I’m so pleased that Daniel Patterson from GrowYourMusicStudio has been able to provide his thoughts on the business strategies of running a piano studio this week.
I’ve been following Daniel’s work for some time. He really is a master of piano studio marketing, particularly regarding social media and the importance of Facebook.
In this article, Daniel is going to debunk some myths about how you can become more of a thriving teacher rather than a struggling teacher. He’s going to make you consider the need to narrow your focus and decide on what’s unique about you and your studio.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you should charge more or re-think your focus, check out Daniel’s thoughts on why thriving teachers demand higher rates.
PS. Want more free training on marketing and business? See below for information about our next webinar.
Piano Teaching Business Strategies
A few weeks before graduation in 2004, I decided to start a piano studio. My intention was to teach piano for a little while and then go pursue my Masters in piano.
I came home from university. I told everyone that I was going to have 40 students by Christmas.
All I had to do was tell people that there was a new piano teacher in town, right? Wouldn’t parents just flock to my door?
The reality was quite different to my expectations!
Barriers to Entry
Unlike dance schools or karate schools, the barriers to entry for starting a private music studio are quite low.
I’ve found that private teachers run into roadblocks at each level of growth. What it takes to get a studio from zero students to 20 students is different to what it takes to get from 20 to 50. Or 50 to 150.
I didn’t get those “40 students” by Christmas. The truth is that I struggled for quite a while.
It took me about a year and a half to hit the enrollment number I wanted.
There were many lessons that I needed to learn. There were some adjustments I needed to make to my approach to business.
The Struggling Teacher vs. the Thriving Teacher
We teachers have a great job.
Unfortunately, we can sometimes have a poor experience of this job. There are problems that all private teachers face: late payments, flaky parents, bored students, and competing activities can be frustrating for the owner of a music school or private studio.
Many teachers try to solve these problems with strict policies or pressuring students and parents to fall in line.
I believe that many of these problems can be solved with better business strategies and marketing practices.
In my journey from 0 to 95 students, I discovered several marketing principles that were counter-intuitive. These principles transformed my studio, my students, and me. It almost completely solved all of the frustrating problems that I mentioned above.
To become Thriving Teachers, we must educate ourselves. We cannot avoid it. Ignoring these principles will only lead to continued frustration as a Struggling Teacher.
What distinguishes the Thriving Teacher from the Struggling Teacher? Consider the differences between the two in the following list:
“Teaching Is Enough” vs “Translating the Value”
Struggling Teachers think that being a creative or skillful teacher is enough to attract and keep students.
They are stuck on an endless treadmill of coming up with new games, plans, arts, crafts, summer camps, and repertoire. This creativity is in service of motivating bored or stubborn students.
Thriving Teachers realize that a few creative ideas are enough to keep their students happy and motivated. They put just as much or more creativity into communicating their program’s value to parents. They discover what parents (their customer) want. They then use their ingenuity to deliver that service to parents.
How do we get there? Here are some counter-intuitive ideas to help your studio thrive:
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- Our websites and marketing materials should be more than informational. Deep down, most parents don’t care about your degree, your lesson format, or your policies. They want to know if you can help their kids love music. Your marketing focuses on the RESULTS you get for students.
- Show, don’t tell. Don’t explain how amazing your studio is. Don’t try to convince parents that you are a qualified teacher. “A picture is worth a thousand words”… show what kids are accomplishing in your studio with video and images. This is far more powerful.
- Marketing doesn’t end when a student signs up for lessons. If anything, it should increase! It is human nature to take things for granted. The Thriving Teacher is constantly demonstrating their value through email, personal interactions, and social media accounts. All of this will help parents value your studio.
- Parents that value your studio are parents that get involved. We all know that is a huge factor in a child’s success with their instrument. Instead of demanding or expecting involvement, loyalty, and care… inspire it with great communication and incredible service.
Broad vs. Focused
Struggling Teachers market their studio to the entire world. They will take any and every student that comes in the door.
They have no unique message or selling point in their community. Consequently, they wonder why so many families take them for granted – paying late, quitting for the summer, or prioritizing other activities over music.
Thriving Teachers have a studio that feels exclusive and special. They have discovered something about their studio that is unique. No other teachers do it quite like these teachers.
They skillfully communicate that value to the world and can charge a premium price for their lessons. They attract high-quality, committed families or inspire families to become committed to music lessons!
How do we do this? Here are some counter-intuitive ideas to help your studio thrive:
- Do you have a niche? There are many to choose from. Lessons for preschoolers. Lessons for adults. Lessons for people who want to compete or perform in festivals. Lessons in the group format. Songwriting. Jazz lessons. Your positioning is only limited by your imagination!
- Are you a small studio in an urban or suburban area? You could fill up your entire studio just by advertising yourself as the “teacher for X”.
- If you are a large studio or music school, you most likely advertise to get new piano students. It is possible to target various niches in your advertising. Create separate pages on your Web site for each category that you offer.
Common vs. Premium
Struggling Teachers discount or charge a low rate. They feel pressure to give discounts.
Thriving Teachers have high rates. Their marketing and reputation precedes them.
How do we do this? Here are some counter-intuitive ideas to help your studio thrive:
- Continue pursuing development as a musician and teacher. You have to deliver the goods. You can’t be “all sizzle and no steak.” This is the beginning of a great reputation.
- Pick up a book on how to write sales copy or how to talk persuasively. Learning this skill will pay off in so many areas. I have used these techniques to defuse tense situations regarding policies, practice, and other misunderstandings.
- So many of the “persuasion triggers” are what people know or learn about you before they ever meet you. This is why your website or other promotional materials must tell a powerful story. I explain how to persuade people with social media with my free piano teacher’s Facebook guide.
What is your reaction to this list?
I have experienced the frustrations of the Struggling Teacher. I know what it’s like to worry about the summer months when people leave my Studio. I’ve known the frustration of hearing, “Your rates are too high!”
Those things changed as soon as I communicated what children could accomplish in my studio.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. You really do have to pursue the skills of persuasion, business, and marketing.
But, the results have been well worth it for me. I know they can be for you, too!
Looking for marketing training specifically for piano teachers?
I ran a free training webinar with Amy Chaplin called “The Wild West of Studio Marketing” in which we covered everything you need to know to save time and money with your marketing by only using the strategies that work.
Here are just a few things covered in this free training:
- Learn how to grow your studio using diversified and savvy marketing tactics that Amy has tried and tested building a studio from scratch.
- Find out what the #1 best source of new referrals will be for your studio and where to put your marketing dollars.
- Learn how to avoid wasting time and money on advertising that simply doesn’t work.
- How to make exciting, professional graphics and designs for your marketing materials and why this matters.
Watch a replay of this webinar at a time that suits you! Just click on the button below.
Thank you Daniel, I think this is just what I needed to hear…
Can you have more than 1 niche? I can teach elementary RCM levels, but am also branching out to teach students chording and pop music…is that ok to mention all that when marketing?
“Struggling Teachers market their studio to the entire world. They will take any and every student that comes in the door.”
I think this is true. Any advice on how to tactfully manage enquiries where you don’t feel able to take a student on because you don’t feel you offer the kind of lessons they’re after?