Savvy advertising ideas?
March 31, 2011 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Need new ideas for attracting parents (and their kids) to our business.

We run a learn to skate program for 4-12 year olds, that is well established, but a bit dated in advertisement plans. The economy downturn has been hitting us fairly hard, so we are trying to reach new people who may not know we are here and how great a program we are.

Things we've tried: FB page, website (not the greatest, but not bad, and comes up fairly well with a google search), living social/groupon etc (we are too small for them and can't accomodate 500 new students in a session), postcard/flyers at local banks. And we advertise in some of the relevant local papers each year as well.

We've tried getting our name out on various area "kids" websites, but I want to make sure I'm not missing any potential goldmines that might be out there. Any ideas for other advertising venues?
posted by katers890 to Work & Money (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you could get in touch with some of the local parenting groups on The ones I've been involved with are around 30-50 people and are generally receptive to new ideas for things to do.
posted by notcreative at 11:22 AM on March 31, 2011

is big in your area? You could offer a free lesson to a mom/parents group. Also, churches. Get in touch with religious youth organizers and set something up?
posted by kristymcj at 11:24 AM on March 31, 2011

drat. Too late!
posted by kristymcj at 11:25 AM on March 31, 2011

Look at Macaroni Kid for your area, which sends a weekly e-mail listing local events for kids. They also take advertising. I see a lot of "try this out" free events advertised by dance schools, gymnastics gyms, skating places, etc., a few weeks before their next session begins.

Also if you have open skates, especially that are welcoming to pre-K kids or that are available on non-school days (institute days, holidays, etc.), those are good to list. I'm continually amazed at how much parents will pay for, say, an open gym session just to get out of the house, particularly in winter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:31 AM on March 31, 2011

Back when I ran kids' drama classes, I would try to befriend local radio hosts. In my small community, this worked out well, and once a year (right before our big summer vacation push) I would go on-air with the hosts of the morning drive and discuss the program. I was lucky, of course, and persistent, but after these session I would always see a huge upswing in registrations. We also tried having some kids do a cute radio play, which the station loved (human interest! kids are adorable!) and which was very successful (YMMV, of course, since skating and drama is not necessarily the same). Not very new-media-y, but parents are always listening to the radio in the morning.

The other big success I had was with school visits. This might be harder for you, but could you organize free skating sessions for classrooms? And then hand out brochures at the end of class? I have no idea how the regulations for that sort of things might work.
posted by AmandaA at 11:38 AM on March 31, 2011

Google your heart out for homeschool groups in your area, check yahoogroups, etc as well, and contact the relevant person regarding offering classes during the day. Many classes at the Y and such take place after school when traffic is worse, etc -- homeschoolers love being out and about during normal school hours.

Or even say that you'd like to offer a class, and what time would work for them?

Message board at a local grocery co-op?

In my neighborhood, we also have a community run "learning tree" that has locals teach things like How To Be A Blogger or How To Invest In The Stock Market for 6 weeks (usually costs 50-150, depending on the topic) -- see if there's one in your area and teach a class. If you include your business name in the class description, everyone who gets the catalog learns about you.
posted by MeiraV at 11:42 AM on March 31, 2011

Seconding stuff with schools. Donate free sessions to their fundraisers/raffles/silent auctions. Do a "XYZ School Day" at your location where any kid from that school who, say, brings a certain flyer in, gets a discount or free lesson. Or they pay full price but you donate 20% of that to the school.

You may find this easier by approaching a school's PTA rather than the administration, since the PTA is almost always really focused on raising money.

I have watched these scenarios unfold at my school in partnership with a karate studio and a gymnastics place. I know it drove customers to the businesses.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:43 AM on March 31, 2011

Have you thought about starting a Special Needs Night once a month or a special class? I work with kids with Autism/Downs Syndrome and a lot of the parents look out for events/learning opportunities that cater to special needs kids. Most events I've been to that are specifically for kids with special needs (think swim lessons or horseback riding) do the same activities as a typical night just with smaller classes and an extra staffer or two. And patience, a lot of patience.

So maybe ask at your local nonprofit for kids with special needs if they'd like to get a group together?
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:50 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

My wife is in the equivalent of the PTA for our son's school. They are always looking for after-school (or even during school) enrichment programs for the kids. In fact, there is an organization that brings various acts/companies/groups to the schools to sort of "sell" them. They range in everything from singing groups to jugglers to origami instructors. A learn-to-skate program might fit into something like that.

I don't remember what the name of the organization is but I believe it has "enrichment" or "outreach" in the name. We are also in MA.

That probably doesn't help, but my point is you might want to find some way to work with your local schools as learning to skate is a rather wholesome activity that many schools might be interested in offering.
posted by bondcliff at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2011

Are we talking about ice skating or rollerskating?

Either way, could you hand out flyers at local NHL games? kids of hockey fans tend to want to learn to skate.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:01 PM on March 31, 2011

Can you host kids birthday parties? I mention that because, as a parent of a three year old, I have learned about a few local businesses that do by being invited to other kids parties there.
posted by procrastination at 12:06 PM on March 31, 2011

Call the local school district and ask if they will send your flyers home with the kids.

Call the local Girl Scout and Boy Scout councils, tell them you have some special rates for troops wanting to earn their Skating merit badge (or work on a sports-related badge), and ask if they would hand out flyers to their leaders. You might have to get some knowledge on the badge requirements so you can tailor the lesson(s) appropriately, but that's not too hard to do.

There's a rock-climbing gym near me that hosts a Daddy-Daughter event every year with our local Girl Scout troops. I never would have even known about this place if it wasn't for this annual event.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:13 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, lots of responses, thanks everybody. A couple things. We are talking ice skating, so school demos not really an option, unfortunately. We do advertise in a flyer that goes out to all the parents of kids in the schools in the area, and that is where we get the most people from.

One thing is that we are quite limited (due to the way the rink schedules hours and how booked they are) in what we can do, we have a fall/winter program that's 30 weeks, and a spring program that's 10 weeks. The classes are only one night a week (2, 1 hour sessions in the fall, 1, 1 hour session in the spring), and that's all the ice time we can get, as the rink is also used for hockey, and for all the schools around. For the fall program we offered a free class, but we felt that the spring program was a bit too short to pull that off and make enough money on it (especially as we've been just breaking even at the spring program recently)

We also can't do one off classes, because, especially with true beginners on ice skates, one class doesn't get you anything, you really need the longer session to learn anything, and any one off classes we would do would eat into our normal sessions and the rink has a hard open and close that we can't do anything about.

We had someone approach us awhile ago about a special needs class, but none of our instructors have experience with this, and we can't give them the entire ice, as we have to have several classes on the ice at once to make any money (little kids don't go far anyways on the skates).

We were thinking about contacting the girl scouts, but maybe we'll reach out to the boy scouts too (we used to have a "hockey skills" class that was all boys, but found that we never had enough kids to justify it, and they were just learning the same stuff as the other kids anyways). And maybe we'll see about contacting PTAs too.
posted by katers890 at 12:20 PM on March 31, 2011

Are you sure you're too small for Groupon-type stuff? I just snagged preschooler dance classes off "" because: wow, cheap! If we like the school we'll stay; if we don't, well, it was cheap. The school is quite small, in a rural town outside the main city "Wagjag" serves, and I think the number of coupons sold was more like 50, not 500. The offer was for an introductory series of six lessons, which was just right.

Definitely put pamphlets in the local libraries. If you have a good program and are friendly with the children's librarians they will do a lot of word of mouth for you, if my library is anything to go by.
posted by kmennie at 12:35 PM on March 31, 2011

Daycare summer camp season is coming up in a couple of months, and they typically get the kids out on a field trip at least twice a week. Spend a day visiting every daycare / preschool in the area and introduce yourself to the directors.
posted by COD at 12:37 PM on March 31, 2011

Is there a university near you? (For the most bang for your buck you want a university, not a college.) A friend hooked me up with the parents email list at a mid-sized university, and there are TONS of grad students, postdocs and faculty and staff who are always on the lookout for ways to enrich their kids lives. Give a minor discount to university members, and/or convince one of those parents to post to their list.
posted by synapse at 12:38 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: I'm sure I'm too small for a groupon type site. The problem is that while we aren't likely to get more sign ups than we can handle, we have to be SURE that we don't, because we can't do anything about it (we can't put more classes or anything to accomodate overload because we have only limited ice time), and they won't let you put a limit unless it's like 500 or so.

The problem is that we have a very limited time we can do things, and it's 6:15-7:05 Monday nights. That's it. The rink is booked otherwise (it is really hard to get ice time at rinks, they are completely booked most of the time, we have this time (which is a good time) because we've been around for 30+ years.

Salem State University is around... I even taught there once (in my none figure skating club running career). Hmm, maybe I'll look into getting some parents list from there. And in libraries as well.
posted by katers890 at 12:43 PM on March 31, 2011

Ditto for the school comments-have the local schools around the ice rink peppered with flyers or maybe they could send home one with their newsletter. We get them all the time for skating/soccer/karate, etc.
posted by pink candy floss at 12:47 PM on March 31, 2011

Look for big churches in your area. Many of them would be willing to advertise in their weekly flyer/bulletin/newsletter if you offered something like "10% of all fees for sign-ups on XXX day will go back to the church youth group."

That kind of thing would go over well at many of the churches I've attended. Even when they do it at a restaurant (10% of money spent if you show your church bulletin goes back to the church) it is standing-room only.
posted by tacodave at 3:46 PM on March 31, 2011

katers890: "I'm sure I'm too small for a groupon type site. The problem is that while we aren't likely to get more sign ups than we can handle, we have to be SURE that we don't, because we can't do anything about it (we can't put more classes or anything to accomodate overload "

One word: Reservations.

Can't you tell folks who buy your skating lesson(s) form a Groupony site that places in the class are available by reservation only?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:39 PM on March 31, 2011

I get flyers from the local skating rinks a couple times a year in my kids' folders that they bring home weekly from their public elementary school. There's always a little notation on them that indicates that the business is not affiliated in any way with the school or district, but it's a useful way to know that new sessions are about to start within the next few weeks.

Have you tried collaborating with the parks/rec department, especially if the city doesn't have its own rink? You might be able to get the class listed through the parks and rec catalog each season. I frequently see classes in my local parks and rec catalog that are "off site", IE hosted by and taught by non-Parks/Rec staff and facility.
posted by padraigin at 8:03 PM on March 31, 2011

Is 4 the youngest you take kids? Because I'm in the area, and I'd totally sign my kid up. But as of now, he's only two and too young. We were planning on starting at 3.

If you have LJ, there's a quiet but still read community called b0st0n_parents, feel free to post in there. If I knew anyone with kids a bit older than mine I'd pass it on, but most kids I know are the under-4 set.
posted by kpht at 9:49 PM on March 31, 2011

(also, I attend Salem State, but other than the preschool which my son doesn't attend, I don't know of any parents' groups).
posted by kpht at 9:51 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: We are listed through the peabody rec, that's our big ad and gets the most people in.

And sorry kpht, 4 is our youngest age because we found that younger than that most kids really have trouble and it isn't much fun for them. We've tried younger sometimes and rarely are the parents and kid happy (it does happen, but the kid has to be pretty advanced motorwise) We wanted to make sure everyone was happy with it, so we put that as our limit. However, we will still be here when your kid turns 4, and we'd be happy to have you!
posted by katers890 at 3:42 AM on April 1, 2011

From what I've read, it sounds as if the rink time is holding you back far more than advertising. If it were me (and you probably did this already, but just in case) -- I might start looking to see if other rinks in a 30? 50? mile radius have more flexibility with times for you . . .
posted by MeiraV at 4:13 AM on April 1, 2011

Some things I don't understand:

Why can only a learn-to-skate program go in this very restrictive slot? What is your purpose in having this program? Because if you want to attract kids to this rink in large numbers, you have to give them more rink time, just for casual skating, not just for lessons. Otherwise what are they going to do w/ these skills if they don't want to/can't afford to play hockey?

4-12 is a big age range. Are you segregating classes? I wouldn't want to be in the same class as a preschooler at 12.

It really seems like you're trying to shoehorn in skating classes to a rink that's mainly set up for hockey. Seems like it would make more sense to just schedule some more hockey practices if you want to make that time pay.
posted by emjaybee at 8:52 PM on April 1, 2011

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