When In Doubt, Simplify (part 1)

This is part one in a 3-part series about simplifying the workflows at your studio.

Any studio owner can tell you that a class management career is chaotic. You handle students & parents, instructors, employees, payments & payroll, building expenses, maintenance, and anything else that pops up (surprise!). Juggling this laundry-list of variables can be highly stressful for most people.

My blanket advice when someone is stressed out by their business is this: “When in doubt, simplify”. Of course that’s easier said than done. How? How can I simplify things and still continue to better my product and grow my business, you ask?

There’s good news: even if you run a tight ship and are wildly successful, there are likely some opportunities to simplify things and allow the business to run more smoothly, reducing your stress levels in the process.

Give Your Customers Fewer Options

Yep, you read that right. It’s not a typo. Give people fewer options.

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? You want to provide anything and everything to your customers. You want to satisfy their needs so they keep coming back. You should bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy, right?

Not exactly.

When you start adding options onto your core offerings, you’re likely doing it to satisfy customer requests. Nothing wrong with that in theory: “the customer is always right” and you’re a conscientious business owner. Problems occur, though, when these isolated customer accommodations start to pile up over time. Here’s an example:

Studio A wanted to reward their current students by offering a 20% discount for enrollment in the next term. They added the stipulation that the student would have to take 2 classes in order to qualify for the discount.

20% off next term for current students!


A few weeks later, a brand new family showed up and inquired about nabbing the discount as well. The studio owner wanted to accommodate this request, so she agreed to a 10% discount for new families.

10% off next term for new families!


The next week a parent came to the studio because her oldest daughter was already a student, but her younger daughter was just starting, and the older daughter was only going to take 1 class while the younger daughter was going to take 3. She thought they should qualify for some kind of discount, given their loyalty to the studio and the fact that their tuition bill (4 classes total) was quite high. The studio then adopted a sibling discount of 25% for a brand new sibling, and 20% for a sibling that had taken classes before.

Now Offering Sibling Discounts!
25% for existing families, 20% for new families :)


Another new parent came in wanting to sign her daughter up for 6 classes, but wondered why her discount was only 10% when a different family that enrolled in 4 classes got a 20% discount just because a sibling was involved. After all “I’m spending a LOT more money than them!”

Taking more than 5 hours? Inquire about a volume discount.


Then a family asked about their 3rd sibling. What about her?

More than 2 siblings? Inquire within.


Then a NEW family inquired about stacking the new family discount on top of the sibling discount.

Some discounts stackable. Inquire about eligibility.


You can see where this is going.

So, what’s the problem here? Sure there are many options now, but how is it a bad thing that the studio was responsive to its customers in this way?

There’s just too many variables to handle (while retaining your sanity, anyway). You’re like a juggler adding balls to his act until he drops them all. By letting the discounts snowball the way they did, the studio put itself in an unwieldy situation. They are over-saturated with options now, and managing those options has become a job and takes up valuable administrative time. Because of their muddled discount policies, the studio:

  • Spends admin hours training & retraining staff on this complicated policy
  • Spends admin hours articulating the policy correctly on their website, emails, forms and marketing materials
  • Frustrates their customers who don’t understand the complex policy initially
  • Spends time fielding calls & emails explaining the policy to frustrated customers
  • Spends time calculating the discounts correctly for each individual registration
  • Lengthens the registration process unintentionally
  • Incorrectly discounts some people due the complexity of the policy, then backtracks and issues refunds later
  • Opens itself up to mistakes in other areas because of the distractions this policy creates

And so on.

This example is somewhat severe, but it’s isolated. Just imagine if there were several different workflows at the business with similar complexity. Suddenly we’re talking about managing burned-out employees and customers and a business that can’t sustain its client base.

Finding a solution to the problem above (or something similar) can be difficult. I like to start by thinking back to the core principals behind the policy. Why are we doing this? What are the main goals here?

In this case, the goals can be articulated thusly:

“We want to offer discounts to our customers to incentivize new signups and continuity, while making sure the policy is fair for all.”

Every studio is different, but having outlined the goal, I would do something like this:

For Next Term:
New customers receive 20% off family tuition of $500 or more!
Existing customers receive 10% off family tuition of $500 or more!

Simple, fair and addresses your goals. It won’t confuse your customers or staff, and it’s easy to articulate on a form.



Matt Conway is the founder of ClassBug, the easiest way to manage a studio and sell classes online. He writes code, plays music and acts as a consultant for performing arts schools.

Published on 04/03/2015 at 17:23 by Matt Conway, tags , , ,

3 Ways You'll Boost Revenue By Selling Your Classes Online

Whether you run a dance school, yoga studio, karate center or after school enrichment program, you’ve probably spent precious time brainstorming ways to increase your enrollment. You’ve advertised in the local paper, become more active on social media, and offered promotional pricing and special discounts. Perhaps you’ve stood outside your building twirling a comically large arrow. Point is, you’ve done everything you can think of to attract more business. Well, if you’re not providing a way for customers to buy and register for classes online, you’re overlooking what should be the most important part of your growth strategy.

Providing an online registration and sales portal has historically been tough to implement and therefore easy to ignore. After all, successful studios 20 years ago didn’t use online reg and they turned out just fine, right? Well, the landscape has changed. More than ever, in this age of technology, customers clamor for the convenience associated with online registration and sales. As someone who’s worked in this space for some time, I estimate that simply providing an easy online registration option should increase your sales 10% or more the first year. That’s at least $20k additional revenue for a business that normally pulls in $200k.

But how? Here are the top 3 ways providing online class sales and registration will increase your revenue:

1) You’ll convert casual website visitors into paid customers:

Ok, let’s say on any given week, you have 10 visitors to your website who know little or nothing about your business. Perhaps they found you on a Google search, or perhaps they drove by your storefront and decided to check you out. These 10 people are represented in the image below:

For simplicity’s sake, we’ve placed these 10 people into 3 categories:

1- strong interest in your product (green)
2 - mild interest in your product (blue)
3 - no interest (grey)

The grey folks probably click on one or two things and quickly get distracted and check their email and end up on Facebook…. and never return to your site, sadly. Happens to the best of us.

The green folks will not be deterred. They love your website and what you have to offer. They instantly connect with your product, click on lots of pages, read all of the registration info, and pick up the phone and call you right on the spot to inquire about signing up. Whew! This is a converted customer! We love these people, but they are rare.

The blue people are the most intriguing. They have varying degrees of interest, but none of them are ready to follow through with the typical reg process. The blue people represent most of your website’s visitors. They have good intentions, but many of them will never return to your site or your store (what’s that old saying about good intentions??).

Common things the blue people tell themselves…

  • I’m busy now. I’ll check it out another time.

  • I like this place, but I should talk to my spouse before making a call.

  • Looks good, but I want to shop around.

  • Looks good. Hey… Facebook!

  • I’m intrigued… but the studio wants me to call them, then download a reg form and print it and fill it out and fax it back and wait in line for an hour at the space?? I’ll get around to it later.

And on and on and on. There are always a million reasons not to do something, and the blue folks are experts at referencing most of them.

Here’s the thing: people respond to convenience. The smartphone age has ushered in some amazing advances in information sharing, but it has also shortened our attention spans. Folks around the world are buried in their phones and tablets and most want to be presented with easy, quick solutions. Allowing your website visitors to register online in 5 minutes will absolutely convert some of those blue folks to paid customers.

Suddenly, your 10 person sample looks like this:

Look! Two greens!!


Providing an easy online registration option should increase your sales 10% or more the first year.

2) Happier customers, better word of mouth

Your customers will appreciate the convenience of online reg, and it will pay big dividends for your biz. We’ve found that 80% of potential customers prefer online registration over conventional methods. It’s a pretty simple formula, really:

Happier customers = better word of mouth = more sales


Clearly, word of mouth is a powerful marketing asset. The greatest businesses always have happy customers and strong word of mouth. Let’s focus in on an example of how your registration process impacts WOM:

3 local moms are out having lunch one day. Mom #1 is looking for a recommendation for a dance studio to enroll her child…

Mom #2: “We like our studio. They have a nice facility and the instructors are great. The registration process, however, is brutal! We download forms from their website, print them, fill them out, drive to the space, then wait in line an hour or two on the first day of registration. I have to take time off of work just to enroll my daughter.”

Mom #3: “ We love our studio! They have a nice facility and the instructors are great. They have online registration. Took me 5 minutes to enroll my daughter sitting in my pajamas.”

All else being equal… which studio do you suppose Mom #1 will choose?

3) Compounds your other marketing efforts

You’ve invested in other marketing channels. You’re motivated to find ways to increase enrollment. You will do whatever it takes to make your business as successful as possible. You are inspired, and actively looking for solutions.

Advertising in a local parenting magazine, for example, can be a great tactic to increase your studio’s visibility. The question, though, is what happens when a reader sees your ad? Do they pick up the phone right there? Will they drive to your space and sign up? Not typically. Most times they’ll go to your website first.

The takeaway here is that any marketing is successful these days if it increases visitors to your website. And since the goal (whether you’ve considered it or not) is to drive traffic to your site, you will then compound your marketing efforts by providing a great online experience for your web visitors. Part of that, as we discussed, is allowing them to register and pay online without much friction.

Matt Conway is the founder of ClassBug, the easiest way to manage a studio and sell classes online. He writes code, plays music and acts as a consultant for performing arts schools.

Published on 01/16/2015 at 05:35 by Matt Conway, tags , , , , , , , ,

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