Market It Right

Article excerpt

Effective techniques to spread the word about your studio and increase enrollment.

getting the word out about a local or franchised dance studio can be an ongoing challenge. Owners and managers must carefully balance the benefits of publicity with advertising costs, which can escalate quickly. There are ways, however, for studios of all sizes and budgets to increase their visibility. In addition to traditional print advertising and direct mail, dance studios can draw upon partnerships with local community educational organizations and private businesses to increase the customer base. In addition, websites have become essential marketing tools for dance educators across the country.

Whether you take traditional advertising routes or venture onto the Internet, the most important thing to remember about marketing and publicity is that they should be ongoing efforts. "When Ford Motor Company came out with the Ford Focus, there was a lot of hype and buzz at the beginning," says Mike Verville, president of the Michigan-based marketing communications firm Ideas & Images. "After the initial buzz died down, Ford continued to release information about new models and improvements. Marketing a business requires a long-term effort to keep the message in the public's mind."

Special Delivery

According to direct marketing and list brokerage firm DMG Direct, direct marketing is a $5 billion business in the United States, much of which is in the form of mail. The advantages of direct mail are clear: It can be focused, because of the ease, affordability and availability of list services; its sales can be predicted with relative accuracy; and it allows you to get information directly to potential customers.

Marty Richardson, president of Services Marketing Specialists in Detroit, says that while some audiences are more receptive to high-tech methods of direct marketing such as blast faxing or e-mail, direct mail through the U.S. Post Office remains an effective option, provided that repetition is used. "You need to develop a program of multiple pieces that are sent over a period of time, so [the audience] can recognize and remember your company," he says.

A successful targeted direct-mail piece should have one or more special characteristics to draw the recipient to your dance studio. This could be a coupon for a free or reduced-price class, the introduction of a website or the possibility of a free book or videotape with enrollment. In direct mail, use short snippets of copy and attractive graphic elements to keep the reader's interest. Four-color photos of your studio and its facilities along with images of students are particularly compelling additions.

Everything E-commerce

As a marketing tool, a website can provide a dance studio with 24-hour-a-day communication with customers. However, as with any business opportunity, there are potential pitfalls, such as high up-front development costs, complex legal issues and customer frustration if there is limited bandwidth, storage or access. In addition, schools must make a commitment to updating the site frequently, or web traffic will decline.

Yet, according to Verville, the Internet usually makes marketing more cost-efficient and convenient. "The Internet has made it more efficient for companies to get their message out," he says. "It used to be that businesses would mail a press release to a media contact; now they can just put it on their website or on PR Newswire. Some of the higher-end websites even offer downloadable brochures, pictures, artwork and audio bytes."

Mark Lichtman, president of ZenaComp in Livonia, MI, notes that selling products or classes and processing transactions can be easily completed through ecommerce. "You have to offer multiple ways to make your website useful or people won't continue to visit it," Lichtman recommends. …