As I have preached many times, one of these most important parts of your business will be how well your marketing works. It will determine how well your business is perceived by the public and whether you will get the attention of new customers. Without it your business cannot grow or sustain that growth. Yet for some reason most people take out one ad, look over the results and decides from that one effort if their marketing was successful or not.

As I have preached many times, one of these most important parts of your business will be how well your marketing works. It will determine how well your business is perceived by the public and whether you will get the attention of new customers. Without it your business cannot grow or sustain that growth. Yet for some reason most people take out one ad, look over the results and decides from that one effort if their marketing was successful or not.

Here is the deal: If you place a couple of ads a year and do nothing else, you most likely will not be happy with the results. Furthermore, the more competition you have, the harder you will need to work to get the word out about your program. You will need to out-hustle everyone else to get in front of a likely customer so that if and when they are ready to sign up, you are in their face first. The big advantage that you and I have as a small business is that we can and must do things that big business would never do. We can do a grass roots campaign to flood a smaller and more identified market. I like to call it underground because it is not in the usual mode of advertising. You will need to find ways to get in front of your prospective clients away from the clutter of all the other advertisers that are vying for their attention as well. It makes no sense for you to market to people outside of your target area or demographics. This is a real advantage we have.

The key is to find ways to reach this market that are cost effective, different and that work! Keep in mind the least expensive ideas will most likely include more work from you. The good news is you will be doing what your competition for the most part will not do. Lets explore ways to get the word out. Contact all of your local preschool, nursery and day care providers. Offer to go in or send in one of your faculty members and present a fairy tale ballet class for FREE! In exchange they will agree to let you pass out your literature and give the children a goodie bag to take home. In these little bags you can include a dance coloring book with your contact information on it, crayons, and a magic star wand that you can get inexpensively at Oriental Trading or another online novelty company.

Another great item you could add is a short DVD with information about your program or sample class. Another idea is to contact a moms organization or club and offer to do a free play date at your school. The concept is the sample class and parting gifts and maybe coffee and pastries for the mothers. You can find out about moms groups by doing a Google search in your area or by contacting any family service organization that works with people locally.

Contact new families that move into your community. There are a couple of ways to do this. One way is to hire an organization like New Neighbors or the Newcomers Club to distribute your literature to families that are interested in dance. The minus with this is they will be giving the new family material from several businesses, so yours could get lost. The key is that you will get a list of people they have visited and you can and must do several follow-ups. The other way, and the least expensive, is to make a trip to your Town Hall every couple of weeks and pick up a copy of all the property transfers in your area. They will have the name and address of the new homeowners. You could then send them a welcome packet with a coupon for a trial class and follow up several mailings over the summer. The minus with this is you may be sending your information to someone with no young children. But if you have adult classes, then that isnt an issuejust make sure your message is geared for all ages when you mail to this group.

People new to a community are always looking for ways to acclimate to the new environment; if you show them that you can help them do that, they will come. You might also provide them with a list of child-friendly resources or include coupons to local restaurantsmost local businesses would be happy to give you these if you explain what you are doing since you are doing all the legwork for them, too! In case you are wondering which of the two methods we use, the answer is both! Both have worked very well for us. Whenever new families move into town, we appear with an offer for them to come in and meet new people, take a class and learn more about the area! Broadcast your business with yard signs and banners. These are becoming more popular, but you need to find out if your community will allow them. These are the small signs you see stuck in the ground that are bright and colorful with a call to action on them. We have used them to promote a free day of dance or a special event we are holding. They worked well for us until we found out that our town banned their use! Just check with your Town Hall or local police department.

We have spent thousands of dollars on our sign on our business and yet a double-sided banner that we put out on the street for a couple hundred dollars paid off more in bringing in new clients. Another option is a sandwich board that is near the street of your business. Again your town may have some restrictions here, too, so always check first. Whatever you do, if it is not affixed to something permanent you will need to bring it in every night. A great provider of sign and banner items is Better Banner and you can reach them at www.betterbannerprinting.com and mention that you are a DTW member for a special deal.

Try a specific direct mailing campaign. You can purchase a list of names from a list provider. Try to get this list as specific as possible. Lets use the example of families in your area with children ages 3 to 6. Now you will create a four part plan. Week one send out a letter introducing yourself and how your program can help them. Week two send a postcard about a special event at your studio, like a free day of dance. Week three send out your Fall schedule with a note about how classes are filling up quickly and for them to give you a call to help them determine class placement and registration. Week four send them a referral form. If they bring in a friend with them when they register they both can get a discount; we give $50 off, but you can decide what works best for you. This is one of the strongest new client campaigns we do every summer. August into September is when we run it, but you can adjust it to suit your schedule. We are even considering doing it in mid- October to build up any lagging classes. The approximate cost of this will depend on the amount of names on your list. But for 1,000 names, postage and mailing piece, figure somewhere in the $650 to $750 range per campaign.

Organize your own group of personal marketers. This is something that we are starting this summer. We are sending out people to various local events, like fairs, over the summer to distribute cards with a special offer and to talk about our business. You will need to pay your marketers for their time, but it is easy to recruit an army of loyal followers if you know individuals who know about your programs and love what you are doing. If you like talking to people you could go out with them, too. Just make sure that you check with the event organizer to be sure it is OK with them for you to be there. You might even offer to provide entertainment free of charge at the event. We have done a few short performance spots many times with great results. (It is better to do several short performances; this way you will be seen by the turnover in audience.)

These tactics have reaped great results for us. We also do all of the traditional marketing like newspapers, flyers, general direct mailing, TV commercials and magazines. Try to budget in as many of these as possiblethe more the better. Remember that there is no magic bullet in marketing. The key is to keep your name out there continuously so that when someone is looking for dance lessons your name or marketing piece will appear at just the right moment.