It’s Time to Prepare for Next Season’s Enrollment!
By Paul Henderson
Everywhere we go this question inevitably comes up – “How do you get your students to re-enroll for next season’s classes?” Seems odd to be thinking about this in February, right? But, this might just be the most important topic and the most important article you will read this season. Here’s why.
The bulk of a dance studio’s revenue comes from tuition. Also, it’s common knowledge that, for any business, it’s much less expensive and easier to service existing customers than to recruit new ones. And, whether you like it or not, your business is competing for students with other dance studio businesses in your area.
So, it makes sense that the most important long-term financial concern of your business, other than a great faculty and an excellent curriculum, is year-over-year student retention. One could argue that a great curriculum and fantastic teachers will guarantee that most students will re-enroll, but there are other forces working against your studio at all times. You need to be aware of these forces that cause attrition and act decisively to counteract them.
Forces you must acknowledge and deal with:
- Other activities, such as soccer, gymnastics, softball, music lessons, etc.
- Economic/financial pressures on parents
- Other dance studios in your area!
Knowing that you need to act decisively to retain your students is the first step. Implementing and carrying out a good plan is a different issue. Here is the plan that we use at our seven studios.
1. Give written or electronic “evaluations” to each and every single dancer for each of their classes in your studio. The dancer evaluations are like a report card. They make your studio more professional and they make the dancer and their parents feel special. They help each student feel valued and noticed, and they help with student improvement and focus. Yes, they take time, but isn’t each student worth about four to five extra minutes each season to ensure they return next season? Just do the math. Would you spend three to four minutes to earn $500-600 in tuition? Of course you would! We hand these evaluations to the dancers a few weeks before the schedule is published.
2. Be the first studio in your area to publish your summer and fall schedules. For us that means February for the summer schedule and late March for the Fall schedule. Some studio owners fear that publishing their schedule before the other studios in their area exposes the schedule to the very people they are competing with. That’s okay! Remember, you are going for RETENTION here, not new students yet. You must make sure that your existing students commit to your schedule first. This means beating everyone else to the punch. It’s absolutely critical. Plus, it makes you appear more prepared and professional.
3. Aggressively promote a “Registration Day” to your existing clientele. Registration Day is the first day where you will accept registrations for the new season(s). This internal promotion via email, posters, signs, social media and instructor’s in-class announcements starts the dancer’s parents thinking about next season.
4. Provide a special discount for students who re-enroll. For us this means that on Registration Day only, the registration fee is waived. For brand new students, the registration fee is discounted, but not free. You will be shocked to see that 50-60 percent of your students will all enroll on the first day that registration is open and a lot of new students will register because they’ve heard via word-of-mouth from their friends who are already enrolled. Since classes are “limited” in size, the first day of registration is the only way some students can ensure they get the teacher and the class day and time that they want.
5. To reduce/eliminate the possibility of a student enrolling in the wrong class level do two things: A) Manually enroll your “performing company” dancers into their ideal classes, but don’t charge them until they’ve given you the go-ahead. B) Provide “recommended classes” for each student in which to enroll next season. The best way to deliver this information is via the “dancer evaluation form” mentioned in Step 1 above. Simply list each class that you offer on the form and then “check mark” each class in which the student could/should enroll. Also, on the form, provide clear instructions on how a student can re-enroll. For us, this means reminding them of the first day of registration, the “call-to-action” promotion (i.e. Registration Fee Waived on such and such date), and a link to a page on our website where enrollment and payment is handled via our studio management software online/automatically.
With some planning, you too can ensure next season is your best ever, but you have to start now.
About Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson is an expert on administrative technologies for the dance industry and has been around the business for almost 30 years. His sisters were elite state champion gymnasts and dancers and his mother owned a dance studio and eventually a dancewear store. He managed the dancewear store for a few years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife, Tiffany, currently own and operate Twinkle Star Dance™ – an online choreography and curriculum system for recreational dancers ages 2-11; seven successful dance studios in Northern California (www.tiffanydance.com) and one in Southern California. Tiffany’s Dance Academy’s annual enrollment of over 4,500 students caused Paul to invent ways to automate most of the day-to-day business transactions that take up so much of a studio owner/instructor’s time. Paul’s goal has always been to smooth out the business side of the dance studios so that his wife can spend more time in the studio doing what she loves…teaching. Automating online registration and monthly automatic tuition payments was achieved eight years ago but perhaps the most revolutionary invention is his web-based application – CostumeManager.com.
For the past six years, Paul Henderson has worked tirelessly with most of the major costume and dancewear manufacturers to consolidate their catalogs into one searchable website. Developing relationships with these companies has been crucial to the success of CostumeManager.com and his efforts have paid off for studios all across the United States and Canada. By creating one searchable website, it is possible for a studio owner to browse all catalogs simultaneously, assign items that they like to a dance class, establish their profit margin, create an online store or print a color worksheet for dancers explaining how they can order their required and or/optional items online or via toll free telephone. Dancers purchase their items securely online and CostumeManager.com orders, receives, sorts and ships the individually packaged items to the studio owner. The studio owner or instructor cashes their “commission” check, hands the bags of goods to the dancer and goes back to teaching. CostumeManager.com eliminates 90% of the work and all the worry associated with distributing costumes and dancewear to dancers while preserving all of the profit margin…if not more.
Photo (top): © Antoniodiaz | Dreamstime.com.