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For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been sharing lessons learned from our #roadtriptorally. It was a 3100+ mile, 11-day adventure to attend the 2017 More Than Just Great Dancing Member Rally in La Crosse, WI. Today’s blog is installment #3 for our new series dedicated to Marketing, #marketingmondays.

 

If case you missed the first two installments, you can check them out here:

#marketingmondays #1

#marketingmondays #2

 

Today’s lesson is all about first impressions and why they are way more important than we may realize.

 

Over the span of 11 days, we interacted with dozens or businesses. And it’s truly fascinating to watch how businesses are run from the other side of the “front desk.”

 

Lesson #1: It matters who answers the phone

 

Before embarking on our trip, we didn’t make any hotel reservations. I know, I know.  This fact alone probably stresses some of you out beyond belief, but here’s my rationale:

 

We had lots of miles to cover and while we had planned some of the bigger attractions we wanted to experience. Our list included Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Mall of America, Wall Drug, and Yellowstone. There were so many little roadside attractions that I didn’t run across in research that I’m glad we stopped to enjoy. For instance, here’s a picture from the world’s biggest buffalo in Jamestown, North Dakota. While the stop was not planned, we saw the attraction from road and couldn’t resist. It proved to be an excellent spot to meet up with an amazing former family that moved away last year.

 

#marketingmonday - Yong Pratt - World's Largest Buffalo

 

Traveling can be a bit stressful in and of itself. I didn’t want to add the stress of  making it to a certain hotel in a particular city by a certain day. If we wanted to spend an extra few hours (or a whole day) doing or seeing someone interesting we could. If I felt like driving more or less in a given day, I wanted to leave that option open, thus no hotel reservations.

 

With that being said, my oldest, Sophie did a preliminary search on hotels. As we entered into cities in which we would overnight, she’s look at the ratings, reviews, and pictures.  This was a GREAT use of her cell phone privileges! By the end of the trip, Sophie was far more comfortable being on the other end of the phone asking questions of hotel staff. Decisions on where to stay were a direct result of those conversations.

 

When we hit Billings, MT, we chose not to stay at a particular hotel simply on the fact that the person on the other end of the phone was, well, wishy-washy. She sounded rather young, inexperienced, and didn’t really seem to know much about the business for which she was working. When asked seemingly simple questions such as: whether/not they offered breakfast; are senior or AAA discounts offered; do you have a room on the top floor, the answer was always “I think so.”

 

I literally cringed just listening to this phone conversation. It made me think about all the people that have answered my phones in the past 16 years. All were great people with many, many talents. Some though, did not have a the skill to be engaging on the phone. 

 

Questions to ponder:

  • Who do you have answering your phones?
  • Are your admin staff amazing at engaging by asking the right questions? Are they listening and asking questions not just answering?

Not sure?

Call your studio from another phone and learn what your customers experience when calling.

 

Lesson #2: Missing out on opportunities to serve & connect

 

On our way to Yellowstone, we stopped at a convenience store in Montana that had a Subway attached (it’s Sophie’s fav place to eat these days). When we stepped up to order, the young man behind the counter let us know it would be about 10 minutes as the computer was rebooting.

 

Ok.

 

We walked next store to use the restroom and fill the 10 minutes “window shopping.” We looked at the knick-knacks, the t-shirts, gifts and were enjoying our time out of the car.

 

When the 10 minutes passed, we walked back into Subway and were told that the computer still wasn’t working so he couldn’t sell us anything. Being a problem-solver by nature, I suggested that he keep a tally of what we purchased, add up the price for each which was super easy as there’s no sales tax in Montana, and then enter the purchases when the computer came back online.

 

He looked at me very confused as I went on to state that it would be unfortunate for the owner to miss out on the opportunity to sell any sandwiches just because the computer wasn’t working.

 

The young may proceeded to call the owner who told him not to sell anything until the computer was working properly. It was a bummer for us as we had to seek out a lunch alternative.

 

It was a much bigger bummer for the business who lost out on not only our sale, but who knows how many others that day AND still had to pay their employees to turn people away for who knows how long…All because they couldn’t think outside the box and creatively solve the problem. AND they didn’t offer a way to connect with them again…a special coupon or discount code for a future visit (when leaving Yellowstone). They could have done any number of things to get me to come back in to visit. In a few brief moments, our relationship was over and done.

 

Has this ever happened to you?

 

Below are some photos of interesting ways businesses created to serve us during our visits. Now we have great memories (and photos) to share with friends and family. From the outside, they look like us enjoying our vacation (and we are). In reality, I learned tons of marketing lessons and questions to ask of my businesses. Each of these businesses presented multiple opportunities for us to talk about the experiences (AKA refer) we had with them and showcase them online – SUPER smart!

 

#marketingmonday - Yong Pratt - Opportunities to Serve

 

As a society, we’ve become reliant upon the internet and when it’s down, it can literally be disastrous, especially in terms of serving our families.

 

Questions to ponder:

  • Do you have a process in place to enroll students, look up classes, etc. for those time when the internet is down?
  • Are you missing out on opportunities to serve and engage clients before, during, or after registration?

 

Lesson #3: Appearances Matter

 

When I first started my studio 16 years ago, I didn’t pay much attention to how my studio looked and felt to those visiting or coming to classes. I liked purple and that’s the color we used in our 2nd building (which I thought would be my last).

 

The walls were a lovely lavender and that was accented with a deeper shade of purple on the “columns” that jutted out every 8 feet or so. At the time, I didn’t have the cash to build a wall to separate the very small entryway/lobby from the classroom spaces. Instead, I hung a curtain the length of the wall (in a 3rd shade of purple). The building had huge floor to ceiling windows which I thought would be great for displays (which I have no knack for creating). To counter this deficit, I made curtains to keep out the heat in the summer and retain heat in the winter.

 

What color did I choose?

 

You guessed it…another shade of purple.

 

About a year or two of being in the space, I found my first mentor. He often used Starbucks as an example of creating warm and inviting spaces. Their walls are usually rich “coffee” shades with accent colors for the furniture.

 

As soon as I returned from my very first “business” conference, I promptly went down to our local paint store. Home Depot had not made it to our town yet.  I boldly chose a warm, creamy coffee color for the walls and a burgundy color as my accent. I knew nothing of branding at the time. I didn’t realize the mismatch in brand consistency I was creating, BUT the compliments came pouring in!  

 

I could not believe that something as simple and as cheap as paint could have such a profound impact. This impact went far deeper than appearances. It affected how people felt and experienced my studio when entering its doors. The new color scheme created a much better First Impression. 

 

After making this change, we experienced significant growth in our programs and enrollment. I believe it mostly due to the processes I was putting in place, but the look and feel of the studio certainly played a roll.

 

Questions to Ponder:

  • Are there any small “fixes” you could do to make your studio more inviting?
  • Is your studio easy to navigate? Do you have signage up directing people to locations such as the restroom or different studio spaces?
  • Have you done a walk through of your studio inside and out to perform a sensory assessment?
    It’s basically an assessment where you use all your senses to evaluate your physical space. You ask yourself questions relating to your senses (how does the space look, feel, smell)? This is a concept I learned from one of my mentors, Dave Crenshaw. Sensory assessments can be done by you or your staff. You could even enlist a group of parents or community members to do one for you. It’s truly an enlightening experience to say the least.

When it comes to appearances, things such as overlooked repairs, chipping paint, bad lighting, or rips in the upholstery can create a not so good first impression. In fact, the appearance of your studio could overshadow the care you take of your students and the value you provide.

 

As we head into the new season, take stock of how you studio looks and feels versus the experience you wish to create. If there’s a mismatch, what can you do to remedy the situation? If the two are in alignment, you’re ready to make the 2017-2018 Season the BEST ever!

 

The pictures below are of the C’Mon Inn Lodge in Casper, WY. From the name, I thought it was going to be pretty cheesy. The reality is that it was one of the most stunning hotels at which I’ve ever stayed. It was a gorgeous lodge with so much attention to detail. So much thought went into making it feel like a hunting cabin out in the woods but on a much grander scale. From the floor to ceiling fireplace in the entry, to the outdoorsy feeling foyer, to the stunning pool room, this hotel did not fail to delight. Even our room had it’s own private balcony which overlooked the pool.

#marketingmonday - Yong Pratt - Appearances Matter

This whole #marketingmonday series was created to get you as a business owner to consider different parts of your business. The three lessons I learned on our #roadtriptorally for the 2017 More Than Just Great Dancing Member Rally this week are:

(1) It matters who answers the phone

(2) Missing on on opportunities to serve

(3) Appearances Matter

Now it’s YOUR turn…

How can you take the info you’ve read and apply it in your studio?

 

Cheers!

 

P.S. Do you have too much on your plate with the new season quickly approaching? A Virtual Assistant is a Staffer I believe EVERY Studio Owner needs. Find out what a VA is and what one can do for your business!  Grab my FREE Guide Below.

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