As your dance school or dance studio grows, you eventually realize that you need help with management and administration. You could hire someone, but that is a big step you should defer as long as you can (more on this in an upcoming blog).
So you clearly need some tools to help you tame the admin beast, and fortunately, you have lots of dance studio software, and plenty of dance studio services to pick from.
The challenge, of course, is finding one or more options that represent the best dance studio software for you and your school.
You should start by listing and prioritizing your needs, and then a search on google for dance studio administration or dance studio services should give you some options to evaluate.
Here is my list of requirements, and some of my thoughts based on my years on the "front line".
- Accounting: To avoid headaches at tax time, and to keep a good handle on how you are doing financially, you need a decent business accounting system. Quickbooks dominates the market, and it is a very good product. I used for years (and still do). There are options out there, and even within the Quickbooks family, you have choices. I recommend keeping it as simple as possible, as these packages can get out of hand quickly. While you can manage individual customer accounts in Quickbooks, in these days of online registration and payment I recommend using your accounting system to track expenses, bank accounts and credit cards, but only summary income and payment information. Keep all your customer account (receivables) detail in one place so you don't have to keep multiple systems in synch. And that place should be right in the online registration and payment system you use. Transferring summary sales and payment data to the accounting software on a monthly schedule is a simple task, and it keeps a month to month financial picture of your business complete in the accounting system without the hassle of having customer data in multiple systems.
- Class Management: For a few classes, a spreadsheet like MS Excel can work fine, but as the number of classs and students grows you really need a system that allows you to easily enroll students, transfer students and remove them. Being able to create classes for a new session by "cloning" the last session is a great timesaver also. Finally, you need to be able to search and sort classes and create a report or roster that you or your teachers can use in class for attendance tracking, birthday recognition etc.
- Online Registration: With around 80% of your customers preferring to enroll themselves online, you certainly want to take advantage of this opportunity, even if only to save you the trouble of doing it for them. The real benefit comes when it is integrated with online payments, account management and class management capabilities, so you don't have to lift a finger to keep all your records up to date. Just having a form on your website is rather limited, so look for a system that cleanly integrates online registration with the display of class schedules on your website.
- Automatic Payments: Collecting payments is never a fun job, so automating this as much as possible is a priority. You can subscribe to services that specialize in "auto-payments", but the better solution is to have payment processing integrated with the online registration system. You should be able to set up a schedule for payments (one time, monthly, etc.) and have that implemented automatically when a customer enrolls. Look for reminder emails and flexible payment scheduling. There will always be the minority who ignore reminders, and end up with balances owing, but you should be able to automate 90%+ of your payments.
- Customer Account Management: The key to customer account management is a system or service that pulls together all the relevant information for a customer or student. You should be able to see what classes they are enrolled in, what payments are due, overdue, or upcoming etc. Whoever answers your phone can be more productive and provide better customer service with all this detail at hand the next time the customer calls.
- Lead Management: This does not need to be complicated, and a list in a spreadsheet is not a bad solution here. However, you do need a proactive strategy for generating leads rather than just waiting for phone calls or emails. The design of your website is important here, and done well, you can make sure that prospective customers who are not quite ready to enroll, at least provide you contact information through "contact us" forms etc., allowing you to follow up and get them on your email list. Having this lead generation capability integrated into your management software will avoid the need to re-type or copy and paste these details.
- Email Marketing: The days of direct mail campaigns are numbered, and while they can be valuable in some cases, the most cost effective direct marketing is now email. There are lots of options for email services, but ideally, you should look for this to be tied back to your customer and lead information, so you don't need separate subscriptions and lists that have to be synchronized.
I hope that helps you think through what you need for your studio management software. Good luck in your search.
If you want to see how we implemented things in YourVirtuoso, please check out our studio administration features.