This is the second in a 2-part series by guest blogger, Doug Hanvey, about how to market your studio and find new piano students. Part One discussed how to set up a quick marketing strategy. Did you get your free infographic from the last post? Check it out here.
In Part One, I discussed the importance of developing a concise marketing plan so that you are clear about your marketing objectives and what your studio stands for.
In this post I’ll consider a variety of strategies, tools and methods that a piano studio can use to announce its presence to the world. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope you will come away with a few new ideas that you can implement today if you’re looking for new students.
When most people think of marketing, they think of advertising. Yet advertising – calling attention to a product or service using paid announcements – is only a small subset of marketing.
While there are many ways to categorize different advertising methods, one of the easiest is to divide them into online and offline approaches.
Online methods of advertising might include keeping an ad on your local Craigslist, or advertising on one or more of the websites that show up high in the search results when you type in “piano lessons [my city]” on one of the big search engines. (This is assuming your own website doesn’t yet make it to the first page of the search results.) Unlike Craigslist, most of these websites will require a fee or even take a cut, so do your due diligence. You may feel that many are rip-offs (I do!), but there might be one that is worth a shot. Test it and see – testing is an essential aspect of effectively marketing a small business.
Off-line advertising includes flyers or brochures delivered to classroom teachers, parent groups, churches, daycare centers, etc.
Building your own high-quality studio website is imperative these days, with an emphasis on “high-quality.” It strikes me as preposterous, yet it seems to be true – if you don’t have a virtual presence on the internet (which by definition doesn’t really exist), many people will assume that your actual studio doesn’t really exist either (or that you haven’t yet entered the modern world).
Good design, effective and engaging content and an organized structure all contribute to the impression that you are a good artist, a good teacher, and a good businessperson – all of which you must be in order to run a successful studio. Your website can be used like a very long business card that you point prospective students towards, and this is a very effective use of it.
From a marketing standpoint, though, your site will be most effective when it shows up on the first page of search results when someone searches for piano lessons in your city. It’s well-known that very few people click through to the second page of results, so getting your site onto the first page (and near the top) is of utmost importance. Depending on your competition and the local market, this may be relatively easy or extremely difficult. But even if other nearby teachers have established websites, with time and effort you can design a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to improve your website’s ranking in the results.
If you’re interested in online resources, check out the Yoast WordPress SEO Tutorial – it’s one of the most comprehensive articles in the field and perfect if you’re using WordPress for your website.
Networking is a marketing strategy that comes naturally to some and feels awkward to others. Networking – whether at your local church or your local music teachers’ association meeting – is one of the best marketing strategies of all. It is well known in career development that networking is an essential component of a successful job search strategy. If you think of each new student as a new job – which they are, in a sense – then you’ll understand that networking is important for a piano studio too.
A well-reviewed resource for networking is Derek Coburn’s Networking Is Not Working.
Like networking (but unlike most advertising), publicity is a free form of marketing. There are numerous strategies for creating publicity, but the simplest is writing a press release and sending it to local media outlets. While press releases may be less effective in more densely-populated areas, in a small town you may get a free article in your local newspaper just by announcing the opening of your studio. You can also publicize student recitals, your own performances, or special events.
You can learn more about PR by checking out David Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing & PR.
While I’m personally not a big fan of social media, it is certain that many businesses use it to their advantage (Ed: I’m a big fan – Tim). You can use social media to support your efforts in each of the above categories. For example, you could advertise on Facebook. Or promote your new website to your network via LinkedIn. Or publicize your upcoming studio recital on Twitter.
If you have time for social media (I don’t!), check out Andrew Macarthy’s 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.
There are lots of great tools around for helping make social media posting easier for your website (also check the blogs for these sights as they are full of excellent information):
This is a big topic and Tim will be sharing more online resources for piano teachers in coming posts.
Referrals are the very best way to obtain students. Naturally, being the best teacher you can be is the sine qua non for obtaining referrals from current students and parents. Once you’ve got that down, search online for “how to maximize referrals” and you may discover some very effective new ways to increase the number of new students coming to you by word of mouth.
One of the best ways to network is by joining your national and/or local music teachers’ association, and taking advantage of the resources offered for members, such as listing yourself in the association’s directory of teachers. The Music Teachers National Association is the biggest such US-based organization.
I personally wouldn’t recommend relying on these listings as your sole source of advertising however, as the chance that a potential student is going to single you out and contact you (especially since these lists contains little information about what you do other than your contact info) is slim. The success of a teacher association listing depends heavily on the area where you live. Here in Portland, there are literally hundreds of teachers listed, so the marketing effect is fairly diluted.
On the other hand, if you’re a member of a small local-area group that lists well on Google, you may find this is a valuable source of referrals. Either way, given that these listings are a free benefit of membership, it’s not going to hurt!
Speaking of listings, you have no doubt heard about the “find a music teacher”-type websites. With one or two exceptions, I have a loathing for these companies as they seem to exist to make a killing off of marketing small businesses when they could probably do it better themselves by following some of the above suggestions.
So where do you start?
Hundreds of books have been written about how to successfully market a business using each of the six basic strategies above.
But don’t be overwhelmed.
Start small, integrating one or two of these strategies into your marketing plan. Then take some time to learn more about each strategy, add some more strategies to the mix, and soon enough you’ll be likely to find your studio booming.
Tim’s going to be featuring more stories in the next couple of months about studio advertising and especially online marketing. Stay tuned for more ideas and tips!
What’s your number one way to find new students? Let me know by leaving your thoughts below.
Doug Hanvey offers piano lessons in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of 88 Keys to the Blues, a method which helps students master fundamental piano technique and musical skills while learning basic stylistic elements of the blues. The course builds a strong foundation for playing and improvising in blues, jazz, rock, and other popular piano styles.