If you’ve been listening to the AYBD Podcast, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of branding. Not just because I run a boutique brand agency, but also because I believe it separates the hobbyists from the pros. Branding is HUGE when it comes to setting yourself apart and making it as a pro, in your personal life and in your dance life. So let’s take a look at how you can start to brand your dance business:
First off, what is branding? Branding is essentially what people say about you when you’re not in the room. It’s a consistent marketing strategy that combines your values, business mission, and visuals to bring it all into what makes you, you. Normally I would suggest not to care about what others say about you, whether you are around or not. But in this case, know that I mean when it comes to your business practices. Think of your favorite dance teacher. They probably have a brand: their teaching style, their website, their course curriculum, their costumes are all a part of their unique brand.
Now before you get overwhelmed, you’ve probably already got your own brand but don’t even know it yet. Think of how you teach your classes, what tips you give, how you write your blog posts, how you interact with your clients. Those are all examples of how you handle your daily work and how you’ve managed to promote yourself. You don’t need to create a new dance move to have your own brand. As you’ll see, dancing is a just a small percentage of the bigger picture.
1. Write your mission statement
Your mission statement is like an elevator pitch describing what you’re all about. Keep it short and simple. The formula you can follow is this:
What benefits you provide + for whom + what they get out of it
Example: The Advance Your Bellydance Podcast helps intermediate hobbyists understand the business of bellydance to help them go pro.
It doesn’t have to be more than a sentence or two. It’s for you to have as a guideline for the next few steps (although you are welcome to use your mission statement where it’s relevant).
2. What are your values?
Do you value taking classes in stage presence and improvisation? Or do you prefer nailing down technique and choreography? Do you prefer taking with teachers certified in a specific training technique or do you want to learn a bit of everything from everyone? Think about what attracts you to someone’s style, both performing and teaching, and ask yourself why that is?
I value teachers who explain the history behind a topic, such as Sahra Saeeda when she teaches her Journey Through Egypt Intensives. I also value teachers like Aziza who give technique tips while teaching choreography, as well as her business practices.
Knowing what you value in others helps evaluate what you can offer.
3. What’s your tone?
Confession time: I can be pretty sassy. I wasn’t always like this but moving to bigger cities and having to adapt to big city life made me a bit more of a badass (pfft, not really but if you hang out with me longer than half an hour, you’ll hear me drop a few curses). Obviously I know how to censor myself when being professional but I like to teach how I talk in real life. When I tell you that in order to improvise you need to know your sh*t, that’s exactly how I would say it to a close friend. I want you to feel comfortable and have a laugh in my workshops. I want you to feel free enough to ask me a question, not feel intimidated and go home feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth. It’s the reason I use gifs and memes in my newsletters and social media (although I am pretty easily entertained and find them pretty hilarious).
Now obviously my tone isn’t for everyone. I have yet to offend anyone (that I know of) and again, I know my limits. I have 2 degrees so speaking in a professional tone isn’t something new for me. But when I teach, especially live workshops, I like to relax and make my students feel relaxed. I want you to have fun!
Think of how you interact with your students and teachers. Look back at any blog posts or articles you’ve written, any interviews you’ve done and any audio or video clips you’ve recorded. What is consistent? What do you want to work on?
4. Does your online presence match your real-life presence?
I can’t tell you how many times I see social media profiles of dancers that have nothing to do with their brand. Do a quick audit on your social media profiles (choose one to start with). Do your posts relate to the mission statement you created earlier? If not, rethink posting it. You don’t have to post only dance related things of course. But rethink images or status updates that don’t necessarily fit. You wouldn’t want to follow a portrait photographer on Instagram if all they were posting is their breakfast. This goes beyond social media, too: take a look at your website. Are the images high quality and professional? If you teach, do you have images from your classes or just you posing in a studio? Does your bio state who you’ve taken classes with instead of why clients should book you for their wedding?
5. Keep it consistent
Last but certainly not least, the advice that brings all of this branding talk together: keep it consistent. Without consistency, there is no branding. Take a look at your online and offline presence and see if it matches. In tone, audience, benefits, and even visuals. If you find something that is off, fix it so it’s more consistent.
If you’re not used to thinking of yourself and your business as a brand, then it will take some time getting used to all these moving parts. Don’t be discouraged if you have to tweak some things here and there or if in a few months time your brand today doesn’t ring true. The more you evolve as a dancer and business owner, the easier it will be to define your brand.
This was originally posted in the Advance Your Bellydance Weekly Newsletter. Sign up here for free bellydance tips straight to your inbox.