn. For instance, health care is not taking as big a financial hit as banks. Creating a special promotion for doctors and nurses and their families is a creative way to target a new market.
Offer dance as a solution.
When people have a problem, they are in psychological pain. Can you offer adult dance classes as a creative solution? What about dance as an escape, a way to feel better about oneself, an economic way to get out and have some fun?
Look back at your marketing from the last few years. What message were you trying to send to current and potential students? Devising a new message—dance as a way to ease pain and have fun—not only makes you new in the minds of your current students, it creates awareness in the minds of potential students.