I have been a consultant for studio owners for many years now and one question that is always on all of their minds is, "How can I increase my enrollment?" I know it is a topic that Angela and I and our team discuss every year. Increased enrollment will equal more income! In this three-part series we will focus each month on a task that you can do right away. Just one task each month to build your enrollment and increase your income.
Enrollment really comes from two sources, keeping the ones you have, retention and getting new ones, prospective customers. In the spring and early summer, we like to really focus on the first one. Keeping the students, you already have.
If you want to continue to build your customer base you must retain the students that you have. If you always have a high rate of non returning students this will be a key factor for you to look at and change.
Think about this*
If you have 40 students that are planning not to return and you can get at least 15 of them to change their minds and come back and then if you can get some of them to increase the amount of classes they were taking, you may be able to make up most, if not all of the lost income from the 25 that have left.
So here is the plan
Here are some questions I would like for you consider. When you answer these questions I would like for you to also think about what your customer's answers would be.
Do you communicate with your customers throughout the year?
Do you educate your parents on all of the wonderful benefits that their child is receiving from the dance lessons you are providing?
Do you find ways to reward your customers for their patronage of your business?
So now you have some idea of where your strengths are and what may need to improve.
To build a strong legion of fans who rave about your business we know it really does take more than just great dance classes. That is expected from the customer. But what will make you stand out in the crowd? Does your customer know what makes you different and special? If you are not sure, find ways to educate your parents though email blasts, signage at the studio and in your marketing materials.
Think about this*
Your customers want to hear from you. They want to know that you care about them. They want to know that you appreciate their business. They want to know that you know they exist! You know how wonderful it is when you walk into a business that you frequent and the people in there are happy and eager to see you. I love getting emails from those businesses and I love getting special offers in the mail or by phone. One thing people really like, even if you don't realize it, is that these businesses are communicating with you and letting their customers know that they matter. They are saying, I know you are there and we appreciate you!
Ideas On How to Communicate:
While communication needs to be a year round deal, let's focus on how you can connect in the best way possible over the next few months, with your current customers.
Student Evaluation forms.
This is one that works very well for us and for the clients we consult. All students will receive a recommendation form before our season ends. This form has an over view of what classes the student has taken over the past year and what is recommended for them to take in the new season. Parents and students love these! Most of your clients are thirsty for information from you! They are looking for and need your guidance. I can't tell you how many students have gone from one or two classes to three or four classes and sometimes many more! So if a child was taking one class a week you would recommend on the form for them take the class two times a week and you would also recommend some other styles that you offer for that age and level bracket.
Now sometimes a student has had their eye on a higher level than you recommend and once they receive the form it would be a great time to sit down with the parent and student to explain why they need more time at a certain level. You can also consider letting them take the higher level if they also take the class you are recommending and perhaps a couple of other classes that will help them improve their strength.
So many businesses use this type of selling to their customers. It is called upselling. McDonalds is famous for their "do you want fries with that?" or "How about an apple pie?" or "Would you like to supersize the meal?" Ok, so you may be thinking yes but we are not selling fast food! I understand but when you buy a car their salesmen do it, your cell phone and service companies do it and when you go to your favorite restaurant they are most likely doing it in the form of "Specials" for the evening. If you are not doing it, you are leaving money on the table. As I mentioned earlier, your customers want your guidance! Who loves you more than your current customers? Who knows more about your program than them? Who is easier to sell to, a new customer or one that has been patronizing your studio? The answer is clear… Your current customers are where you should look to first to increase enrollment and revenue. How? You might ask? Easy, if you can increase student's hours, that will also translate into increased revenue. Here is some more good news, it is the easiest and least expensive way to build your business.
Action plan for this month:
Put in place your student recommendation system. Best of all it is easy. Create a form with a grading system for each student and the classes that they take. Place the forms in your class attendance book or give them to each teacher. Then make sure these forms are filled out by the teacher of each class. They can do this during class or right after they teach. Typically, we give them a week to complete the forms. The students do not see their grade from the teacher it is confidential and helps you to determine the correct level for them to go into for the next season. Once these forms are collected you will be able to fill out the recommendation forms. Then each one is mailed to your current customers with a schedule for the new season. This is very important because your new schedule will help them decide which days and times work best for them.
*You can see a sample of these forms in the Templates and Forms area of the website.
Set a day and time, preferably before your season comes to an end that you will have priority registration for your current clients ONLY! People love that and you give them first choice. The other key here is that it creates a sense of scarcity. If they don't sign up during priority registration, they know that classes may fill up later and they won't get the day and time of their choice. The other big benefit for you is that it helps you to know before your season ends which classes are filling up or closed out. You will also know which ones need more or new students. This way you can build a smart marketing campaign over your summer targeting the age group that you need to build up your classes with.
So there you have it for this month. Here is a quick review:
1. Create two new forms or you can use the forms available on Dance Teacher Web in the "forms" area of the website. One is the student evaluation form, to be seen only by you, the faculty and staff. The second is the student recommendation form to be mailed to your student's parents.
2. You will need to have your new season schedule ready to go as this MUST be mailed out with the recommendation form.
3. Be ready to set up appointments and block off time to answer phone questions that parents will have regarding your recommendations.
4. Always keep a copy of the recommendation form on hand in a file so you and anyone working at your front desk, can quickly reference what has been recommended
That's it! I know it will take some work on your part. But it really will make a BIG difference to your bottom line. Next month we will focus on how to energize referrals, the life blood of the dance studio business!