I have written about this subject in the past but it is a topic I feel very strongly about. If you are looking to increase business, brand and customer awareness then building connections with other businesses in your area is the quickest way to do so. I know that most dance school owners are extremely busy. Having to deal with choreography, class content, student, parent, teacher issues, marketing, ordering costumes, paying the bills and oh yeah, your personal life! It is a wonder how most of us have an opportunity to exhale! But if you don’t make a point of getting outside of your four walls it may be that you are the best kept secret in town. Here is how you can build your customer base and get to know the best places to market your business. By connecting with your local business community and building great and lasting friendships along the way.
Here are some of the top ways to build your business relationships
Ø Join your local Chamber of Commerce. When it comes to getting known in your business community this is a no brainer. However, if you are just going to join and put no effort into the membership then don’t waste your money. We go to as many events as possible during the year and we try to really work the room. I make sure that I introduce myself to as many people as possible. Make sure you have an interesting way to describe yourself and your school. Don’t just say that you own a dance school. Get your 30 second pitches ready to let people know about all of the wonderful things your school is doing for the youth in your area. Then encourage the other person to tell you as much as possible about themselves and their business. Listen carefully to see if there may be a connection in some way. Maybe you can discuss marketing options that have worked for you and then see what the other person has to offer. Then exchange business cards and move on to the next person. I see many people who attend these events with their employees and never venture out to meet new people. Big mistake! If we bring employees to one of these events, we let them know that we want them to mingle and give them examples of what to say and what not to say. The purpose of these business events is to network, not to go and have a few drinks and some food and leave. Many people have told me that their Chamber of Commerce has not benefitted them. When I ask them what have they done to participate and be a part of it the response is often, 'Oh, I don’t have time for all of that!' If you put in some effort your relationship with businesses and the Chamber will grow. We not only have gained new students from our relationship but also several offers to perform at community events and we are known in the business community as The place to dance and The place to call when you are looking to add song and dance to an event! All for the price of a yearly membership fee of about $350, not bad for all of the traction we receive from it.
Ø Become more involved with local charities. This is important for your business because it is a way of giving back and also a great opportunity to become passionate about something other than dance. We are very involved in 'Cancer Cares' and with the local humane society. Also CRUSA which is an organization that rescues dogs. We have a real passion for animals and will help out any organization that helps, saves or takes care of them. We have also worked with Save the Children Foundation and United Way. Whatever you are passionate about, get involved with, it will be good for you both physically and mentally and good for your business. Now we didn’t get involved in these charities to build our connections but it happens all the time as a result of our involvement, without any effort in trying to do so. Even if it didn’t help our business we would still do it because it feels so good!
Ø Give a talk to your local organizations Ok, so this one may have you saying to yourself 'Oh I couldn’t do that, what would I talk about?' Well, you have a lot to talk about. Think about what you do, the lives you have changed and how dance enhances the lives of so many young people today. You could also do a lecture/demonstration with some of your dancers. You would be surprised at how many local organizations are starving for something to uplift their regular meetings. To connect, send out a letter about yourself, your business and the topic of your discussion. If you are doing a fundraiser this would be a wonderful opportunity to discuss that and give the members a way to contribute. We have done several of these for different organizations such as the Masonic, Elks, VFW and Kiwanis to name a few. Participating in these events has been a great way to not only introduce ourselves to others business owners but it has also helped us to get new customers!