Many years ago AT&T did a study with small businesses to find out who was getting the most business out of their Yellow Pages advertising. The study looked at the ad, where it was placed on the page and the size of the ad, how many calls were being produced and the rate of the most important criteria how many sales were made. Here is what they found.
Answer The Phone!
This was the number one reason why people who called from the phone book decided to do business with a particular business. They called sometimes one, two, three and even four or five different businesses before they actually spoke to a live person. The first one they spoke to they were more likely to do business with. Think about this for a minute and how this may impact you. If a parent, who is very busy and pressed for time to begin with, calls a few dance studios and gets an answering machine on the phone, then on the third or fourth try, they get you or a person from your studio on the phone, you will be in the driver’s seat. They will be eager to talk to someone. They will have questions. If you are the right fit for them, and after you ask questions of them as well to make sure you have what they are looking for, you will get first dibs on getting them to visit you before they go anywhere else…and you most likely will convert them into a customer.
This seems like a no-brainer, but here is the problem: most dance studios do not have someone answering the phone during regular business hours. After reading this study I had a friend of mine call around to see if other studios were answering the phone. Eager to get a broader knowledge of this I had them expand this search and call from all over the state of Connecticut. Here were the results:
Total Calls To Dance Studios……………………… 125
Talked To Person ………………………………………. 10
No answer………………………………………………… 3
Think about it: Only 8 % of the studios called answered the phone, and none in our immediate area! This was a revelation to us. The first thing we did was to hire someone to answer phone calls from 9am on. We have a morning person, and a night one as well. I would have thought that dance schools will answer from 4 pm until closing, but not all do because they are too busy! If you do not want to hire someone to work the desk during down times, you could have call forwarding to your cell phone or house line. To find out how to do this contact your local business phone provider and they can set this up for you at a nominal cost. This way if you are home or out and about you can answer a call from a prospective client. The key here is to have someone answer the phone!
Here is another shocking tidbit: some schools didn’t even return a phone call. They sent information in the mail, but never followed it up with a call. When you are closed or have no choice but to use an answering machine, make sure that you ask people for their phone number on your answering machine message and follow it up with a call the next morning or as soon as possible. Want to differentiate yourself from the competition? It may be as simple as answering the phone. Want more students? Answer the phone. Want to connect more with your clients? Answer the phone!
Ok, I know it is not possible to do it all the time—even we don’t. But we do during normal business hours Monday through Saturday. Moms make calls when the kids are at schools and they have some peace and quiet to concentrate and do some research. If you can help them in this initial contact, you will have already built a good rapport with this prospective client. Your current clients will also love it that they can talk to someone, especially this time of the year when they may have questions on registration, class placement or dancewear concerns. Even if you only do this for the next three months while there is heavy active registration going on you will reap the rewards of increased enrollment.
Now this study was done for the phone book, but it applies to all of your advertising. The more marketing you have out there like post cards, newspaper ads and flyers, the more you need to be prepared to answer the phone when it rings. People are eager to buy when they call, so as time passes and they don’t hear from you, they might just move on to find another activity for their child or, when they do hear from you, the times you offer are no longer a good fit because they just signed up their child for swimming lessons (the Y had someone answering their phones!!).
So try manning your phones diligently for a couple of weeks and see the results you get. You might even ask callers if they have spoken with any other dance studios. Chances are you will be the first live person they have gotten on the line. Then all you have to do is reel them in!