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To trial or not to trial

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Trial classes can be a great way to attract new students but studio owners are often hesitant due to the amount of admin that goes hand-in-hand with keeping track of every one.

As a studio owner, you've probably been there. You need to boost your numbers so someone suggests you should offer free trial classes. You advertise and are overwhelmed with messages, enquiries and bookings from new students. It seems too easy - a couple of simple social media posts and you've added 20-30 new families who have booked to come along and try a class or two.

"Brilliant," you think to yourself, "even if only half convert to paying students then that's a definite win." But what follows is piles of emails and phone calls as you chase your new leads up in an effort to enrol them, rebook for students who couldn't attend their trial class and follow up with those who didn't show up at all. It's exhausting on top of everything else that's on your plate.

For busy studio owners, it can seem the admin that goes along with offering the ubiquitous "free trial" is hardly worth the one or two new students who end up enrolling.

But there ARE ways you can manage your trial class program that don't require piles of paperwork AND attract the right types of families to your studio.

Free vs Paid Trials

Ask any studio owner who has tried free trial class and they'll tell you to be prepared for a large number of no-shows or parents who take your "free" offer for granted and just bring their kids with no real intention of following through and signing up.

It's true that some studios have amazing success with free trials but if you don't want to go down that route, you can charge a nominal fee for the class and advise parents that the trial class fee they have paid will be credited to their tuition if they enrol.

You could also think about changing what you call your trial classes. A lot of studios now go with "introductory classes" to help re-frame how potential view the experience. They're not "trialling", they're beginning their journey as a student at your studio.

Single class vs one week unlimited pass

When considering your trial class offering, another thing to think about is if students are limited to trying one or two classes or if you want to offer them an "unlimited class pass" for a set amount of time.

This decision can depend on the type and number of different classes you offer at your studio and, to an extent, what the student is interested in. One idea is to offer both options - a student can book an introductory ballet class for $10 or - if they want to try jazz and tap too - they can purchase an unlimited class pass for $25.

This is great for upselling students who "might" want to try other styles and works particularly well if your timetable allows students to do several classes on one afternoon.

Make booking easy

No matter how you structure your trial class program and pricing, the most important thing is that it's easy for potential students to book and pay for their trial.

Many of the more popular dance studio management software programs (think Jack Rabbit, Dance Studio Pro etc.) have built-in trial booking forms but if your platform doesn't offer that, other options include Google Forms or a scheduling software such as Acuity.

Ensure your website and any advertising you do around your trial or introductory classes include a clear call to action with easy-to-follow instructions and links. You might even like to include a screen recording so families can see exactly how easy the process is.

How to convert

Once you've gotten the student into the studio, make sure the experience is memorable for them! Ensure both your front desk team and teaching staff are aware of any new students you're expecting each day.

It seems obvious but new families will not know where to go or who to talk to when they first arrive at your studio. By asking your front desk team to greet them at the door, you will instantly give new families opportunity to ask those questions. You want the first emotion that your new families feel to be joy/happy/excitement, not lost/confused/scared.

Don't forget to get your front desk team to show them around the studio - including the bathrooms! - and then when it's class time introduce them to their class teacher and, if possible, some of their classmates. While the student is taking the class, ensure your front desk team are available for questions in the reception.

After the class, it's a great idea to get the class teacher to pop out to give some quick feedback and then hand over to the front desk team to pass on any relevant information and give families who are ready to register the opportunity to do so.

Don't forget to follow up after a day or two to see if there any more questions and this can also be a great time to create some urgency in registering: “We are measuring students for costumes soon so if you are interested in registering, we recommend doing so in the next couple weeks.”

And remember if they don’t register now, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Keep them in the loop by adding their email to your newsletter list.


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