A version of this post originally appeared on the Music Teacher’s Helper Blog, written by Leila Viss.
After learning about the Tip of the Month page of the Kansas City Music Teachers Association, it got me thinking about what tips I would share to those who are looking to fill a studio. In no time, I had a blog’s worth of ideas. I’ll limit them to 10 (that was hard to do!) in no particular order.
1) Focus on Your Current Families: Your best customers are the ones already on your bench so make sure to keep them happy. Your present students may have siblings so consider offering a special tuition break to any family who enrolls a brother or sister.
2) Offer a Bonus for Referrals: Again your current families are perhaps THE best marketing tool. If they like you, they’ll spread the word so reward them with a tuition discount, a free book, etc.
3) Launch AND Maintain Your Online Presence: Thanks to MusicTeachersHelper.com, a studio website is possible for anyone who may be fearful of this 21st century studio essential. If need be, pay someone to help you set up a simple site, you won’t regret it. My favorite feature of the MusicTeachersHelper.com website is the Student Registration Page. I direct anyone who is interested in lessons to complete the form. Once registered, the student’s name appears on my wait list and when an opening occurs, there is a pool of students from which to contact.
I’m guilty of not updating my studio site as often as I should and I know the content could use improvement. The innovative David Cutler, author of The Savvy Musician, provided friendly critiques of current websites here. I will be implementing a great deal of his enlightening suggestions, you might want to do the same.
4) Deliver the Goods: At your initial interview, it’s all about selling yourself to the potential student/family. What is promised at the interview (ex: concert pianist level playing in 2 years) better match what the student experiences. Determining, posting and sticking with a specific mission statement is crucial to customer satisfaction, student retention and referrals.
5) Stay Current with Technology: Even if you choose not to teach with the latest tech tools, an awareness of technological advances and the mobile generation will show your sensitivity to those warming the bench and quite honestly, the “real” world. Taking advantage of technology will only enhance your instruction. As many of my previous blogs suggest, I’m a tech fan and will be releasing a book this month, The iPad Piano Studio, highlighting my favorite device.
6) Plug into the Daytime Student Pool: Home schoolers, Pre-K peeps and Adults are available during those “off ” hours. Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com offers her advice for marketing to home schoolers here and I wrote a post about adding adult students. Both articles shed some light on how to accumulate daytime students. When my boys were young, I offered Exploring Music Classes for them and their friends which resulted in a number of new students.
7) Consider Online Lessons: In another post about teaching online music lessons, I expressed my doubts about this format but now I would highly recommend online lessons as an option for those looking to build a larger studio. Read more about my experience with Bradley Sowash online lessons here.
8) Promote Yourself to CEO: Yes, you are more than a music teacher if you own an independent studio. There’s a steep learning curve as you must develop skills as an administrator, accountant, marketer, entrepreneur and more. In her book, How I Made $100,000 in My First Year as a Piano Teacher, Kristin Yost explains how she built a highly successful studio, then a school with local branches around the Dallas metro area and now online lessons. I would have greatly appreciated reading about her experiences and savvy advice when I first opened shop.
9) Teach CREATIVITY: Structure plenty of time for student creativity in your instruction. Encourage your budding musicians to play by ear, read from lead sheets, improvise, compose original pieces and play their favorite radio/playlist tunes. Connecting their keyboard skills with their imaginations will keep them hooked to music making and they’ll want to share their success with friends (your potential customers)! Offering a blended selection of repertoire–pop, jazz, classical, etc.–will build well-rounded musicians, another terrific marketing slogan for your studio.
10) Teach CREATIVELY: Continuing your education by reading blogs, books, attending conferences, and maintaining membership in teacher associations offers inspiration that will equip you with the skills to provide unique lessons. Lessons embellished with surprising approaches and innovative tactics will keep students returning for more and set your studio apart. Build a dynamic studio rather than a static environment (as Philip Johnston suggests in his book The Dynamic Studio: How to Keep Students, Dazzle Parents and Build the Studio that Everyone Wants to Get Into) and it will keep your studio buzzing with enthusiastic, lifelong students.