Monday, April 23, 2007

Marketing Allongé

One of the biggest hurdles I face in moving forward with my small enterprise is thinking that I'll be crushed by all the competition that's out there, and that my idea isn't original enough.

But here's the thing - Olimpia's idea for a dance school wasn't original - there's so many of them everywhere. She did, however, have a secret weapon: herself. Her 15 years plus of experience teaching and performing (see her bio here) gave her the know-how to offer a high level of course offerings and instruction, and that gave her an edge.

By bringing our unique background and abilities to our endeavors, we make them different from what others are offering. The key is to focus on our strengths. Like these female entrepreneurs that won the 2006 "Make Mine A Million" contest. We've seen most of these businesses before: dogwalker, jewelry maker, baker, vineyard operator, professional staffer. I'm pretty sure that they chose their particular field because they were passionate about it - that's what gives us the drive we need to execute our visions.

Getting the word out
But back to Luis and Olimpia. As the deadline for the first day of operations loomed, the two fledgling entrepreneurs racked their brains for ways to spread the word about their school. They had put together beautiful brochures and needed to come up with a creative way to get them in people's hands. They took a multi-pronged approach: first they figured that kids like to eat pizza so they found a local pizzeria and convinced them to include a brochure with every pizza delivery in exchange for an ad in the back of the brochure. Secondly they placed stacks of brochures in stores that catered to kids: clothing, shoes, pet stores, ice cream parlors. Olimpia also hit the pavement and visited all the private and public schools in the area handing out brochures herself, and finally on weekends she stood at a busy intersection near the school and attracted kids by giving away balloons - an brochures of course! They ran a promotion giving away the first two classes for free to whoever brought in a brochure. That's how they were able to measure what marketing method was working best. On the back of each brochure was a little mark indicating how it was marketed. In the end, they found that the ones that worked best were the handouts at the schools and on the street, so they stopped using the pizzeria. After the free classes a total of 3 girls had signed up - they were in business! Now it's one and a half years later and Allongé Dance Center has a total of 36 students...and growing!

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