I have received several e-mails from members about different ads they ran and how successful they were. What struck me the most is that many people confuse marketing with advertising and vice versa. While both components are important, they are very different. Knowing the difference and doing your market research can put your dance studio on the path to substantial growth.

I have received several e-mails from members about different ads they ran and how successful they were. What struck me the most is that many people confuse marketing with advertising and vice versa. While both components are important, they are very different. Knowing the difference and doing your market research can put your dance studio on the path to substantial growth.

Let's start off by reviewing the formal definitions of each and then I'll go into the explanation of how marketing and advertising differ from one another:

Advertising: The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the non-personal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products to its existing and potential customers.

Marketing: The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products.

After reading both of the definitions it is easy to understand how the difference can be confusing to the point that people think of them as one-and-the same, so let’s break it down a bit.

Advertising is a single component of the marketing process. It's the part that involves getting the word out concerning your business, product or services you are offering. It involves the process of developing strategies such as ad placement, frequency, etc. Advertising includes the placement of an ad in such mediums as newspapers, direct mail, billboards, television, radio, and of course the Internet. Advertising is the largest expense of most marketing plans, with public relations following in a close second and market research not falling far behind.

The best way to distinguish between advertising and marketing is to think of marketing as a pie.  Inside that pie you have slices of advertising, market research, media planning, public relations, product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy and community involvement. Advertising only equals one piece of the pie in the strategy, even if it’s the biggest.

All of these elements must not only work independently, but they must also work together towards the bigger goal. Marketing is a process that takes time and can involve hours of research for a marketing plan to be effective. Think of marketing as everything that an organization does to facilitate an exchange between company and consumer.

 

Ok, so why is this important to you, the dance school owners?

To have your hard earned money that you invest in advertising work best for you, you will need to develop a solid marketing plan. Too many times I hear from studio owners how they tried to place one ad or do one thing like send out a postcard, but they are not happy with the results. Remember that you need to first develop a plan, and then decide how you will get the word out. That is your marketing strategy.

Here is a roadmap for you to use to develop a solid marketing plan:

  1. Decide what your target audience is and the best way to reach them. I think it is a mistake to always combine all of your programs in all your ads. Let’s say that you decide you want to target younger students—the 3 to 6 age bracket. Now develop a plan to target just that age group. All of your advertising will be focused on this market. Show pictures in your ads of preschool classes; describe your preschool program and the life enhancing benefits the children will gain from the classes. Do a little research on places the moms of this age bracket frequent. You will also want to find out what they read and what is important to them.
  2. Now that you have a plan of who you want to target and what you will say, you have to decide how to get out the message. You could get a mailing list of families in your area with children ages 3 to 6. You can do this by contacting a mailing company like InfoUSA or your local printer may have access to a list as well. Then you could send them a postcard, letter or flyer with your message. You could also place an ad in a local news publication exclusively for moms. Contact local companies that have products or services that target this market and you could do some cross marketing with.
  3. Next you could go to your local young children’s clothing store to see if they will pass out your flyers and you will do the same for them. Do the same thing with a nursery school, day care center, toy store or any other place you can think of where your target market will frequent.
  4. Hold a free play date at your studio. Contact your local moms club and organize such an event. The children can take a class while the moms enjoy coffee and pastries that you will provide. These have been very successful when we hold these events.

As you can see, the overall all marketing plan is to build your preschool program. The advertising you do will help target this group and help you build your business.

We have found that targeting a specific age group is the most effective marketing campaign.  You can do the same for any age group you want to build. It will also make you look like the local expert in the eyes of your prospective clients. So instead of just placing an ad in a newspaper or local magazine, develop a well-thought out plan, go after your target group aggressively and watch your program grow!