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To Increase Your Studio’s Bottom Line, Focus on Customers Past and Present

Customer care

Business owners are always in search of new customers. But have you considered that it’s easier and more cost-effective to sell to parents who already know you?

In fact, you can increase your studio’s revenue by almost 33 percent by selling to current or past families with extraordinarily little out-of-pocket expense. Marketing efforts focused on retaining and upselling to your customers are some of the most cost-effective revenue-generating tools we possess—yet through my coaching practice for studio owners, I have found most seem to ignore these lucrative sources.

It’s easier to sell to someone who previously took class but has stopped for whatever reason than to attract a new customer. Here’s a question: Have you ever frequented a business like a restaurant or boutique and then just stopped going? I have, and in many cases there was not a bad reason as to why I stopped. If those businesses had reached out to me to say hello and offer me an incentive, I would at least be interested in hearing what they had to say—and maybe even feel the business considered me an important customer, which could foster future loyalty.

At D’Valda & Sirico Dance and Music Centre, I have ascertained that retention is my new growth engine, and commit more than 60 percent of my marketing dollars toward retaining and upselling to current students, or regaining lost students. No matter if your studio is large or small, you will benefit from shifting marketing dollars and time to these efforts.

Getting Students to Come Back

With the pandemic in our rearview mirror, I imagine many studio owners have a list of students who didn’t return during COVID but may be itching to resume fun group activities this fall. My studio started a robust campaign focused on pre-COVID customers and I highly recommend other studio owners do so as well.

Let’s say you had a student, Sally, who took ballet with you for three years before stopping last year. You give Sally’s mom a call to see how the child is doing and ask if she would be interested in dancing again. “Oh, Sally isn’t into ballet anymore,” Mom tells you, adding that Sally is participating in school musicals. Your response should be to invite Sally and a friend to try your musical theatre class for free. Once she tries that class, you can recommend that she also try a beginner tap class because there are a lot of shows that feature tap dancing and it would be helpful to learn the basics. Always have something new to offer.

Will this work every time? No. But what if during the next four weeks you call four former students each day for five days a week. That’s 80 calls. If you can get 20 of them to re-sign up, would it be worth your while to do that? If you write out a script and train your front desk person on what to say, and she makes the calls during the down time between classes, she could certainly make four calls a night over a four-hour period. Since you are already paying your office worker her hourly rate, this doesn’t cost you anything extra. And think of the revenue those 20 students would bring to your dance studio business! Time to get those phones working.

Upselling to Your Current Customers

I try to upsell my studio’s customers with what I know they already like and probably want more of. Think about it this way: you buy a hamburger and are asked if you’d also like fries, a soft drink, or a shake. “Would you like to supersize that order?” What about that new car you are about to buy? If you want upgrades like power windows, leather seats, sunroof, or safety features, you might be eager to add them despite the price because you’re thinking about your enjoyment of this new car.

We can sell dance lessons the same way by thinking about our customers and what they perceive their child receives from attending dance class. The most important thing is to show parents how taking more classes or trying other styles of classes will benefit their child. For instance, if a student only takes one or two classes but shows a real interest in dance, use this knowledge to explain how this student would benefit—improved self-esteem, poise, grace, etc.—by taking more classes or private lessons.

I have found that giving our dancers of all ages
and levels a year-end “Progress Report and Recommendation Form” helps with upselling. The form reports on the student’s overall progress and suggests classes that should be added. Years ago we called it an evaluation form but found our parents didn’t care for the word “evaluation”—after switching to “progress report” the feedback has been great! I use this as a retention tool because parents can see results, and it’s provided a steady stream of repeat customers coming through the door.

So, yes, we always need new customers joining our studio— but don’t forget the ones (present and past) who you know well. And remember: People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Reach out, show how much you value them, and watch your past customers eagerly return and your present customers sign up for more.

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