Dance Marketing 101

Marketing. That word we associate with slick overpriced advertising firms on Madison avenue that push more and more junk in front of us.

That’s not what we need, right?

Right. Dance studios are generally small businesses that don’t have the time, budget or personnel to work like that, nor do we want to engage with our customers that way.

The traditional take on Marketing 101 is that there are 4 (sometimes 5) P’s. These are Product, Price, Place and Promotion, the fifth being Positioning.

Products are what you are selling. For dance studios this may be services like group classes, private lessons, wedding packages, or event performance. They may also include products you sell at your studio, dance shoes and clothing, DVDs, magazines, etc.

Price is how much you sell your products for. For dance studios this can range from inexpensive group lessons to thousand+ dollar products productions.

Place is where your products are selling. This may be a physical location, out of studio lessons, performances in your city. It also includes your demographics, who is buying your product and where you can find your audience.

Promotion is how you get your product in front of your market. We may think of ad pages in newspapers or bulletin boards but there are many ways to promote your products without relying on traditional advertising.

Positioning is where your product fits in your customers minds. This has a lot to do with perception, branding and engagement. Are you the high-end wedding package dance studio? Are you the corporate event performance dancers? Are you the community space for dancers, students and people to gather?

So where do we start out of all of these Ps?

Let’s use an example dance business that we’ll call Urban Jump.

Urban Jump is a small collective of young adult modern, hip hop and break dancers who get together regularly to practice and trade skills. They rent space out for practices. They’ve been asked on occasion to perform at various events and are looking to establish a more solid reputation as performers as well as branch out into teaching group classes in their particular styles of urban dance.


Look at what products (that includes services, goods, etc.) that your business provides.

Urban Jump is looking to provide two different products: event performance and group classes.

Event performances have been usually five to fifteen minute gigs for organizations, community events, and companies that their members have been involved with in the past.

Group classes are new to Urban Jump but will most likely target young adults who are looking to learn basic hip hop, modern and break dance.

Have a core product that your business provides – for Urban Jump they want it to be their event performances.

What is your dance businesses core product?

Have supplementary products that can feed off your core product – Urban Jump is going to teach group classes to supplement their performance income.

Supplementary products are the little bit extra that can make ends meet on tight months or give your dance business a bonus to invest in itself.

What supplementary products can your business sell?


Placing your products means doing some research.

Urban Jump is looking to target large corporate events for performance with their core product.  There are a couple other local dance groups that do similar event performance so the market is existing but not saturated. Urban Jump currently has been getting 1 to 2 gigs a month on average before deciding to pursue it as a business.

Their target market is corporate event producers and the demand is definitely present if an unofficial troupe is getting 1 to 2 gigs a month.

What is your target market?

How much money do they have to spend? Where are they located? What kind of value do they place on your product? What are their values?

What is the demand for your product?

Are there a lot of similar products that saturate the market?


Similar to place, positioning will involve some research and some decisions on how you want your products to be perceived.

Urban Jump wants to be a professional performance group. Their work is polished and strong and they’ve always been exceptionally timely working with event producers.

They want to have a professional and smooth relationship with customers and don’t want to haggle over cost.

They should make sure their promotion and pricing reflects this.

Positioning has to do with where you want to be perceived in the mind of your customer. Are you the high end brand that works professionally, looks good and delivers on time? Are you the budget group that gets it done?

These decisions go a long way in establishing your price point and determining how you will market yourself. Good example: Apple Computers vs. HP.


Pricing your products requires a bit of finesse and experimentation but using research of placing and your investigation on positioning will help you determine your sweet spot.

Urban Jump’s principal market is corporate event performance. These events usually involve a good amount of money for production and producers are willing to spend money for a good show.

Urban Jump is new on the scene so it’s unlikely they’ll be able to command top dollar although competition is not fierce and demand is there so prices aren’t driven down by saturation.  Competitive products average around $100 an hour per dance.

They could start by asking for $100 an hour per dancer for their event performances keeping in line with their position.

What are competitive products priced at?

Look at similar dance businesses and see what they are charging for similar products. How would you place your products in comparison to theirs.

Combined with your market research and the demand for your product, you will be able to more easily identify price points that work for your product.

Be aware that competing for the bottom price point is a losing game usually, someone can always undercut you in the long run. Don’t race to the bottom.


Now that you have your pricing, your products, your place and position, it’s time to get your products in front of your market.

Urban Jump needs to reach out principally to corporate event producers for their core product.

Their first move is to let events and event producers they’ve worked with in the past that they are officially open for business, then contact other event producers to let them know.  This could be a press package including a demo reel of compiled footage and basic information about services.

Having a professional website with media and contact information along with business cards would be a good place to start.

How does your target market get their information for products like yours?

Are they web savvy, on Facebook and Twitter? Do they rely on classified ads and event listings to find dance classes? Or are they used to traditional press packages from performance groups.

Have the basics.

This means have a website, have basic promotional materials like business cards and flyers, and make it easy for people to pass this information around.

It’s easy to have the basics these days and quite affordably for many small businesses. Don’t neglect them.

Put up your shingle.

Nobody knows you’re open for business until you tell them. Hell, tell everybody. You’ll never know when a simple referral will get you a new client and it doesn’t help to keep quiet about it.

Have any questions about dance marketing 101 for your dance business?

Please contact me with any questions you have or if you want professional help with marketing your dance business.

The Session Shuffle & Cashflow Blues

Running a dance business can be a constant hustle from session to session, riding on the fortune and famine of staggered registration income.

Each session money comes flowing in as students sign up at the beginning of your series and then you’re left to budget and manage till the next round of signups.

As classes finish up you bite your nails and wonder will the next session fill up so you can pay for the studio space.

You’ve got the Cashflow Blues.

While this rhythm is inevitable to some extent with any studio or dance business that schedules classes as series, it can be mitigated with a little fruitful planning.

Drop-In Classes

As instructors it’s rewarding to have students work through the progression that series classes offer.  They learn faster, receive consistent guidance, and classes develop a social bond.  It’s also confirmed income, which provides more security for the class.  However, not everyone is able to commit to a full length series.

Running drop-in classes gives students unable to commit to longer series a way to participate, new students a way to test your classes, and adds a little something extra in the budget every week.

Scheduling drop-in classes before a dance or open studio time adds some of the social element back in which helps create a stronger community.


It’s great to bring in big name instructors and host full-on weekend extravaganzas every once in a while.  They also bring outside talent to your local scene, keeping it current with what is going on in the wider world of dance.  But they require a great deal of planning and more outlay in terms of money

However, mini-workshops are a great way to boost your bank account and your community.  Mini-workshops are smaller one-day intensives around a specific topic.  It’s a great way to focus on a topic that wouldn’t necessarily be included in a regular series or wouldn’t be able to fill out a whole series of its own.

Mini-workshops are also exceptionally easy to tailor to specific levels.  If you don’t offer high-level instruction and focus primarily on beginner and intermediate technique, they can be a good place to target the more advanced dancers in your community.  Or vice versa, a mini-workshop can be a way to offer an intensive introductory class to get people started.

Open Studio Time

For those dance studio owners who operate out a single space full time, having an open studio time slot where individuals can use the space for a small fee is a good way to capitalize on the all of that unused studio time.

Depending upon your city, good dance studio space can be hard to come by so offering open studio time where individuals can drop in to use the space is a boon to those working on a choreography or wanting to practice.

It may not be a major money maker but it reinforces your studio as a friendly and encouraging space for your dance community.

Private Lessons

Hopefully you already offer private lessons, but if you don’t you should probably start yesterday.

Private lessons are a boon to your teachers, your studio and your students.  Teachers are able to hone their individual feedback and critique skills while earning a good hourly wage. Students receive valuable one-on-one instruction and get to interact on a more personal level with instructors.  Your studio benefits from the improvement of the students, the teachers, and the use of the space.

Whether your studio rents space to teachers for private lessons, takes a cut of the rate, or offers it free to studio teachers, you’re reinforcing the whole community chain when you include private lessons in your curriculum.

Sell A Product

Whether you keep a supply of dance merchandise on hand, DVDs for sale or offer an online service for students, having a product to sell that doesn’t rely on studio time divorces income from time and teachers.

Developing a product may not be the standard for dancers and dance studios, but it creates another revenue stream for your dance business and offers more valuable content to your community.  Spend time researching the kinds of products your students would be interested in, ask them what they’d want that would improve their dance experience.


Last but definitely not least, having good financial planning and budgeting will keep your books in the black even with the cashflow blues and session shuffle.