Expert tips on marketing during a global crisis—and an ever-changing business landscape
It’s easy to come up with excuses not to spend time and money on marketing right now.
You may have lost revenue due to cancelled classes and store closings and need to be tight with your budget. You may fear appearing opportunistic during a global crisis. You may worry that your customers just don’t have any money to spend right now.
While these are all understandable, they miss the larger point: Marketing is ultimately about building relationships with your community, says Gretchen Fox, CEO and founder of MTO Agency. And these relationships matter more now than ever—especially within our tight-knit dance community.
We talked to the experts at MTO about best practices for marketing during difficult times, and the trends that all dance businesses should be paying attention to right now. And to get even deeper into your questions about everything from boosting your fall enrollment to shifting your retail store to e-commerce, join us for a (free!) live webinar with MTO, June 25 at 3 pm ET.
Put your values (and your value) first.
There’s a reason why you’re probably turned off by certain commercials you’re seeing during this time. As a consumer, it’s obvious when a brand isn’t being genuine in their marketing, says Arielle Mullen, strategic marketing specialist at MTO. (For example, a corporation that spends millions on a commercial thanking its employees, when we know from the news that those same employees aren’t being treated fairly.)
Instead, focus on what really matters to you as a brand, and let that come through in all your marketing. “Make sure your values are where you are grounded,” says Fox. “They are the number-one reason why we connect with each other, and people are more and more making their purchasing decisions based on values. It’s a way to stand out.” Are you driven by helping dancers perform at their best? By bringing quality dance performances to the most people possible? By providing dancers and dance educators with the tools they need to succeed? Know what your values are, and communicate them clearly.
In addition to leading with your values, focus on the value you’re offering, says Mullen. You have something worthwhile to share—whether a helpful, quality product, a fun, educational class, or an exciting, enriching performance—and being clear about that will help you avoid coming across as opportunistic.
Raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing the phrase “uncertain times.” How about “unprecedented”?
Instead of telling potential customers what they already know—and overusing language that’s become cliché around the current crisis—tell them about how you’re looking to the future. “Share what your vision is or how you’re working to build new things,” says Fox. “We need some light at the end of the tunnel. We need some leadership, some hope and some orientation right now.”
Promoting your innovative virtual class offerings or giving your community a peek at your safe and creative plan for reopening your retail store can give everyone something to look forward to.
Be sure to also look ahead to any prescheduled promotions—perhaps around summer intensives or sales—and make sure your language and framing still feel appropriate given the circumstances, says Mullen.
Market smart, not hard.
Effective marketing doesn’t have to cost you lots of time and money. In fact, paying attention to trends can save you both.
For example, Mullen says that since the beginning of the pandemic, Facebook has seen a significant drop in ad spending—which means that those who do spend see their money go further. “Lots of small businesses reacted out of fear and pulled way back,” she says. “It means the competition isn’t there right now. That won’t last forever, but we’re seeing higher click-throughs, engagements and delivery than we’ve seen in the past few years.”
Paying close attention to Google Trends, too, can help you keep track of what consumers are interested in right now. Mullen says that keywords and phrases have been fluctuating more rapidly than usual during this time.
And in general, focus on making the highest impact in the leanest way possible with a minimum viable product, says Fox—whether you’re trying out marketing on a new social platform or launching a video series. That way, she says, you can learn what works before overbuilding an idea and wasting time and money. “If people take that approach to their resources, that’s better than me saying, ‘Spend money here. Spend money there,’” she says.
See marketing as change management.
The pandemic has forced most small-dance-business owners to rethink their entire business models.
Instead of thinking of marketing as an extra thing you have to do on top of all this, understand that marketing is an essential part of any organizational change.
“Relationships matter a lot as we’re transitioning as companies,” says Fox. “Marketing is the tip of the sphere for change management for an organization.”
Whether you’re pivoting from classes in the studio to classes online or outside, or from in-person sales to e-commerce, communicating these changes to your community is essential.
Want more expert insight on running your dance business during this time? Join us June 25 at 3 pm ET for a free webinar with MTO. Bring your questions—big and small—on everything from attracting new students to getting your virtual classes up and running to making the most of limited resources.
Lauren Wingenroth is the editor in chief of Dance Teacher and Dance Business Weekly.