Traditionally, now is the time of the year when you begin the planning process of your marketing plan for the upcoming year. And research shows that companies aggressive with marketing during and after tough economic times fair far better when the economy recovers.

To put it simply, now is an excellent time to get a head start on your competition.

The Planning Process

Following the adage 'First things first,' start by preparing a marketing plan that meets the needs of your short- and long-term business goals. Far too many dance school owners view marketing as a project here and a project there and fail to integrate their activities into a cohesive marketing campaign.

Start Here:  7 Steps To Developing Your Marketing Plan

Assess your target markets. Clearly identify your target markets. This is one of the most important components of your marketing plan. Decide if you want to focus on preschoolers, pre-teen, teens or adults. First, research and understand the important characteristics of your target market. Then consider how to reach them, perhaps a double-pronged effort with a printed and emailed free newsletter to parents with children in a certain age bracket. Next review your mailing/emailing lists. How much time have you spent building your mailing list? Do the names on your list really include your target market or is your list a collection of contacts you gathered at the last minute?  Review, segment and revise your list, and then consider buying names to supplement what you have.

Assess market needs.  Your business provides value to your customers. Marketing efforts work best when focused on the benefits you are providing based on the customer needs you are satisfying. Therefore, the short-term and long-term customer needs must be clearly defined. Your marketing materials need to address what their child will get out of the lessons and how you can save them time in the process. Save people time and help their kids, and people will be knocking down your door to give you their money.

Assess your strengths. To develop and implement a marketing strategy for your business, you must identify the strengths within your business that add value. Include both tangible and intangible attributes; include class attributes, your expertise, your credentials and more.

Assess your opportunities. Assess the factors that represent the reason for your business. Understand the opportunities and create actionable marketing projects and implementation strategies in areas that matter most to your success.

Assess the competition. Assess your major competitors in terms of the factors that most influence revenues. The marketing strategy and performance of your competitors are important to develop your most cost-effective solutions for branding your company, delivering your message and growing your business.

Assess how you are positioning your studio.  Based on the findings of the items above, among others, develop positioning statements. In essence, your strategic focus must be on the most important target market, that market’s most important market need, how your product or service meets that need, and why your company is better than the competition.

Assess your budget. Now that you have a comprehensive marketing plan, determine the costs of maintaining a consistent, comprehensive marketing campaign throughout the upcoming year to achieve your marketing objectives.