Dance Teacher Resources

Should your studio abolish the “free trial”?

free ballet class trial

What to do about Studio Hoppers.

What is a Studio Hopper? A studio hopper is someone who comes to the studio for a free trial class and then hops away. Literally, they just hop among the free activities in your town, without any real intention of ever signing up. They are the bane of a studio owner’s life. 

One of the most interesting conversations happening around studio water coolers right now is whether or not the golden days of free trials are over. Yes, free trials are a fantastic carrot to get people in the door; however, what we’re finding and maybe you’ve been finding yourself is that increasingly people are coming for a trial without any intention of signing up as a student within your studio. 

I’ve worked with thousands of studio owners, and what I’ve found is that, on average, around 50 percent of free trials who come to your studio will convert. In my book, that’s pretty poor. I feel that it should be higher. If they’ve taken the effort and the time out of their life to actually come to your studio, why aren’t they enrolling? Why not? Is it because we haven’t facilitated the process? Have we not asked the question? Or, is it actually before that?

How do we create an environment where we’ve got a fantastic invitation for them to come to the studio without this whole connotation of they’re going to try and see, and then make up their mind?

Let’s take a few seconds here and talk about the words “free trial.” The definition of “trial” is “to assess the suitability or performance.” Think about the word “assess.” Inherently, when we are offering a free trial, it’s putting them in a position of choice. We’re giving that student the chance to come and see if they like it. 

You and I both know that sometimes it takes a few classes to get into the groove of things to see what it’s like and to connect with the teacher, especially with the younger age groups. For a three-year-old, he/she might be having an off day. It’s really hard to get a gauge of whether the child’s going to respond really well in the classes. He/she might love it next week but may have had a not-so-fantastic experience in the first class.

When we’re asking people to come to a trial, they’re coming in the headspace of “I’ll see what it’s like.” Now, let’s think about this from another perspective. We don’t go to other providers and say, “I’ll just have a trial. I’m going to go to this restaurant and just have a trial. I’ll have an appetizer, and then I’ll decide if I’m going to get a main.” No, you go there with the intention of having the experience because of what you’ve learned and what you’ve had. 

I’m curious as to what it would take for us to potentially eliminate the word “trial”. I want people coming to your studio with confidence that this is right for them. I want people coming to your studio who are committed to signing on as students; this is what I’m really fascinated about.

“Introductory Class”.

What if we shifted the intention away from a trial class and changed the word to “introductory class.” If we think about the contrast in the language here, when we’re talking about a trial class, it’s like, “I’ll come and see, and then I’ll make a decision.”

Look at the difference if we’re talking about an introductory class. Introductory class pre-frames that they’re going to be starting the journey; it’s a process. They’re already being welcomed into the studio, and then they’ll continue on. The difference in language between “trial class” and “introductory class” is so vast with the intention you are setting. 

Shift Your Language.

I’m not necessarily saying you need to eliminate that whole carrot idea of having a free trial. Shift your language away from offering a free trial; instead, offer students to come and experience an introductory class.

How different does that feel? “Come to a free trial.” “Come to an introductory class.” It’s very, very different.

I’d be curious to see if, even in conversations this next week, next time you pick up a phone call for an enquiry, instead of saying, “Come in for a trial class,” say, “We’d love to welcome you in for one of our introductory classes. This is where we’ll welcome you and guide you through the process and teach you everything you need to know about being a student at our studio.”

While we absolutely want more students in your classes, more than anything we want the right types, not the ones that are just there for the freebie experience. I don’t have any time for that, and neither do you. It’s taking away your energy and taking away your time. 

Let’s shift our language to shift the results. 

There are a few different ways that you can roll this out in your studio. The first thing is to go through your website and your marketing, and instead of saying, “Free trial,” just change it to “Introductory class.” 

There are a few other ways. I have some clients who are actually transitioning to a paid introductory class, so, “Come for a $10 class.” They book in for their introductory class, they pay their $10, and then after that first initial class, when they decide to continue (when, not if), the assumption is that they will enroll. Once that happens, they pay the remainder of the fees for that session, and the $10 has been taken off. Very, very easy. 

Another way you can do it is to offer an “introductory package.” You might have a starter course of three weeks or six weeks, where they can get a bit of a taste of it, a lower commitment, but get enrolled and invested within the family of your studio. A very easy and accessible way to start.

So much of this comes back to you as a studio owner really valuing what you do and creating this gorgeous process where you guide through educating them about what you do and why you do it, that’s so compelling that they don’t feel like they need a free trial. 

They understand already so much of your values and why you do what you do, that they’re like, “Yeah. That sounds exactly what I’m looking for. Sign me up.” 

To get your marketing and your website crafted in a way where that comes through is the ultimate end goal, and that will eliminate your studio hoppers and get you such a higher calibre of dream student coming through your door. That is what we want.

Below you’ll see that there’s a link where you can download “100 Ways to Grow Your Studio”, and this is going to give you so many ideas about how to position your classes in a compelling and vibrant way, which makes it irresistible and attractive to all of those potential students out there in your community, without resorting to a free trial option. 

>>Download 100 Ways to Grow Your Studio Here<<

What do you think? Should we abolish the free trial? Do you think that we could start transitioning as an industry to more introductory classes, which is just going to raise that level of positioning within the market?

I’m curious, what do you think? I’d love you to share your ideas in the comments section below.

By Chantelle Bruinsma Duffield, Studio Strategist at StudioExpansion.com.

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