Piano studio marketing is one of the topics I get asked most about by teachers looking to grow their studios.
Marketing is one of those things that very few of us ever received training on, but remains one of the most vital aspects of running a studio business.
And it’s becoming more and more relevant as the world changes.
Past performance is no guarantee of future success: Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there’s no reason to believe you’ll succeed at it tomorrow. Seth Godin
Sure, some of us are in the fortunate position of having a waiting list and growing steadily with little effort, perhaps due to the efficiencies of word of mouth or being in an area with little competition.
Others are employed by music schools who do all the marketing for you.
But for most teachers, keeping a consistent line of students coming in the door is a real challenge, especially if you’re trying to expand and perhaps hire another teacher or expand your physical location.
If you’ve never heard of Seth Godin, he’s probably the world’s best-known marketer. He’s the guy that comes up if you type ‘Seth’ into google. [Not bad for SEO!]
I’ve followed his work for sometime and would recommend his books to anyone keen to grow their businesses. You can find some of his most popular books here.
He’s just written a new book, “This is Marketing” and has been appearing on a number of podcasts and TV shows to promote the book.
While I haven’t yet read the book, I’ve heard from a number of people that Godin uses piano teachers as an example of “positioning as a service” in the new book.
Music is social. Music is current and everchanging. And most of all, music requires musicians. The winners in the music business of tomorrow are individuals and organizations that create communities, connect people, spread ideas and act as the hub of the wheel… indispensable and well-compensated. Seth Godin
Here he is talking to Marie Forleo…
One of the things I’ve long advocated for piano teachers in crowded markets is to differentiate themselves, perhaps by promoting themselves as the “competition winning teacher” or the “teen transfer teacher” or the “pop teacher” or whatever.
Interestingly enough, Godin calls this approach ‘selfish’ and instead recommends we “offer them a service, to see what their choices are”, which is a more generous approach in his view.
He recommends teachers set up a graph with axes determined by the features you feel that parents may feel are important.
For example, Cheap v Expensive or Kind v Strict or Popular v Classical approach.
You should then plot where the other teachers in your area sit on the graph to get a visual feel for where there are gaps in the market.
Here’s an example I mocked-up today showing how it might look if you plotted the teachers in your area on axes of cost v classical/contemporary approach:
To me this is what differentiation is all about, so I’m not sure I was entirely wrong in my thinking, but he does take a slightly different angle when speaking to potential customers.
As you can see, there are lots of teachers in the top right quadrant, which we might call Expensive Classical Lessons. There are far fewer competitors in the lower left corner, which we might call the Cheap Pop Lessons.
But there is no-one currently servicing the bottom right corner, the Expensive Pop/Jazz Lessons.
So, as Godin says, that’s when you can choose to offer a service that fills that need, if it suits your skills and teaching style (unfortunately, it may not, which is why our Inner Circle training courses are perfect for you!).
I also like what Godin says we should say to people looking for the other kinds of lessons that we’re not offering:
I’ll eagerly send you to that other teacher, because I’m here to help you get what you want.
Now that’s really hard when we are just getting started as a teacher or need to build our numbers, and I think it’s pretty natural to to take on pretty much any student that comes our way, regardless of how he/she fits with our own passions, desires or long-term view of our studio.
I certainly started this way, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
But as you grow and develop as a teacher, you will pretty quickly realise what it is you most enjoy, what you really don’t like and how you can best serve the families in your area, and that’s when this exercise can become really enlightening.
And I’ll leave you with this quote from his book that Marie reads out at around the 14 minute mark of the previous video…
The challenge for most people who seek to make an impact isn’t winning over the mass market, it’s the micro market.
How will you position yourself to best serve families in your ideal micro market?
Can you see this exercise helping your marketing? Let me know below.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.