3 Ways To Prepare For Competition Season

Great resource for starting competition season. Includes a free competition master spreadsheet for dance studio owners!

Hold your hats and get ready because competition season is approaching. I realize that some of you studio owners have already attended a few competitions this year. For you guys, I may be a month or two behind BUT it’s not too late to streamline your competition season even if it has already started. Back in my studio days, our company didn’t start competing until early spring. Meagan and I would generally start ordering costumes and registering for competitions around October.

Whether your studio’s competition season has started already or will start in a few months, I thought it might be handy to have our 3 favorite ways to prepare so you can breathe a little easier whenever it gets going.

As an upgrade, I have provided a FREE competition master spreadsheet for you to get organized, I’ll talk about what is included down below. If you would like to skip the reading and GET THAT SPREADSHEET, look for the button below! hehe. 

  1. Create an email template. For anyone that attends more than one competition a year, it is essential to create an email template for yourself. I’m talking about that email that you send before EVERY competition. You know, the one where you tell families what time to be there, links to the schedules, details about the performance, etc. Have you ever found yourself writing that SAME email time and time again? Guilty party here! Save yourself, literally, hours of time and create a canned response or email template. Instead of writing the whole email, you will just need to fill in the new information. Not sure how to get this set up? Watch this tutorial on creating canned responses in Gmail.
  2. Have a competition bag fully stocked and ready to go. If you have ever had a baby, you can think about this like your hospital bag. You buy everything that you need ahead of time, pack a bag of your choice and let it sit there until you’re ready to go. As a studio owner, you are going to need a lot of stuff. If you are anything like me, you will forget half of it and you will also be running late. Save your sanity and do it beforehand. I would maybe even keep it in your car. Just make sure to re-stock the week after use. Not sure what to bring? Here is a quick list of the basics, if you have anything to add please let us know in the comments!
    • Make up for touch ups
    • Hair supplies (bobby pins, hair spray, brush, hair net, etc.)
    • Sewing kit
    • First Aid kit (this one is crucial, we have been to a few competitions where they did not have any first aid supplies when we needed them!)
    • Music back up
    • Water bottle (or 2!)
    • Snacks
    • Extra phone charger
    • Sweater for cold theaters
  3. Create a master competition spreadsheet. You could go crazy with all the information you need to keep organized! Measurements, birthdays, who’s in what piece, etc. You have to know it all and will have to pull from that information time and time again. Take the time to type this information instead of keeping it on the 50 pieces of paper it’s on right now (hehe, don’t worry we were ALSO guilty of this). Having this spreadsheet on something like Dropbox or Google Drive will make it accessible from anywhere with internet which can be nice when you want to work from home. If you are needing some inspiration with your spreadsheet you can use mine! I have created a sheet on Google Drive to keep track of pieces/dancers along with one to track all the costume information. It really saved us during competition season and will definitely help you get organized this year! You can get it below.

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Well, are you feeling pumped and ready to get organized?! I hope so! Competition season can be STRESSFUL. Taking the extra time now to get organized will help ease that stress come Spring so you can have some fun!

Do you have a competition hack that could help other studio owners? We would love to hear about it in the comments!

 

Great resource for starting competition season. Includes a free competition master spreadsheet for dance studio owners!

Identifying your Strengths and Weaknesses as a Dance Studio Owner

Strengths and weaknesses as a dance studio owner

I have been a business owner since age 25! Immediately after college, I headed to NYC to pursue dancing professionally. I have had LOTS of odd jobs but have never had the pleasure of being asked this classic interview question, “Can you tell us about your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace?”

If your story is similar to mine and you haven’t had to prep for a traditional job interview, I want to encourage you to take a little time today to think about your answer. It is SO important as a business owner to know where your talents lie and where you need to fill in the blanks.

Bonus alert! Be sure to grab our freebie today. We’ve outlined the 15 roles you need to fill in your dance studio. Make sure your bases are covered! 

I found this article from Forbes very helpful. The author broke down four workplace strengths and gave examples of characteristics of each strength and the types of tasks required in each. Are you a visionary? Do you love figuring out the logistics? Do you take the plan and break it down into actionable steps? Do you love energizing your team and talking with your customers?

I am not a visionary. HA! I have LOTS of ideas, but it isn’t too long after thinking of a new idea that I jump immediately into starting to figure out the logistics. There is a (self-inflicted) limit to my “big dreams”. My husband has accused me of being a dream killer a few times… I blame my very practical mom:)

Ready for a dance studio example? Props! Unless my dancers could carry them, we NEVER used any props at my dance studio. Even if I thought it may compliment a dance or enhance the performance, I just could not get past the logistics. Who would make them? Who would have to transport them? What would the expense be? Took all the fun right out.

I shine in figuring out how to make it all happen. The article refers to this as “design strength”. I love talking through the process and thinking of ALL the details required. I am a strong communicator and love helping move a project from an idea to a finished product.

Want to know where Colleen is a rockstar??? She is amazing at taking all the information and breaking it down even FURTHER! Colleen is a natural “builder” based on the descriptions in the article. The work gets done thanks to her actionable lists and assigned tasks. When we are working together, I talk and she writes. My planning stops with a few pages of notes and random post-it notes. She will take my gibberish and turn it into a plan.Our favorite project management tool Trello was MADE for people like Colleen.

Over the course of working together, we have learned that we are MUCH more productive working together and that our strengths complement each other. We also can see that in the near future, bringing in someone like a business coach or a mentor might be beneficial. Colleen and I are good with the details but sometimes struggle to see the big picture of where we are going and in taking risks. Someone with more of a “big picture” perspective may be able to help us grow our business. We are missing a visionary on our team!

Did any of the strength descriptions resonate with you? Think about working with your team at your studio or group projects in your past. Who have you really clicked with? What skills did they bring to the table that complement your weaknesses?

When you REALLY know where your strengths lie it can take a lot of the guesswork out of hiring and knowing what kind of support you need to move your dance studio forward. We all know this, but dance studio owners wear a lot of hats within their businesses. You cannot do it all and it is unrealistic to think you are going to be good at everything. Focus in on what YOU are good at and what you enjoy.

Our freebie outlines the 15 roles that you need to fill within your dance studio. What roles are you currently filling? Do they utilize your strengths? Maybe you have people already on your team that could take over certain roles, and possibly even fill that role better than you do! A tough one to swallow I know:)

Even if you are a one-woman (or man!) show at this point, it is still a good idea to think about what the first few hires will be and what characteristics those people should have. Colleen and I have an on-going list of tasks we would LOVE to delegate. It is never too early to start documenting the process for those tasks so that when the time comes you are ready.

I want to know what YOUR strengths are. Visionary? A builder like Colleen? What is your team missing?

Roles you Need to Fill at Your Dance Studio

 

Setting Your Teachers Up For Success

Great advice for dance studio owners to lead a team. Free resource for studio owners included!By now, most studios have started back up with their new sessions. We hope you all have full classes and happy customers! A couple weeks ago, we went over how to get your staff on board with your vision (you can read it here if you missed it!). Did you set aside some time to get together with your teachers before the start of the session? If you did, I’m sure they started off the year excited and motivated. All to represent YOU in the best way possible.

Now that classes have gotten started and the hustle of the first week has passed, it was time to switch it up. We thought it might be the perfect time to talk about how YOU can help your TEACHERS be successful this year.

BONUS ALERT: We included a download of are our 5 favorite things you should share with your teachers this fall. You can get it in the form below!

To get us started here, I think one of the best things you can do for your teachers this year is to communicate with them, easy right?! Have a new student trying class? Shoot that teacher an email or catch them in the hallway BEFORE class starts. Your front desk staff out sick today? Send your teachers a quick message telling them what they should do if anyone has questions. Did a parent come to you with an issue in class? Set a time to talk to your teacher about it ASAP.

You get the idea right!? It is REALLY important to keep your teachers in the loop with things that affect their classes, students or job in general. Some teachers are great with rolling with the punches and being able to make changes quickly. Others are not. Last minute changes can cause some teachers to become anxious or frustrated. Teachers put a lot of time into planning and to throw that all away can be hard for some to swallow. Unfortunately, things happen and sometimes changes can’t be avoided. Communicating as fast as possible will help your teachers make the adjustments faster and help them get ahead of the game. They will feel in the loop and know you respect the work they put into class BEFORE they actually teach.

Another thing that will help your teachers be more successful at your dance studio is by creating a positive relationship with them. Get to know your teachers! You don’t have to know everything about them but feel free to make conversation before and after class. Although it can feel weird or awkward at first, establishing a relationship with your teachers will help them be more comfortable with you. It will also build that all important trust.

By getting to know your teachers, they will feel more comfortable talking to you about problems or struggles they are having in class. They will also be more open to hearing feedback knowing that you are coming from a  positive place. Establishing that positive relationship from the beginning will make the whole year much more pleasant for everyone, studio owners included!

We all want to have successful, full classes and your teachers do too! The last piece of advice I can give you to make that happen is to listen. When your teachers are struggling with a student, listen. When your teachers are telling you they need more support from you, hear them out. Like most employees, teachers will need something from you from time to time. That could be anywhere from additional help with a student or maybe a pay raise.

As their boss, it is important that you take the time to address their concerns in a positive way. If you can do that, your teachers will most certainly do all they can to teach the best classes for you.

By communicating, building positive relationships, and listening, you will be doing your part to help your teachers succeed this year! If that wasn’t enough,  we have included a download of our 5 favorite things to share with your teachers this fall. You can get it in the form below. Take a few moments to think about your preferences and shoot over a quick email to your teachers. They will appreciate the transparency and you will feel good knowing your expectations have been clearly laid out. Win, Win!

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3 great ways to make sure your teachers are going to be successful at your dance studio this year, Great for dance studio owners.

 

 

Studio Tours that Convert Inquires into Studio Families

dance studio tours

Every time a potential studio family walks into your studio there is a HUGE opportunity to make a sale. When you have a family in front of you, you have the opportunity to be crystal clear about your offerings, cater the conversation to what is important to them, and seal the deal! It is much easier to make a positive impression in person than over the phone, through email, or through interactions on your Facebook page.

Giving dance studio tours that present your studio in the best possible way and convert those inquiries into studio families should be a priority. It is something that you as a studio owner should give some thought to and practice! The next step is to make sure everyone on your team knows the process and just how important these first few moments with potential customers can be.

We have created a SUPER helpful freebie for getting your team on board. Be sure to grab our studio tour checklist. I would print it out (laminate it if you are feeling super ambitious) and have it at your desk for reference!  Pop in your email below to jon our mailing list and get your checklist. 

The goal of a positive first impression and a successful studio tour is gaining a new studio family and making a sale. Sales can feel awkward. You may not like it. Heck, I don’t always like it! But unfortunately, the moment you decide to be a business owner it becomes one of the most important roles you take on.

Practice makes this easier. It also feels more natural when you are confident. Something I have learned over the years is that it is much easier to sell when you feel 100% about the services and programs you are offering and have taken the time to get specific about the value you can provide. When you take the time to really listen to what people are looking for as part of your sales process, it doesn’t feel slimy or gimmicky at ALL. You are giving people what they have been looking for.

We have outlined the process for a very effective dance studio tour below. ADD this to your routine. It will make a difference. People want information and they want to get to know you and your studio. When potential families visit your dance studio, that is probably the best chance you have to convert them into studio families. Take full advantage!

  1. Welcome them to your studio. Add a smile, greeting, and eye contact. This should be obvious- but thinking about the businesses I visit it doesn’t always happen!
  2. If they are new, ask what you can help them with. If you knew they would be stopping in, address them by name and let them know you were expecting them. Put them at ease! Take the lead. Identify what type of classes they are interested in and what they are looking for in a studio.
  3. Give a tour. Show them the studios, the bathrooms, the changing areas, the lobby. Paint the picture of what it would be like if their child danced there. Where does their dance bag go? Where do parents watch?
  4. Sprinkle in the highlights of dancing at your studio. What are your studio values? What would their class be like? Tell them about your background and their potential teacher. Anything unique about your facility? Explain the progression of the year, when students will perform, opportunities available, and how they are evaluated. Reference what THEY mentioned they are looking for.
  5. Explain the registration process and address any questions.
  6. ASK for the sale. What class would they like to enroll in?
  7. If they need more time, offer to email a current schedule and your parent handbook. Let them know when you will be sending it. Keep the conversation going! Ask to add their email to your mailing list.
  8. Schedule a time to follow up. Put it in your calendar to follow up a week after they are in if they haven’t registered. Possibly the MOST important step! 
  9. Thank them for coming in and let them know just how excited you are to see their dancer in class. 

Once you feel really comfortable with the process, it is time to get your team on board! Everyone at your studio that assists with registration should know how to give effective tours. They should also understand how important dance studio tours and visits are to enrolling more students at your studio.you

The items above may seem really intuitive to you- but most likely they are NOT obvious to your office staff. Taking the time to communicate how you would like them to give tours and making sure this is consistently being done at your studio is going to result in more registrations. Give them all the information they need to make it happen! Go through the list above and practice. Provide feedback. Give the front desk staff a tour. Make a video.  Print out our free checklist for reference. Taking the time to train your team is only going to benefit your studio!

Once you and your team get into the habit of giving studio tours whenever a potential family walks into the studio it will become second nature. Everyone will get better at it and find their own rhythm. More people will register on the spot. Because you have created a system for following up on inquiries, you are also keeping the door open to for the future.

If you haven’t done so already, gryourour freebie! Take few minutes and identify what you really want perspective studio families to know about your studio. Make sure your team knows what these highlights are and feel confident going through the process we have outlined. Taking the time to really impress every family that walks through your doors WILL pay off.  Families will feel extremely confident in their decision to enroll at your studio. A win for everyone!

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Dance studio tours that convert inquires into studio families. We've also included a handy checklist!

GREAT Advice From Dance Studio Owners

 

For all future dance studio owners, hear this great advice from dance studio owners!

I reached out to several dance studio owners and asked a (not so) simple question.”Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give someone opening a studio?” I was blown away by the thoughtful replies. Our guest contributors are all at different points within their businesses, from 24-year dance studio veterans to newbies in their first year. There is so much to think about when you just starting off- hopefully, the nuggets of knowledge below will help to provide some prospective and direction! There are definitely some common themes. Do any of my seasoned studio owners have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I have been thinking about what I can add to the conversation. Something that came to mind is how important it is as a new studio owner to work on developing empathy. When you are working with something that is really close to your heart (aka dance!) it can be difficult to not take set backs personally. When you have an upset student, family or teacher take a moment to try and see the situation from their perspective. Even if you don’t end up changing your course of action- taking a moment to acknowledge their feelings and listen to what they have to say can go a LONG way in diffusing difficult situations. I think my studio owner super power was that people didn’t get mad at me THAT often. Even if they left or were unhappy about a decision I made- we were able to move forward without drama.

Also- pay yourself:) And ask for help when you need it! That is my two cents. Now, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy reading the GREAT advice that these studio owners offered up.

Cathy Dixon
Dixon Dance Academy

After 24 years of running my own studio, my advice to you is to be kind and helpful to other area schools, studio owners, and dance professionals. There is room for all of you. Be easy to work with and make yourself approachable to them. When situations that seem to be a threat to your school or may take some of your dancers do arise, hold your tongue and don’t react harshly. If you act in an insecure manner and get defensive, you will turn people off of your school. Make yourself and your brand one that people think of with an open door. When an opportunity to make money teaching or choreographing comes your way and you just can’t jam it into your packed schedule, take the time to pass it along to another dance professional in the area. Give another teacher or a studio the opportunity to make that money, if you had to pass on it anyways.

I have always helped other teachers, schools and park districts find professional faculty and built myself a network by doing so. A park district program director from the next town over called me time and time again to help them staff. Every time I helped this woman find new teachers, it nagged at me that this place may be competing with me, as it was only 10 minutes away. Was I harming my own school, by helping another? I reminded myself that it was all to inspire kids to dance, so I continued to help for nothing. 10 years ago, this same city built an 8 million dollar recreational facility with 3 beautiful dance studios. The same woman offered me a contract to staff and run the entire dance program! This account now boasts 26 weekly classes. Most of which are baby classes and are often full to the limit. It brings in about $20k profit yearly, with very little work on my part. I staff, prepay the instructors and invoice the program. During the recession, this account carried my private studio financially, when so many others failed and closed. I use the park district account as a feeder school into my private studio, which is mostly older students and has a much more serious atmosphere. So, it’s like having two studios about 10 minutes apart, only with no overhead on the second one.

Don’t burn bridges with a student who is exiting your school, even if they leave with hard feelings. You will lose dancers along the way and it will break your heart. Just move on and create new stars. Put your energy into the ones you have and watch them grow. Many of my “lost” dancers eventually returned and several came back to teach for me because I kept that door open to them.

Pay yourself. Tax yourself. Save some for retirement. You are worth it.

If you start a competitive program, don’t take it too seriously. This job should be about growing dancers and prepping them for a college program. Don’t dress them inappropriately for their age. Don’t choose songs that are too mature for their age. Don’t measure success in trophies. Remember to help your students be the best they can and help them achieve attainable goals. Send them off into the world more confident and proud than they were on their first day at your Barre.

Kelly Hill and Elisabeth Stonebreaker McCoy
Integrity School of Dance

The #1 piece of advice we would give to someone opening a studio would be to remain confident in your standards as you carry out your mission statement, and enjoy your students and customers.

Marty Bronson
Millennium Dance Center

You can’t please everyone and that’s OK. Someone is always going to be upset with some of your decisions. It is best to have a system in place to calm them down and make them feel valued while still getting the job done.

The studio director role draws from many different fields, and you probably have had more experience in all these fields than you think! Now is the time to draw together all your life experiences into one unique position… Studio director!

Get a system for cleaning your space ASAP. Cleaning such a large space that gets so much traffic can become overwhelming very quickly.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Maybe you will get free rent or a cheaper price on Internet, or maybe that kid will switch classes without a fuss. Doesn’t hurt to ask. Fear of asking is what keeps you from doing.

Get ahead of your scheduling.

Amy Crigas
Cary-Grove Performing Arts Centre

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Surround yourself with people who are good at your weaknesses. For me this is detailed office work, I am a big picture/future planning person. I am not great in the day to day execution. We joke that this comes from being left-handed… but in reality, I have a bunch of “righties” who work in the office to carry out my plans!

The second thing is something someone said to us: Always pay yourself first. It sounded backward when it was said to us, but it was totally right. If you don’t pay yourself first, you will always overspend, and pay other things… and thus not actually be able to make a living. Now you have to start small and realistic, but pay yourself! Build your budget around what you can live off of, and set increases as your enrollment grows.

Callie Marik
Underground Allegro Dance Center

Don’t be afraid to start small. I am spending my first year renting space from other studios four days a week with 12 dancers. While it is not my total dream come true with my own beautiful space and 300 students; I am able to give these 12 girls everything I have to give. With less financial burden and business duties, I have ample time for my dancers in and out of the studio.

Secondly, build a relationship with your students and parents. While dancers may love being in class with you, the parents are making the final decision. Make sure they understand what makes you different and what you can offer to their child. Be honest about what you are offering whether it is recreational or preparing them for the professional world.

Finally, don’t let others opinions get in the way. There will always be someone who doesn’t want to see your success. Surrounding yourself with positive people and blocking out the negative (sometimes literally via social media) can help. Remember how amazing what your doing is. You are influencing the lives of our future generation of dancers!

Linda McDonald
McDonald Dance Academy

Stay focused on why you started the studio…. to teach dance to kids. To share the same passion of dance that brought you to open the studio. Don’t get hung up on any one aspect. For example; recital, rehearsals, angry parents etc. Do the best you can and realize you will never please everyone. Most of all stay true to the art. It is a precious thing and you are lucky to be able to share it. Don’t cheapen it or give into the latest craze. Stress the purity, discipline, artistry and beauty. In the end, you will feel better knowing you shared one of the most beautiful arts there is with young minds willing to learn.

Dance studio owners give future studio owners great advice!

Does the Lobby at your Dance Studio Make the Cut? 5 Quick Tips to Make Sure it Makes a Good Impression!

The lobby at your dance studio is a large part of families first impression of your studio

I was a proud member of DECA in high school. It is a national organization dedicated to business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. We attending conferences and competed. I learned SO much practical business advice from this club! Fun fact, I was the state champ of the Oil and Petroleum Division twice! Was it a little nerdy?? Yes. Do I care? No way! It was awesome. Want to hear my biggest take away?

“A first impression is a lasting impression”

So simple and SO true. Decisions are made in seconds. Parents will most likely make a decision about your studio before their child walks into a class. Your studio Facebook account and website may be the first interaction a parent has with your studio, but the lobby at your dance studio is the first in-person impression!

Fall is the perfect opportunity to see the lobby at your dance studio with fresh eyes. Get into the mindset of a studio parent and see if you can make simple, subtle improvements. This effort will not only help to encourage new customers to enroll, it will also enhance the customer experience for your current studio families.

When you take little time and effort to make your family’s experience better, people notice! The better experience they have, the better experience YOU have! Happier customers = less complaints, emails, and STRESS for the studio owner. Yes please. 

Here are 5 quick tips for making sure your lobby is making the best impression possible for your dance studio. We’ve also included actionable ideas for improvement!

  • Every teacher and staff member should know that customers are your top priority. Greeting families and students that enter your studio is SO important. This may be obvious to YOU as a studio owner, but it isn’t always obvious to your staff. Your front desk staff needs to be conscious of parents waiting. When you have a wait at the desk, a simple acknowledgment to those waiting can go a long way in making a potentially annoying situation tolerable.  When a parent comes to the desk all conversations need to stop and that parent gets your attention. Think about going out to dinner. There is nothing more annoying than hostesses that are so busy chatting that they don’t even notice you waiting (coming from a former hostess!). When the phone rings, the phone call is placed on hold and you deal with the customer in front of you.
  • Communicate office hours clearly. Include your office hours on your website, include them in all newsletters, post them on your outside door, and make a small sign for the desk. Then, parents know when they can expect someone at the desk and won’t be disappointed when you are not there. Some parents assume that a dance studio is like any other business and holds regular business hours 9am-5pm. When they make a special trip to the studio to pay a bill and you aren’t open… that can be really annoying. If you do not have someone there at the front desk, either you or one of your teachers need to be designated to pop out between classes and greet.
  • Bring in a little fun for siblings and parents. This is something I have come to appreciate as a parent- the value of toys or books in a lobby! If you have lots of siblings running around, add a basket of inexpensive toys and books. For some reason, OTHER people’s toys are always more exciting than your own. Hit up a garage sale and pick up a few things. Make sure they are easy to clean and quick to pick up at the end of the night. Your parents will appreciate it! Parents also appreciate Wifi and magazines:)
  • Make sure your lobby is organized in a way that optimizes your space. Always have a crowd by the front door? Maybe you could shift back your seating to create more space. Look at your space with fresh eyes and see if you could rearrange to make things better. Taking the time to make small changes gives off the impression that you care!
  • Keep it clean and fresh. Your lobby is parent’s first impression of the studio.. and where your parents will probably spend the most time. Regularly get rid of any garbage or clutter and make sure you have a cleaning schedule. Add a new plant or frame a few photos of your dancers.

How did your dance studio lobby do? Are you already nailing these 5 tips?? We hope so! You could easily check off these items in a few hours- completely worth it for happier studio families!

The lobby at your dance studio needs to make a good impression on your studio families

Are your Dancers Having FUN at your Dance Studio? 25 Easy Ideas!

Fun at your dance studio

One of our favorite strategies to keep after your enrollments into the fall is to put a FUN event on your studio calendar. Today we have brainstormed 25 simple ideas for making fun a priority.

Building in some fun at your dance studio is so important.  It is so easy to forget to take a little time for fun. You are busy running a business, managing a team, and teaching- but I think the primary reason most dance studio owners got into business is that they love to dance- and ultimately, dance is fun!

Interjecting traditions, a little quirkiness, and some of your personality into your studio can have a huge impact on your student’s experience, attract NEW students, and also help to differentiate your studio. Kids LOVE tradition. Help them to create memories. Watch as they start to really identify as a student at YOUR studio. Fun activities can help to remind them why they work so hard in class. A few more perks of FUN:

  • Every dance studio offers dance classes. It’s those things that you do beyond dance classes that are going to give your parents something to talk about. Every time you do something outside of the norm you are giving parents an opportunity to refer you to someone in their circle.
  • Kids are motivated by milestones. If a dancer is on the fence about dancing this year- that 5-year trophy at recital might be the motivation she needs to continue dancing for another season.
  • Social events at the studio provide opportunities to get new bodies in your space.
  • When you see parents or students in a new context you start to create more meaningful relationships with your clients. Relationships lead to loyalty and referrals.

25 Simple Ideas:

1. Find a way to acknowledge birthdays. A shout-out on your Facebook page, their picture on the bulletin board, or a card sent home from the studio.

2. Facebook live with your staff. Develop a quick series of questions and interview a teacher or staff member. Secret talents, pets, favorite foods, anything!

3. Holiday food drive. Find a way for your studio to rally together to do something for the community.

4. Parent’s Night Out. Offer pizza, a dance party, and games for students and their siblings for a nominal fee.

5. Customer Appreciation Party. Once a year, find a way to celebrate the families at your school.

6. Cast Party. Organize a simple event after a performance. Lemonade and cookies. Invite students to bring their family and friends. Offer a location for people to gather.

7. Student of the month. Post a picture on Facebook or on the bulletin board. Bring them a cookie. Include a quick interview in your newsletter or on Facebook.

8. Random snacks or treats for the lobby. People love free snacks:) Donut holes, candy, cookies.. anything!

9. Senior Solos or Senior dance. Include a quick bio and their plans for the future in your program.

10. 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year dance awards at your recital. A pin, flowers, or medal.. and of course a special announcement at the recital!

11. Snack table at your recital for dancers. This was always a hit at our recitals. We had mini waters, bananas, granola bars, and home-baked treats (it helps when your partner went to culinary school!!). We also included a big sign thanking them for a great year (and reminding them they can’t eat in costume and have to ask their mom if they are under 6).

12. Holiday cards sent home signed by you. Include a picture of your staff. Thank them for their business and support. Fewer businesses are doing snail mail.. this is time-consuming yes- but I think it is a really nice gesture.

13. Handwritten thank you notes and $5 Starbucks gift cards for referrals. Have your office staff get in the habit of asking new customers if they were referred and start keeping track of who has referred new customers. Once a month, add it to your calendar to send thank you notes out.

14. Student choreography showcase. Pick a time of the year that is little slower and offer the opportunity for dancers to submit their student choreography. Help them to develop a rehearsal schedule and some general guidelines for their pieces and hold a showcase at your studio for their friends and family.

15. Dance team lock-in. Confession, my dance teams wanted this SO BAD and I never gave it to them. Ha! Kids would love the opportunity to spend all night at the studio:) Recruit a few of your teachers or office staff to supervise and facilitate activities.

16. Create a picture board at your studio. Change the photos frequently. We always posted the recital pictures on the front bulletin board. I would be ready to pull them down in October- but the students would want to keep them up all year-round! Everyone loves pictures of themselves.

17. Halloween Party. Parents of toddlers and pre-school age kids are always looking for more opportunities to wear their costumes. Host a party at your school. A few activities, simple snacks, and a photo background. Invite your current students to bring friends!

18. T-shirt design contest for new apparel. Ask your students to submit designs for your next studio t-shirt or ideas for new apparel. The more invested in the process they are the more likely they are to buy.

19. Crazy dress code week. Pajama day, wear an old costume to dance, crazy hair day.. anything to mix it up!

20. White elephant game around the holidays. Ask students to bring a “treasure” from home that they are willing to part with. Do a gift exchange in classes the last week before your break.

21. Personalized email home with a photo for combo students. Have your office staff try to get a picture of each of your students within the first few weeks of classes. Send an email home letting the parent know how much you enjoy having their daughter in class. As the mother of a 4-year old… I would LOVE this.

22. First day and last day of dance class photos. I saw lots of pictures floating around facebook of studios doing this. Decorate an empty frame for your studio. Have all classes take a first day of dance photo. Invite parents to take pictures and tag your studio on Facebook. More exposure for your studio!

23. Movie night at the studio.  Create a little post-recital excitement. Kick off DVD pick up with a movie night. A great way to get students back into the studio during the summer.

24. Bun and makeup class before the recital. My dance studio growing up did a makeup workshop and it was one of my favorite things ever. I think a lot of studios do this for their competition teams- but I think it would be well-received by all parents and students at your studio. I also like the idea of empowering pre-teens to take over the responsibility of doing their own stage make-up and hair. Take a video of the event and post on Youtube. Now you have a link to share when you have a parent that can’t master the ballet bun.

25. Photos of graduating seniors framed at studio. I started this at my own studio.. but didn’t keep it up, which I regret! It was always an afterthought and I didn’t set aside the time to get a good picture of that dancer at recital. So if you are going to push ahead with this tradition- make sure you make a note to get a picture!

Do these things take time? Yes. Do they take a little money? Yes. BUT, it is worth it. Pick a few things, and add them to your calendar. You have to schedule the fun at your dance studio just like you schedule in your other activities. Otherwise, it will get pushed aside and disappear to the bottom of your list. Several of these ideas could be delegated to your office staff, such as acknowledging birthdays or adding a photo board to your lobby. Your students will notice and will love it. If you are consistent you will see the results in happier families, more enthusiastic students, and hopefully more referrals.

Any more ideas? Any traditions that you have at your studio that your students love? Share them on our Facebook page or in our Facebook group just for studio owners. If you are not in- we would LOVE to have you join!

Fun at your dance studio

 

Keep After Those Enrollments!

Keep after those dance studio enrollments even after your session starts!

You’ve worked hard all summer to push your fall programming. You had a crazy open house and will get to enjoy the first few weeks back in the studio. You now get to sit back and let your marketing efforts take a back seat… HA! Never! If you have been at this for even a little amount of time you should know that you never really get to relax when it comes to growing your enrollment. I want to encourage you today to keep after it, even after your classes start. Don’t accept the enrollment numbers at the start of the year- expect that they are going to continue to climb through the fall and be prepared to put the work in to make sure that happens. A few things to keep in mind:

  • “Back to school” time is crazy for families. The schedule it changing. There are supplies to buy. Lunches have to be packed.  Before having kids I really didn’t understand this. But as I find myself searching for the elusive hard plastic lunch box on amazon late into the night for preschool.. I get it. Dance may not be 1st on their priority list.
  • This is a very common enrollment period across all activities.  Families are being hit with lots of newsletters, emails, and notes home. Dance has to compete with everything else and may be getting lost in the shuffle.
  • School is starting earlier. I have a theory that families are feeling a little cheated out of summer break. Jumping back into the full schedule of school and activities may be a little too much to swallow at the start of the school year.

So here’s what I think you should do. Still do everything you can to gather enrollments for fall in the spring and summer. Still try to create a sense of urgency. Waive a registration fee if they register by a certain date. Throw in a t-shirt if they register at your open house. But have a little grace for those that can’t get their act together and add in some simple tactics to make sure you are not missing out on their business. A few ideas:

  1. Call! Start a list of families that were enrolled last year but have not registered for classes this year. Have your front desk (or you) work your way down the list. Keep it causal. “Hello! This is Sara from the dance studio. I hope you had a great summer. I just wanted to remind you that classes have started for the fall session but it is not too late to join in. Did you want me to get your child registered now?” The first year I did this I was so nervous. I thought I was going to come off pushy. Here’s what happened. Most people were very appreciative that I called. They responded with something along the lines of, “we’ve just been so busy! I’ve been meaning to stop in for weeks” and were very happy I could reserve their child’s spot right over the phone. Or they thanked me for checking in- and then let me know they were taking a year off or trying soccer. Take notes as you make your calls. Try to get details from those that aren’t ready to enroll yet but aren’t closing the door. Even if they are not returning, this is an opportunity to let them know if they change their mind, you’d love to have them back. It is one last positive experience with your business before they move on. You never know who they will refer you to or when they might decide to try dance again. And those people that are mad that you called and don’t want to talk to you.. they won’t answer. You’ll leave a polite voice mail and that is that.

2. Send a personal email. Go back to your list. About a month after you made your calls you are going to send emails to those people that haven’t yet enrolled- but left the door open. You may also want to include families that you left voicemails for who you haven’t heard back from. Again, keep it low key and make it about THEM and not you.  A basic outline:

Dear Sarah,

I hope your school year is off to a great start. We really miss seeing your daughter around the studio. Please let us know if you have any questions about classes. Your daughter would be welcome to pop in for a free trial if she’s interested in trying something new. Hope to see you and your daughter soon!

Sincerely,

Meagan

3. Create a reason to get in touch one more time. Last fall we had a Halloween party at the studio. It was free for guests. We had popcorn and lemonade, supplies for a very simple craft, and I taught Thriller. The students had a lot of fun. We encouraged them to bring friends. Throw a simple event on the calendar in October or November. Give yourself a reason to be in touch and something you can offer your families (like a fun excuse to wear costumes and hang out at the studio!).  The party had several benefits; it helped to bring some new bodies into the studio, it gave us something fun to share (both leading up to it and after), and it helped current studio families to feel more connected to the studio. Also, if families or students were wanting to share the studio with someone they know, this was the perfect opportunity! It didn’t feel forced- just a fun way to get more exposure for your school and justify reaching out an additional time to former students.

So after your first few weeks of class… be prepared to keep on pushing! Know that parents have a lot going on and try not to get offended that enrolling in dance isn’t always a family’s first priority. Watch those enrollments continue to climb! Any other ideas for retaining students year to year? How do you feel about students that join late? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Make sure you aren't giving up on enrollments at your dance studio! It is never too late to get new students.

Digital Marketing 101

digital marketing for dance studios

Lets’ talk about digital marketing. Marketing has changed SO much in the past 10 years. 10 years ago we were still paying for listings in the phonebook. 10 years again I was paying THOUSANDS of dollars a couple times a year to do direct-mail campaigns. We relied on newspaper ads and listings in coupon mailers.

Fast forward to now- things have CHANGED! I don’t think I would spend a dollar on print advertising if I owned a studio today. We live in exciting times! It has never been easier and less expensive to reach people that are actually interested in what you are offering.

Digital marketing is where is it is at.

Digital marketing is any form of marketing products or services that involve electronic devices.” – Neil Patel 

I love this simple definition from Neil Patel. Digital marketing includes your website, your Google ranking, your websites’ SEO, your emails, and your social media. In a perfect world, all these things work together to deliver your message and ultimately get MORE students into your studio.

Sounds easy, right? Ha! We all know that being a dance studio owner requires balancing a LOT. There are only so many hours a day. Today I am going to breakdown what I think are the MOST important elements of digital marketing for dance studio owners to focus on and give you some practical types for getting it all done.

Website

Your website needs to be updated, clear, and responsive to mobile devices. I am keeping it simple today:) Notice, I didn’t even say it needed to look good (that would be a bonus!).

I recently searched for a dance studio for my daughter. I needed to find the schedule, the pricing, and how to register. This was REALLY difficult to find on some studio sites. Parents do not want to have to zoom in on a super complicated table of your studio schedule. Think like a parent. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for and get registered!

Because your site needs to be updated frequently, I would be leery of a web designer that wants to take charge of ALL the changes. Work with someone who is willing to teach you how to update your site (shameless plug- we do this!) or go with a website builder like Squarespace and DIY.

When it comes to digital marketing- this would be my #1 priority.  Your website is your online “home”. Everything else you do online is going to lead people there. If it isn’t effective, your other efforts will not be as effective as they could be.

Facebook

Your studio Facebook Page is a huge asset to your dance studio! If I had to pick between all the social media channels, Facebook is where I think your focus should be right now. Parents are on Facebook. Grandparents are on Facebook. Those are the people that are in a position to make a decision about registering for dance classes.

Focus on consistency. Determine a posting schedule (3-5 times a week is reasonable!) and stick to it. Mix it up between posts that promote your studio and lead people back to your website, items that provide value, and photos and video of your students.

If you haven’t done so already, check out our FREE Guide to Facebook. We cover creating images, post ideas, and a brief overview of Facebook Ads. A good review to make sure you are getting the most out of your page!

My biggest tip here- schedule it! Sit down once a month and get it done. I have a folder on my computer where I put images and video I want to share. I am constantly saving posts and articles I see that would be great for sharing. By doing it all at once, I know that I am marketing my events and getting a good mix of post types. You are free to add fun pictures and video in the moment and focus on engaging in the comments. I’m telling you- this is life changing! Having a healthy page is also going to position you nicely for running Facebook ads. We are not covering ads today but we do cover them in our course!

Email Marketing

Use your email list! Your email list is a valuable tool for marketing your programs. If you are not doing so already, start collecting emails. Try to collect emails from every inquiry, every trial, and every special event in addition to collecting them at registration.

Be sure you are protecting your emails. Even within your studio or your companies, use the BCC field to list emails. You do not want to learn this lesson the hard way! That’s another story for another day:)

I would recommend having two separate lists. One for your active, current studio families and another larger list that contains the emails of your current families, former families, and potential families. When you email this larger list, use a service like MailChimp (free until your list grows to 1500). Using a service allows people the option to unsubscribe. Many dance software programs integrate with email services so that every time you register a new student they are automatically added to your list!

Again, determine a schedule that you can stick to. A monthly newsletter may be all you need! When you email about events, make it easy! Include the details and links to where people can register. Keep it simple. I am SO guilty of writing really long newsletters. Here is what I have learned… nobody cares as much as you do! Harsh I know, but I think my email newsletters have gotten SO much more effective. Bold your headlines. Keep paragraphs 2-3 sentences. Use bullets. People want to quickly scroll and get the main idea. Also, keep in mind that most people will be reading it on their phone. Make sure it is responsive on mobile devices.

There is MUCH more to digital marketing, but this is a great place to get started. Facebook and email marketing are two different roads that lead to your website. They communicate the same messages- just in different ways. The ultimate goal is that they lead people to your website where they register for classes!

Questions? Anyone have any great systems for getting this done? We want to know! Comment on our Facebook page. We would also love to have you in our community for dance studio owners. Lets’ learn from each other and move our businesses forward!

You Can Batch That

Batch tasks at your dance studio! It is the perfect way to increase efficiency!

Have you ever heard of batching? If not, it is something that could completely change the way you do business. I’m not even exaggerating! If consistently done, it can dramatically increase your efficiency. Better yet, it can improve the chances that those extra things on your plate actually get done. Sounds good right!? Batching is basically lumping similar tasks together and doing them all at the same time.

For instance, instead of doing your social media posts one by one every day you will do ALL of your social media posts for the month in one day. Instead of doing a little bit of everything every day and all day, you are going to tackle things with a more systematic approach.

Now, you may be asking why the heck this matters at your dance studio. If you start working faster and smarter at your studio, you will instantly free up some of your valuable time. With that extra time, you could spend it doing the things that never get done on your list or take some time off (whoo hoo!). Becoming a more efficient worker will not only affect you but also your team members. With your new found knowledge, you will be able to pass along this valuable information to your staff members. They will learn a new skill and also get faster at doing their job. Which means, they have more time to tackle MORE on your list(double bonus).

With that, I am instantly taken back to my bakery days. In case you have forgotten, in my past life, I made thousands of cupcakes each and every day (yes, I am for real). Those were the days where my team and I didn’t go home until the order was complete and we were paying our workers until they left the building. Quite literally, time was money. My boss at the time was obsessed with always working faster and trying new techniques to help this along. He taught me a very valuable lesson that I will always remember and try to apply to ANY job I have.

The more you have to do, the faster you work.

Wait, WHAT?! Yea, read that again if you need to. I was instantly like “NO WAY… That makes no sense!” But after months and months at the bakery, I finally understood that that statement was completely true. Essentially, my boss was talking about batching. When you lump together a lot of things that are the same, you do them faster and more efficiently. The larger that lump is, the faster you get at doing it.

At the bakery, we started out with 1 store that we made cupcakes for. We were making and decorating around 30 flavors of cupcakes each and every day for that one store. When you broke it down, that meant we were making really small amounts of each flavor. Within 1 year, we increased the number of stores we serviced. So NOW, instead of making 3 cupcakes of a particular flavor, we were at least making 24. You may be thinking that we needed to hire more employees or stay longer hours and trust me, I thought that too. BUT after a lot of nagging on my part, my boss assured me of his rule time and time again. Although it seems impossible and to my disbelief, my team put in around the same number of hours that they did earlier that year when we just had 1 store.

How is this possible you ask? That is the magic of batching. When starting any task (whether it is making cupcakes or starting work at your dance studio), you have an initial set up time. That could be getting your computer out, firing up the correct program, looking for your address book, skimming through emails to find the right one, etc. There is also the transition period where you need to direct your full attention onto the task at hand. How many times have you gone to check your work email and been sidetracked by a sale going on at Wayfair.com?

With batching you are reducing the amount of time spent on the setup and clean up of the task because you are just doing it once versus 5 times a day/week. You are also able to hold your focus on that one task much better without the setup/clean up. When doing a task over and over again, you naturally start to figure out ways to make it go faster. That is the same whether you are frosting 50 cupcakes in a row or scheduling a whole month worth of social media posts. The bonus?? It feels AMAZING to get something done for the whole month all at once (much faster than you normally would) and not have to worry about it again until next month.

Here are a few ways you can give batching a try at your dance studio:

  • Check your emails once a day. Know that it is perfectly reasonable to get back to customers within 24 hours. If there is something urgent, they will call.
  • Calling people back should be done once a day. Sit down, pour yourself a cup of coffee and make all your returned calls once a day (unless it is urgent of course).
  • Checking your social media page can be minimized to once a day. This one can be a HUGE time suck! Try to resist and engage with your audience once a day.
  • Schedule your social media once a month. Yes, that is right. Once a month! You can use the Facebook scheduler or an application like HootSuite or Buffer to schedule posts out. Look at your calendar to know what is coming and just go for it! This is one of my most favorite ways to batch.
  • Recital tasks and company stuff can be batched as well. Pick one day a week (or just an hour) to knock out some recital stuff, if there is nothing on the list right now maybe you can get ahead!?
  • Choreography/class planning can be batched once a month. This is another one that I LOVE to knock out all at once. I plan all my classes in one or two sittings for the month. It also allows me to be really conscious about the progression of my classes.

As a dance studio owner, you probably get paid either a salary or whatever is left over in the bank after payroll. You may not have that hourly, worker mentality but nevertheless, your time is valuable. You need to make sure you are working to your full capacity. Batching is a GREAT way to get started working smarter and faster so you can spend more time growing your business.

Does this sound really awesome but you have NO idea where to start? Don’t worry, we can help! Send us a message and we can walk you through how to get started, create an annual calendar for you, or get you all set up on Trello.

We would LOVE to help you get to a better place within your studio.

Great post as an introduction to batching, perfect for dance studio owners who want to become more efficient!