Making money, making space: Are your marketing strategies deep enough?
While we frequently discuss the advantages and disadvantages of certain types of piano lesson marketing, we often stop short of asking deeper questions that can make our marketing more effective. Understanding how people in the twenty-first century respond to the constant barrage of marketing, and then tailoring our approach respectively, can actually help produce more leads and in the end, more piano students taking lessons from us. Here are the first four often overlooked principles of marketing that can lead to deeper questions and more effective marketing strategies:
1. We must know what our clients really want.
On the surface, it would seem that we are trying to market to people who want to take piano lessons. Why else would parents call us? But instead of marketing based on what parents want, we often advertise based on what we as teachers want: students who study classical literature for years and learn to be lifelong musicians. While there is everything wonderful about this desire, we must ask: What do the parents want? Do they want their child to be enriched by fine art? Do they want their children to learn to play popular songs? Perhaps they have heard that piano lessons are educationally beneficial and want their children to profit from the secondary benefits of piano. What do the students want? (This is especially important if you are marketing directly to students, as in the case of adults.) Do they want to impress their friends? Do they want to learn new skills and sharpen their minds? Do they want to have a hobby that helps them express their emotions? In examining these motives for wanting lessons, you might be tempted to say, "Well, I wouldn't want to teach a student who wants just that!" But, motives or desires can only be influenced by what students and parents are exposed to. Perhaps they have never been told that there are primary benefits to learning the piano. Perhaps they have never experienced making beautiful music with others. Once we have them "in the door," it is a beautiful opportunity to also enlarge what influences their desires, and educate them about some of the other valuable reasons to take piano lessons. Just because their goals do not initially line up with ours does not mean that they wouldn't benefit from lessons with us. One of the goals in piano lesson marketing is to get students "in the door" so that you can help them see if your service matches their goals. But once they have contacted you, you have an incredible opportunity to educate them about all the benefits of music study which can ultimately influence their goals, whether or not they study with you! In addition, you have the opportunity to sell them on your piano lesson package if you determine that their goals can dovetail with your own. In order to find out what parents really want (and to see if you are marketing based on their desires), try conducting a survey of both piano parents as well as parents of school-aged children who are not in piano lessons. Ask what their number one goal is (or would be) for taking piano lessons. Then, if you can tailor your piano lesson package to meet their goals, you can use the language they articulate in these surveys when marketing to parents of similar ages and interests.
2. We must make sure we have a product that they want.
Does your "piano lesson package" really meet the needs of twenty-first century parents? Do your repertoire choices include and consider the preferences of students? Are your lessons enjoyable experiences for children (see number 4)? Is there a way you could package your lessons to meet more of their needs? Offering summer introductory courses can help parents whose goal is to expose their students to fine music and to determine if there is an interest in piano lessons. Offering short-term courses to "learn holiday music" could be helpful in teaching holiday songs to adults returning to the piano. Is there a different "method of delivery" that you could use to make lessons more convenient for parents? In the same way that the Kindle, online readers, and audio books have introduced books to many people who were not avid readers, so the introduction of Skype and Facetime lessons have introduced the idea of piano lessons to many students who did not have access or even interest before now. But are there other ways to package your product to make it more convenient, more possible, or more appealing? Start a "no idea is a bad idea" list and ask others who are not piano teachers to help you brainstorm about this.
3. Remember that parents of school-aged children will always google you first.
Though it is obvious, it must be said: You must have an online presence. It doesn't matter whether parents hear of you from a friend, see you on Facebook, or read about you on a flyer you sent home with the school. The current generations of parents with school-aged children will still type your name in a search engine and see what comes up. You must be online. In addition, because it is so easy to create a beautiful and responsive1 website, parents expect that. If your website looks cluttered, is difficult to read, or looks dated, within seconds they will open a new browser window and search for other piano teachers in their area. Yes, it is true that a dated and busy-looking website may belong to a brilliant piano teacher, but parents do not have the patience to hope that brilliance is behind the mess when they can easily find someone else in your area who has a beautiful, responsive site. We are a visual culture, so appearances matter. What does your website say about you and your studio?
4. Market first using the results of your program, not the features.
1 Responsive web design refers to websites that are designed so that they can be easily read and navigated on a wide range of devices, especially smaller devices such as phones and iPads. This prevents users from having to enlarge text to enable reading. Responsive designs are available in almost any website building application like WordPress, Google Sites, Weebly, Square, etc.