You are a vibrant and successful dance school. You have students and parents who are loyal and enthusiastic supporters. You offer a dance curriculum and services that your key customers value above those of all your competitors.
Now how do you expand your client base? How do you introduce yourself to the prospective students in your market and tell them how great you are?
Word-of-mouth recommendations are your most powerful source of referrals. How can you harness your volunteer network of supporters to reach new clients?
The answer is twofold. First, you need to have a clear understanding of why your students choose you. What are the most valuable benefits that you provide to them? What exactly are the reasons why they have selected you over your competition? Their reasons may include logistical benefits such as a more convenient schedule or a central location. But they may also include less obvious benefits such as providing a welcoming sense of community, or your skill in minimizing students' performance anxiety, for example.
These intangible benefits may be what actually generate your students' long-term loyalty to you. They are the points that your students, and their parents, make when they discuss you with their friends. Understanding these points is your first step to managing word-of-mouth recommendations.
The second step is to make it as easy as possible for your students to articulate the benefits you offer. You can describe these special benefits outright in the text on your website or in your brochures, for example. Recognize their value and don't be shy about promoting them. Describe the benefits from the perspective of the student or parent. Provide subheads or bulleted points that summarize the key ideas in simple language that your clients can recall when they speak to their friends. Your goal is to make it effortless for them to remember and repeat just what it is that they like about you.
You yourself will also want to cite these benefits whenever and wherever you can. When you introduce yourself at the start of a student performance, you have an opportunity to use your new language to describe your school. If you are interviewed by the press or if you initiate a news item you can insert your new language. If a prospective student calls or visits, you will know the most effective thing to say.
You can even create a tagline for your business that summarizes the valuable and unique role you play in your students' hearts and minds.
Humans believe their own eyes. They look to visual cues to confirm the verbal messages they receive.
You will need to ensure that the visual messages you provide help to communicate and reinforce your verbal messages.
Put yourself behind the eyes of one of your students. Think through what he or she sees during the course of daily life that reinforces - or contradicts - your verbal messages:
- the appearance of your building facade
- a postcard about an upcoming performance
- your website and Facebook page
- your logo on T-shirt
- your sign by the street
- class schedules in a stand at your front desk
- the cleanliness, lighting, color, etc., of your dance studios.
Is the appearance of every single one of these "consumer touchpoints" consistent with who you say you are? Every time a student sees something related to your business, you have the opportunity to reinforce your message visually.
Here are some examples of how visual communication can align with verbal messaging:
If you emphasize "professional" in your verbal themes, your visual world should also say "professional." Are your visuals neat and tidy and thoughtfully well designed? Are your colors and typefaces dignified and not frivolous? Perhaps your website features photos of students in technical poses. You might highlight text that describes your professional training. Perhaps you hang posters on your studio walls that showcase professional-level achievement.
If you emphasize "the excitement of performance," your visual world needs to look exciting. Is your color palette vibrant, your graphics lively? Perhaps your website features backstage snapshots of your students having fun. Perhaps you've embedded a video of a student performance. Perhaps your lobby walls are painted bright colors and a colorful striped awning hangs over your entrance.
If you emphasize "child development through dance education," do your graphics have an educational feel to them? Perhaps photos on your website show the eager expressions of your youngest students. Perhaps a brochure highlights text describing how your curriculum addresses a growing child's needs. Perhaps pint-size chairs in your waiting room indicate your commitment to young children.
If you emphasize "dance training for lifelong fitness," your graphics, and your interior spaces, might more closely resemble those of a fitness club. Photos might focus on students of many ages enjoying the classroom environment. Perhaps your social media site facilitates student testimonials about improved skills and fitness.
Whatever it is that makes your studio special, be sure to take advantage of every opportunity - verbal and visual - to convey a singular, powerful message to your fans and to your future students.