Enrolling a new student isn’t always easy – regardless of how automated and quick it may be to now implement your student attraction marketing plan through Facebook ads, digital marketing and offline strategies, it still costs you time and money to get each and every new student through your doors and enrolled in your classes.
The last thing you want to do after this expense is to have your students slip away in the first few weeks.
But it does happen, and this is why perfecting your ‘new student onboarding’ process is such a crucial element of retaining as many students as you possibly can while creating a raving fan-base of families who recommend your studio every chance they get.
Believe it or not, on average it only takes 6 weeks for a new enrolled student to make the choice to stay or go. The good news is that you can take this into your own hands and by giving them the best possible introduction to your studio and customer service that ‘wows’ you will be able to see those retention rates (the percentage of students you keep) soar.
So, how do you ‘onboard’ your students successfully?
Step 1 – Recognize exactly what every new student will need to know when they enrol, and ensure this is all provided in your friendly ‘welcome email’.
These things may include their class schedule, teacher’s names, payment information, access to your online portal or studio app, an invitation to your closed Facebook group, important dates, costuming information etc.
A great way to do this may be attaching a studio handbook to your first email, with the most pertinent details also listed in the email body.
The simpler the better – nobody wants to read a 10 page email when they sign up for something, so bullet points and hyperlinks are your friend. Having the handbook attached is an invaluable resource that they can refer to whenever they need, without necessarily reading it from cover to cover.
Step 2 – Mix things up a bit. Sure, you can send an email every week in the first 6 weeks to check in, but you already know that they probably won’t all get read. How can you deliver a ‘pattern interrupt’ that will ensure your students will take notice of what you have sent without it blending into the white-noise of their daily onslaught of emails?
Luckily there are loads of ways!
Snail mail, a phone call, a recorded voice message that you can embed in your email, a video ‘tour’ or message in the email, welcome pack, or link to a Facebook Live video that you’ve saved. Think outside the box a bit so you can get their attention in week 2 and calm any of the nerves or questions that may be kicking in.
Step 3 – Go deeper. In your first emails / calls / videos, you’re addressing the immediate needs and wants of your new student. You’re giving them exactly what they need to have a smooth start to their time with you and answer all of their questions, but in week 3 it’s time to go a bit deeper and help them to become invested in your studio’s culture.
Send an email outlining your story – why you do what you do, what you value, and how your studio has evolved. Knowing your business more intimately is key in getting all of your students to be proud and involved in your vision too.
Step 4 – Highlight progress. Students and their parents LOVE to see or hear about how they are progressing in class, and waiting for the end of year recital or concert can be a very long wait for a new student! Check in with an email or phone call to let your student or their parent know of 3 things that they have developed or improved in their time so far.
These don’t even need to be technical elements – it could be confidence, leadership, compassion, creativity.
Set up a system with your staff to jot down some improvements in each student’s 4th week (this could go in the class rolls as an easy reminder) and create a simple template for your admin team to simply fill in the blanks and hit ‘send’. Photos of the student in class are a great addition to the progress report, especially if it is one of your cute younger classes!
Step 5 – Checking in. This is simply a quick call to check in on your new student and give the parents another chance to ask any burning questions that have come up since they joined. Have their information on hand, and in this call you can address anything that you can see still needs to be done on their end (for example, join the Facebook group, buy ballet shoes, order a uniform, purchase concert tickets, pay an outstanding bill)
Step 6 – Transitioning them out of the ‘onboarding’. It’s week 6, and they are still coming to class.
Now you need to transition them into your ‘normal’ studio communications so that they can stay up to speed snow that they have all of the necessary background information they could possibly need. Set them up in your newsletter mailing list and regular correspondence so that they are now fully transitioned out of the onboarding stage, and are now a long-term member of your dance family.
If you’d like more resources and templates for growing your dance studio to become the ‘go-to’ studio in your area, we’d love to see you inside the Dance Studio Owners Association.