I noticed today that my friend Alison had posted an article on Twitter. Normally I never click on her links cause they're generally about wedding planning or some other garbage to do with weddings/marriage that I only roll my eyes at, but the title of this one caught my attention.
Brian McGovern wrote an article about how crappy he finds event blogs... which I only determined because it was titled "Why Your Event Blog Is Crap". So I read the article in it's entirety, and thus I have decided to write a blog in return! Well actually, I'm following a bit of his advice and writing a useful blog today, that maybe if another studio owner reads they can learn something from.
Now I don't run an event business, or write an event planning blog for that matter, so I don't take too much of what he says personally. However, I'm not sure who crowned him the 'knower-of-all-things' when it comes to blogging. I don't necessarily disagree with everything that he's saying, but there is one thing that I need to speak up for myself about.
Brian makes a statement about people who own small business (which I fall in this category) being afraid of marketing. This may be true for some people, but I know as a dance studio owner that the marketing he is referring to is not always effective or attracts the types of clients that I want. Advertising space or flyers are definitely not cheap, and in the past I have kept track of how many students I have gained out of marketing campaigns to see if their return value is worth my money. Nine times out of ten for me, it never brought in enough money to bother doing it again.
What I have learned from many successful studio owners and even through my few years of experience is that there are really only 3 main forms of marketing that a dance studio needs to be concerned about. The first is really only geared towards dance studios, and other businesses like it, but never the less it might make sense to some other people. My Recital Program at the end of the year is one of my best forms of marketing. It has all the details about my studio in it, as well as pictures of happy kids, competition results, plus advertising for my summer camps and upcoming registration dates. Over 600 people attended my Recital last year, so that means that around 600 programs left the Theatre that day and went to many different households. Then when those people have friends over and they see my program on their coffee table it automatically starts a conversation about my business. And generally when it comes to my Recital people are always willing to tell everyone how wonderful it was, how great their kid looked on stage, and so on, which creates an excitement... which makes their friend come and register.
I never understand when I go to other Recitals why their programs are just printed in black ink on a pastel piece of paper folded in half and stapled together. It speaks volumes of the effort you put into details of your show and your studio. Plus something that cheap is not a souvenir of your Recital that people will be proud to keep and show off to other potential clients. On the flip side I went to a Recital a few years ago where the studio prints up yearbooks that double as their Recital Program, however, they cost $20 to buy a the door ($15 if you were lucky enough to order in advance!). Now I already paid for a $40 ticket, and drove to the Theatre, so I was not paying money to buy a book to be able to follow along with your show.
The second marketing tool that is essential to any business in these times is a good website. I always keep my website updated, and recently added an interactive Google calendar on it so that my clients are kept in the loop with what's going on. Make it attractive for your current client base, and easy to use. I can't stand that some studios have their teachers from two years ago listed that don't even work at their studio anymore. Maybe the majority of clients don't know the difference, but if someone is coming to your studio because they want to work with a teacher that you advertised you had, but you really don't = bad marketing!
The third thing, which I think is the most important, is simply word of mouth. If a parent and their child are happy at my studio, they will always go out of their way to tell someone else that they are. Let's face it, there are a dozen dance studios in my area and all these kids go to school together. When one parent is complaining about their studio, and the parent from my studio is saying how happy they are with me... do I need to state the obvious here! I even reward families at my studio when they refer a friend to come and they register for the year.
There are several studios around me that have weekly newspaper ads, and the biggest ad they can buy in the phone book, but I'm not interested in necessarily attracting those types of people. They run coupons for free classes, or a half price month, in order to attract a mass amount of kids at their Registration. Which is fine at first, but what happens after that? Those people who are just coming for free classes, cause they're free, are not the people who are interested in their kid taking dance long term. I want to attract the long term clients, who have an understanding that quality training at a dance studio is not free.
I even heard from a friend the other day that they only wanted to compete around their area so they could attract kids from other local studios to switch over to his. Are you serious? That is the last type of parent I want at my studio! If a parent is happy at my studio with the weekly classes their child receives, the prices are fair, and the fact that I do my best to make their kid look great on stage, then they won't switch studios. It's simple; make your current clients happy... they'll bring you more clients!
I have a marketing plan that works for my business, in my area, and for my clients. I am successful at marketing, and in business, because I have taken these things into consideration and use it to my advantage. There is no black and white list for marketing... but maybe this Brian McGovern guy will come up with one quickly for all of us!
I'm sure Mr. McGovern will never read this, because he has clearly wasted enough time on useless blogs... but maybe I just saved someone else the time of creating a "Free Trial Class" coupon tonight!