Does Modern Jive needs a marketing strategy?

See New Postings below introduction

Some time ago I received an email about a longstanding class night that was struggling to stay viable, due to shrinking numbers. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard about disappointing attendances at classes and freestyles.

I couldn’t help think that Modern Jive was just like any business, in that it needed to attract new customers. New customers rarely walk in to a business by chance, and that’s why marketing is so important. Is it the same for Modern Jive?

As I visit an increasing number of Modern Jive venues, I see evidence of good marketing activity, but sadly I also see a lot of missed opportunities to promote venues. I would like to think that the good practise I see could help the wider modern jive community.

Each week I’ll aim to add a marketing topic to this posting. The postings will be a little ad hoc (the most recent will be at the top), but nevertheless I hope they will offer some ideas as to how modern jive can promote itself effectively, and so increase the number of people coming through its doors.

Ever Beginner holds the key to successful marketing

The sustainability of Modern Jive depends on a continuing throughput of Beginners. In this last posting on the subject of ideas to attract beginners, I’m going to suggest that the beginners themselves hold the key as to how to attract more of them.

I attend class nights on a regular basis and so I spot the newcomers in the lines. I’ll often ask them what brought them to the lesson. Their replies are very interesting, and illustrate the many different channels through which people arrive at their first lesson. Recognising these channels is an important part of developing a successful marketing strategy.

Some organisations ask new members to feel in forms giving their details. Some will ask the question ‘How did you find out about the class?’ I’d like to think that every organisation asks this question, whether formally on an application form or informally in the greeting. Having got this information, the answers should be examined with some thought, as to how they can be help develop the overall marketing strategy.

I suspect the most common answer is ‘I was brought by a friend’. I’ve mentioned in earlier postings the power of advocacy, and encouraging people to bring along a friend should be a major focus of any organisation. Please do not have ‘Bring a friend nights’, but there are ways you can encourage and incentivise people to bring along any friends who have shown an interest in joining a dance class.

Often it is colleagues from work who bring people along. Work places big or small offer plenty of opportunities to spread the word. There may be possibilities for people to put up posters in rest rooms or by the coffee machine. Again think about ways to incentivise these people who have already shown to be advocates for your classes.

One lady told me she had learned about the classes from her hairdresser. Need I remind you how we tell our hairdressers about every aspect of our lives. Imagine this conversation. ‘I’ve got to try to loose some weight, but Slimming World just doesn’t work for me.’ ‘What about the gym?’ ‘I tried it and it’s just no fun’. ‘One of my regulars goes to this dance class. She’s always telling me what fun it is. She goes twice a week now.’

In my last posting I wrote about the power of social groups. I learned about them when I asked another beginner what had brought her to the lesson. Again knowing this opens up a whole world of marketing opportunities.

I recently asked two new men how they had heard about the class. Both independently mentioned the internet. I started this series of postings by emphasising how important it is to come up in search engine listings. I also asked what they had actually searched for. One of the answers was particularly interesting -‘Easy partner dancing’. When developing your website think about the key words that people use when searching for things to do.

I’m often told that the key reason people come dancing is to improve their fitness levels. They may search for ‘Fun ways to get fit’. Remember people come dancing for lots of different reasons, and if you listen to why the existing beginners came to your lessons, you’ll get a whole load of ideas as to how you can attract even more new people. (Posted Tuesday 25 July)

I’m planning on taking a break from these postings about the marketing of Modern Jive – I’ve got lots of other stuff I want to write about – but I hope to continue the discussion in a couple of months time. When I return I’ll be discussing a strategy to keep beginners. Sadly the fallout rate is very high and there may be ways it can be reduced.

Networking with Social Groups

Sometime ago I was at a class night and noticed a lot of people with Beginners stickers. I asked the person on the door where they had all come from. The answer, more of which later, got me thinking and, after a little on line research, made me realise that there is a rich seam of people out there who are looking to socialise with like minded people and a lot of them would love to learn to dance.

When I started dancing, some eight years ago, I couldn’t help but notice that there were a lot of people from a social group called Focus. The aim of the group was to provide leisure activities for its members. Each member had to occasionally organise their own event, to which they would invite all the other members to attend.

One of the members was a modern jive dancer and organised a meet up at the dance class. I assume that for most of the people who came it was seen as a one off, but I suspect a number came back under their own steam and eventually became regulars. Over time other members also arranged a meet up at the dance class and it provided a continual flow of new people.

Focus is part of the IVC (Inter-Varsity Clubs) network (see link below), which has branches across the country. Interestingly it was set up by a group of Cambridge students who enjoyed the informal dances at their college. They wanted to meet up in the holidays so as not to miss out on their love of dancing.

There were also people at that dance class from Spice, another social group that organised get togethers. Dance classes are an ideal place to meet up with friends and have some fun.

The internet has spawned a lot of these social groups, and their success proves just how many people are looking for ways to meet like minded people. I’m sure when they attend their first meeting it’s not without a little anxiety, but I suspect these groups are very welcoming. Likewise it must be pretty stressful going to a dance class for the first time on your own – much better then to go with a group of friends.

So back to my beginners class with a lot of new people. It seems that the organiser of the class had made a link with a social group called Meet Up (see link below), which is one of the major players in on-line social groups.

I’m not sure exactly how Meet Up works and I think that there is some cost involved. The Meet Up website is a very useful place to start. In the screen shot below I searched for ‘Dancing’.

I was at the same class recently and I asked one of the newcomers what had brought her there. Again it was Meet Up and she pointed out her friend, who had also come from through this social group. Both ladies were really enjoying themselves and there is a good chance they will become regulars.

I am sure that it will be worthwhile learning a bit more about these social groups and how they function. They are designed to bring people together, who can then enjoy each other’s company doing something new and having a whole load of fun at the same time. Isn’t that what Modern Jive has to offer?

To find out more about the Social Groups mentioned please follow the links

IVC Groups: Of which Focus is one

Meet Up: The Social Group that is bringing a lot of people to dancing

Developing an Advocacy Culture

In my last posting I discussed the idea that one of the best resources for advertising dance lessons, might be the loyal advocates who are already actively promoting your classes to their friends. I also warned that these advocates shouldn’t be pressurised in to doing your promoting for you. Nobody has ever asked me to push their dance class, but even before I started my blog, I couldn’t stop myself enthusing about the fun I had to anybody who would listen.

The trick is to develop a culture of advocacy that will encourage more people to spread the word. Remember I am no expert on marketing, and the ideas I’m suggesting in this series of blog postings are not based on any research, but just my own observations of the good practice I see on my dance travels. This is certainly true of my ideas about developing an Advocacy Culture.

We all seem to have an innate need to be in some form of social group, and dance classes can and do meet this need for many people. The more we feel part of a group, like a dance class, the more likely we are to recommend it to our friends and acquaintances. Conversely we are not likely to recommend a lesson which you might perceive as unfriendly or overly cliquey.

Developing a culture that promotes advocacy is part and parcel of developing an ethos of inclusivity and loyalty within the dance class. As I travel round I am constantly impressed with the friendliness of venues – the rules that no on should refuse an offer of a dance and the ladies can ask the men helps promote a positive social environment, but I also sense that there are differing levels of inclusivity. Now this is difficult territory for me, the last thing I want to do is tread on people’s toes. The aim of this post is merely to get dance class proprietors to think how they can improve the levels advocacy.

It all starts on the door and the way people are greeted. I go to lessons where I’ve never been before, and I’m usually spotted as someone new. I’m often asked where I usually dance, and I’m made to feel very welcomed. Sadly that’s not always the case. Of course I’m only a one off visitor, it perhaps doesn’t matter if I don’t feel included, but the greeting at the door tells you a lot about a class’s ethos.

Another indication of the levels of a class’s inclusivity and loyalty is the number and quality of its Taxi or Crew members. That people want to give up their dance time to help out tells you a lot about the culture. Crew members are likely to be the best advocates in the group. I know that Crew members can be a cost, albeit a small one, to a dance business, but they are worth encouraging and investing in.

One way a proprietor of a dance class can build inclusivity and loyalty is to actively engage with all the people – beginners and experienced dancers alike. Seeing owners, teachers and even DJs dance with people of all levels is a great thing to see. Sometime ago I went to a freestyle outside of my regular area, and was struck by just how friendly it was. I was asked to dance by the organiser of the freestyle, who went on to explain that she would try to dance with every new face in the room, as she had with me. I am now a great advocate of this dance organisation.

Developing an inclusive culture and subsequent loyal following is no easy task, but when the reward is a whole group of people who will actively promote your dance class, it’s got to be worth all the effort. Please don’t think I’m saying that this isn’t already happening. All I’m suggesting is that proprietors of classes take some time to think of a variety of ways to develop even greater levels of loyalty. If you can the resulting growth in advocacy levels will bring its own rewards. (Posted Sunday 25 June) 

The best adverts are already in the room

Google Adwords and Facebook ads are a great way to generate interest in your dance classes, but there’s an advertising resource that’s already in the room. In fact this resource is probably already on the dance floor – it’s your core of loyal dancers. I feel so lucky that a friend took me along to my first Ceroc class all those years ago. I often wonder if I would ever have found this wonderful dance scene if my friend had not introduced me to it.

So thrilled am I to be part of this wonderful dance family, that I tell everybody about it. I know I’m not the only one who does this, because when I ask people why they first started dancing, many will tell me that they were told about it by a friend. These friends are the best advocates a dance organisation can have, and they have the potential to be the most effective form of marketing, but a word of warning.

These advocates come to dance classes to relax and enjoy themselves – they do not ever want to feel pressurised in to promoting the classes they look forward to each week. The last thing you want to do is have a ‘Bring a Friend Evening’. I doubt it would work and those people that didn’t bring a friend might feel alienated.

Developing a culture of advocacy is a more subtle thing. Remember it’s already having an impact. The first thing is to find out just how many people have brought along friends. I know of dance organisations who religiously ask new people why they’ve come along to their first class. I often wonder if they then follow this up by analysing this very valuable information. When someone says they came because of a recommendation of a friend, it’s not unreasonable to ask who the friend is. A simple thank you to that person is all that’s required.

Eventually you may become aware that one particular person is recommending your classes to quite a few people. That’s when it would be nice to reward them with say a free lesson or a freestyle ticket. There are many ways that advocates can promote your class nights, but it needs to be done in a thoughtful and gentle manner. (Posted Sunday 18 June)

In my next posting I’ll take another look at how you may be able to develop a culture of advocacy at dance classes. 

Ever thought about Facebook advertising?

In previous postings I’ve suggested that dance organisations should approach their search for new people to attend their dance classes, like a business seeking new customers. I’ve previously talked about how inexpensive Google AdWords are compared to the cost of printing and distributing leaflets. I’ve also suggested that they may be more effective than leaflets, as Google AdWords can engage with people at every stage of their deliberations about taking up dance lessons.

Facebook advertising is another powerful on-line marketing tool, and it can cost very little. Again I’m no expert on managing Facebook ad campaigns (so please excuse me if I get some of the detail wrong), but I’ve learnt enough to recommend that any dance organisation looks in to it further. As with Google AdWords you only pay when there is interaction with your ad.

Leaflets are a very wasteful way of advertising. You have to hope that they drop through the letter box of someone who is actually thinking about dance lessons. With a Facebook ad campaign you can target very precisely the people who you want to see your ad. Facebook remember, knows a lot about us. It perhaps knows more than we may feel comfortable about, but either way it knows enough to allow advertisers to target their messages very effectively.

Facebook knows where we live, it knows how old we are and may even have worked out what our leisure interests are. Facebook has this great insight in to our lives because of the things that we’ve ‘Liked’ and ‘Shared’ in the past. This means you can build a profile of your potential new recruits, and Facebook will put your advert in front of their eyes.

You may have several different profiles of people you may want to target, but here’s one to start with: they live within five miles from the class location. They are both male and female and are aged between 35 and 55. They must have an interest in dancing. Facebook will find these people for you – no need to go walking up their garden paths with a leaflet.

Here are some great advantages of Facebook ads over say Google AdWords. You can make them visually interesting by showing photos, and  videos on the actual ad. Like Adwords you can put links to your Website, but unlike Adwords you can put multiple links to other digital platforms such as your own Facebook or Instagram Pages. Like AdWords you can set a budget that you are comfortable with, and you can manage your account so you only pay for click-throughs.

There is one other advantage to Facebook ads. When a person ‘Likes’ your ad it, is then sent to all their friends with the tag Jane Smith Liked this. This viral expansion of your campaign costs you absolutely nothing.

So how much does this cost? Trust me not a lot, but you’ll have to get a quote from Facebook. I’m beginning to sound like a Facebook salesman, but I have absolutely no self interest here. I am merely putting ideas forward that might help dance organisations generate more interest in their dance classes. To find out more about Facebook advertising just click the link. (Posted Tuesday 13 June)

There are lots of ways that Facebook can help promote dance organisations, but next time I’ll talk about the marketing benefits of advocates for dance classes.

Saw you dancing on Facebook – looks like fun

In my last posting I looked at how photographs and videos have the potential to represent Modern Jive as a fun filled form of dancing. Today I want to look at one of the ways that photographs posted on peoples Facebook pages can generate interest in Modern Jive classes.

In my last posting I suggested that dance organisations should publicise photographs of people having fun at their dance classes and freestyles. Some organisations are very good at this, but sadly a large number don’t appear to see the value of it. When photographs of freestyles are posted on a dance groups Facebook page they are trawled over very quickly. We can’t help wanting to see photographs of ourselves. We hope that the photographer has caught our good side, and that the dance pose we are captured in, is mildly flattering.

When we do find a photograph that we are pleased with, it’s human nature to want our friends and family to see it too. This is the reason that so many dance photographs get shared to Facebook time lines. Many people in the Modern Jive community even use these photographs as their profile picture.

The wonder of Facebook means that these photographs now have a chance of being seen by seen by the people’s friends. The fact that so many of these photographs get Liked proves that they do make an impact. Seeing your friends having fun dancing yet again, can be the trigger to people deciding to give it a go themselves. ‘Saw your dancing picture. It looks like fun. So tell me again, where did you learn?’

One dance group, who monitor the reasons new people join up, tell me that seeing their friends having fun on Facebook is often the reason people give for arriving at their first dance class. A successful marketing strategy has to be a mix of many things, and utilising Facebook in this way should be a part of that mix (Posted Tuesday 6 June)

In my next posting I’ll be looking at ways that Facebook advertising can be very effective

Photographs will enhance any on-line marketing strategy

In a modern digital age it’s essential that dance classes, like any business, develop an on-line marketing strategy. Getting noticed on the internet is one major strand of that strategy, and I’ll be adding to my thoughts on how to do that in a later posting. Today I want to take a look at content.

When people land on a dance organisation’s website or Facebook Page, it is essential that they see videos and pictures of people dancing. It sounds obvious but I’m saddened to say that many don’t. Quite a few have videos of a teacher demonstrating the moves from the latest class, but I can’t remember seeing any videos of the class itself. I see photographs of empty dance halls, more than I see pictures of them full of people having a great time. This is very odd when you think that every single person has a camera on their phone.

People go to dance classes for many reasons. For some it’s simply to experience the joy of dancing, but others may have other motives. Two common reasons are to get fit, or to meet new people. Others just want a reason to get out the house and have a bit of me-time. There is however one common need of all these people, and that is that they want to enjoy it.

For a lot of people learning to dance sounds like hard work – they have seen numerous celebrities make fools of themselves on Strictly Come Dancing. God forbid the teacher at your chosen dance class is a Len Goodman character, who’s going to criticise every misplaced foot! Seeing people having fun at a Modern Jive class might just persuade them, that it’s a whole lot easier than Ballroom – which of course it is. The photograph below shows a packed hall being taught how to wiggle. Now that’s got to be more fun than learning to waltz.

There is one other way that photographs can really help. One of the biggest demographics groups at Modern jive classes are people between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five. Now I know it’s just as important to attract younger people, but this age group is a significant target market. For that reason it’s important that as many photographs as possible show people of this age group. The same applies to video. There are some fantastic professional videos out there promoting modern jive, but perhaps understandably they feature a lot of young people. This video produced by Ceroc Heaven is a much better representation of the age groups that go along to their classes and freestyles. (Posted Friday 2 June)

 

There are many other ways that photographs can be used in a marketing strategy to attract beginners. Next time I’ll look at the way that photographs posted on Facebook can generate interest in dance classes.

Getting to the top of Google search results

In my two previous postings I wrote about my surprise that Modern Jive dance classes have little or no presence on Google search results. I’d searched for dance classes in Nottingham, Oxford and Leeds and each time a map came up at the top of the listings showing the location of a great many dance classes. No modern jive class appeared on any of these maps. Before I started writing today I searched for Dance Classes in Newcastle upon Tyne. Pleasingly Newcastle Ceroc was shown on the map and after a couple of clicks I was on their website looking at details of their class nights. Hopefully every Modern Jive class will soon have a presence on these maps.

People do not suddenly make decisions to go to a dance class and turn up the next night. There is usually quite a time lag in the thought process – questions about the type of dancing, whether you fit the age group and worries about partners. Location of the class is another significant issue, as is the timings and cost. Several years ago I had wanted to learn Rock ‘n’ Roll. It took months of internet searching and trying out venues before I found the correct class. This is why it’s so important to have a presence on the Google search results.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that they rarely look beyond the first two pages of internet search results. Imagine then the benefit of being at the very top, and there is an easy and low cost way of getting there. It’s called Google Adwords. I doubt there is anyone reading this who isn’t familiar with Google Adwords, but that’s more of a reason to be surprised that no one, at least from my research is using it to promote Modern Jive Dance Classes. The screenshot below shows just how easy it is to get started.

Now I’m no expert on setting up a Google Adword campaign, but my limited knowledge tells me that it could cost as little as 5p to have someone click through to your website. That’s two hundred click-throughs for every £10 spent. That’s two hundred people visiting your website who are genuinely interested in learning to dance. Now compare that to the cost of printing leaflets, even without the cost of delivering them.

If you look at the screen shoot above, you will see that Google will give you £100 of advertising for your first £25 spend. That’s two thousand click-through’s for £25. Now I’m going to sound like a salesman for Google, which I am definitely not, but surely it’s worth a try. (Posted Wednesday 31 May)

Getting to the top of Google search results can only help any campaign to attract new people to Modern Jive classes. There are of course other cost effective ways to promote dance classes on line, and I’ll return to this theme in future postings.

That’s how to promote a venue

This latest post was meant to add to my discussion about getting to the top of Googles search results, but I just had to mention this posting I saw on the iDance Group Facebook Page.

For sometime I’ve been surprised that some dance organisations don’t publish photographs of people dancing at their venues. Its a missed opportunity. People who are looking to go to new freestyle venues, will check out dance organisation Facebook pages, to see if the freestyles are busy. The same applies to people who may be looking to go to a dance class. An image on Facebook showing a whole room of people doing a move in unison, at a lesson, is worth more than a whole lot of written description.

Last week Lilly of iDance posted this picture of their freestyle at the Boathouse in Evesham. Lilly’s six word caption said it all, but what I really loved about this Facebook posting was the fact that it got 32 Likes, 3 Comments and 1 Share. This tells you a lot about the engagement the iDance faithful have with their Group Facebook Page, and in turn tells you what a vibrant organisation iDance is.

On the iDance website there is a beautiful photo of the Evesham Boathouse on the banks of the River Avon. From the outside it looks a fabulous place to dance, but Lilly’s photo of people having fun really seals it for me, and makes me want to put it on my list of places to visit. (Posted Saturday 27 May)

There’s so much more I want to say about how Facebook can be used to promote Modern Jive, but I promise to get back to the Google discussion next time.

Are leaflet drops worth the effort?

When I ask modern jive organisations what brings new people to their classes they will often mention leaflet drops. From my feedback I don’t doubt that leaflet drops and flyers work, but I wonder if they give value for money, but more importantly, significant reward for all the time spent walking up people’s front gardens.

The big advantage of leaflet drops is that they can target the correct geographical area, but the problem is the catchment area of a dance class can be considerable. Lets assume a beginner is prepared to travel for fifteen minutes to a dance class. In an urban area that’s about three miles. The number of address within a three mile radius could be close to fifty thousand – that’s a lot of letter boxes.

Let me look for a moment at how a leaflet might work, when in the hands of a recipient. If that person has decided to join a dance class it has a chance of working. However the chances of the leaflet dropping through their letter box ,at a time to coincide with their deliberations about starting a dance class are very slim. People do not make these types of decisions quickly. The best you might hope for is that the recipient is thinking about dance lessons, and might save the leaflet for when they eventually make their mind up.

In my last posting (see below) I talked about people Googling for information about dance classes. The decision to start dance lessons may take some time. Then of course there’s finding out about the options. People love researching on-line, and the advent of the smart phone means they can do it on the bus to work, in their coffee break and even when they should be working.

My contention is that having an on-line presence gives dance organisations a chance, to be found at every stage of the deliberations, that people go through before actually settling on a dance class. In my last post I suggested that Modern Jive classes were missing opportunities to be found on line when people were searching for dance classes.

When you Google for a dance class in your area a Google Map comes up showing all the locations. Below is a list of these locations, and within this list is a box to add a new venue. It’s a fairly straight forward process and its costs nothing.

Putting yourself on this map gets your dance class to the top of the Google listings. Within the Google profile you can say more than you could ever say on a leaflet, but more importantly any potential customers are now just one click away from your website and Facebook pages. Once they are on your own exclusive page you can promote yourself with videos of your dance classes and photos of people actually having fun dancing. A leaflet can never do that. (Posted Wednesday 24 May)

Next time I’ll look at other low costs ways of getting to the top of the Google rankings.

It’s all down to attracting Beginners to Class Nights

I’ve said it so many times in this blog that the only way to sustain this wonderful dance scene is to attract and retain beginners. Its the same for class nights. You can reconfigure them as mid-week freestyles, but if there are no beginners coming through even these will eventually wither.

I’m always interested as to why people attend their first ever class night. One of the  most common reasons is that they are brought or recommended by a friend. This is a very important means of gaining new recruits, and in a later post I’ll look at the marketing issues around advocacy, but today I want to provoke some thought about digital marketing. Now there are thousands of books and articles written about this topic, so this 700 word posting is only going to scratch the surface, but it’s a start.

When ever we want anything, we ‘Google’ it. It’s the same for people who want to join a dance class. I searched for ‘Dance classes in Nottingham’ on my iPad (I chose Nottingham simply because it’s where I live).

The results are very interesting. When you expand the map it shows 20 dance class locations. Details of for these 20 locations are then listed below the map, where you can click through to get info, and a link to the organisations website. Nottingham is one of the strongest areas in the country for modern jive but surprisingly no class appears on this map.

Click the ‘More places’ down arrow and a further 45 locations are listed. In this secondary list a modern jive class does appear. I did this search for two other areas. In Leeds 62 classes are listed, in Oxford another 39. In a quick scan of these two lists I didn’t spot any Modern Jive classes listed in either city, however in the three areas there were quite a few Salsa classes and, I’m sorry I had to smile, several pole dancing classes.

When you delve a little deeper in to the Nottingham search results you do see Modern Jive classes listed. Below the map and the first three locations is a link to Netmums. The link takes you to a list, that does show all the Modern Jive classes in Nottingham, and you are able to click through to the organisations websites.

This exercise shows one very obvious fact – Modern Jive has a lot of competition. Not only must it compete against traditional ballroom dancing classes, it must pit itself against a whole manner of niche fun classes like Burlesque and even Pole Dancing. It is little wonder then that some classes may find it a struggle to attract new starters. With all this competition for people’s limited leisure time, I suggest that Modern Jive as a whole, and classes in particular, can’t flourish without a strategic marketing plan. (Posted Friday 19 May)

Next time I’ll look at how Modern Jive can get itself to the top of the Google listings at no cost.

To read the article that prompted me to look into the marketing of Modern Jive please click the link