To do or not to do. Is that a question?
Advertising is critical for many businesses, but spending precious dollars on ads that don’t work is a waste. What are the best ways to target your audience? This post addresses common ideas, but your own experience may guide you in other directions. Consider this a starting point for your imagination.
First of all, find a way to track how new clients found you. That should be a question on any New Student Application Form. Unless you gather this information, there’s no way to tell where exposure ads value, and where “cutting losses” makes sense. There is considerable value in polling current students to find how they learned about your studio, too.
Most have a section in the Want Ads for teaching, lessons, music, etc. Key Question: How likely are clients in search of a teacher to look there? Not very in my experience, and the question is always “what day do I run the ad?” In addition, many papers now bundle internet ads and secondary publications (Suburban News for West Smithville, for example), something they can use to raise billing rates.
Here’s the catch: Internet presence often ties to visiting the paper’s web site, it may hold less value since it’s not necessarily that visible. This is, of course, a personal opinion. Dropping circulation for your local paper might also play a role in your decision, as would geographic spread of the paper. In a large city, will people seeing the ad drive across town for over an hour so their children can study at your facility if there’s a studio closer to home? If not, part of your ad dollar is wasted.
One option you could consider could be a display ad targeted at specific times. Perhaps a “Welcome Back To School” ad on a page listing school sports schedules for the upcoming year? An ad before the holidays inviting January students and including a discount? It makes sense to research issues over the past year or two at the library and see which section and timing make sense before investing in a display ad.
Weekly Entertainment papers
Consider smaller publications… the ones listing dining reviews, concerts, clubs and so forth. Again, consider target audience. What’s the circulation? How is it distributed… racks at coffee shops? Stores? Would the people likely to pick it up fit your client profile? Are the distribution locations near your studio?
This poses an interesting conundrum, since there are multiple products out there touting their wares. My son bought an ad for his painting company in one of the “off brand” products, it brought in zero business. Another factor is ensuring your ad is listed under the right topic. Again, look through current publications.
Is the best heading Dance? Ballet? Studio? Instruction? How about: Karate? Martial Arts? Self-Defense? Some books cross-reference (Karate: see Martial Arts), others do not.
Phone book type ads can be expensive. They do stay around for a year, that’s one benefit. As part of your decision process, review what the competition does and which vendor they’ve chosen. Does price include a business listing? What’s the cost of listing in bold? Graphics? Colors? Is there an electronic edition (I can request Yellow Pages on CD in my area), is inclusion automatic?
These sometimes reach the right audience, but be sure they look professional. Are there studios for other skills you can trade postings with? Maybe there are coffee shops near your studio? How about informal dining establishments? Often they’ll have bulletin boards for posting. There are two factors to keep in mind: Make sure to ask for permission, and take a look at the board so you know the size and format most likely to remain in place. It’s also worth looping back periodically to re-post if needed, maybe to restock business cards or contact cards if that’s part of your post.
This is hard to quantify. Commercial vendors spread ads across a block of time, that can get expensive. Explore your local public radio station. They often have a “day sponsor” program where for a fixed amount you can get mentioned multiple times. Do it at the right time of the year (just before the school year starts?), there’s a chance your message will be heard. Parents who care enough to have their children take lessons could be fans of public radio.
Perhaps one of the least effective media per dollar, though managing a free spot as an informational interview is worth pursuing. Watch to see if there is a noon or weekend morning show featuring local items.
Come up with a topic to share so you’re not just proposing a “free commercial,” contact the station and be prepared to work your way onto the list of possible stories. I’ve been involved in media pieces where the decision took 2 months, then filming, it was 3 months later before it aired. That may be a extreme, but “a news story always trumps a public interest spot.”
in trade advertising
Maybe you can get in a publication if you give them something in return. Use your imagination, but be aware there may be tax implications for “in kind” arrangements. Consult your financial planner on this one.
Where, When, Cost, How Effective
Keep track of your advertising expenditure, map it to students, and maximize your ad dollars.