Competition for a good piano teacher is fierce these days. How do you make yourself stand out? Somehow I’ve managed to make a business for myself in the musically congested city of Los Angeles. Here are some of the tricks in my bag:
Use your phone’s video camera.
Most of the time, parents are not around to watch their kid’s piano lessons. Sometimes, they aren’t even home (nannies are there instead). If you have a studio where students come to you, it’s likely the parents don’t sit in the room with you. This means that the very people who hired you never get to see your actual work. You need to show them what you are doing for 2 very important reasons.
a) They need to see the results they are paying you for.
b) It makes them so happy.
B is the important reason to do this. If you send Mom or Dad a video of their daughter playing a near perfect rendition of TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE STAR while they are on a business trip, you are going to make their whole day! They won’t forget it either. I can tell it means so much to them when I send busy working parents videos of their kids playing the piano. It makes them feel so proud and it makes them happy to see their beloved kids in action. Try it out and see what I mean. My piano parents are SO appreciative of this.
Here’s a little example of a video I made of me and a student improvising. I edited it for Instagram, so it has some text on it. You certainly don’t need to edit and add text. Just a casual take with your camera is wonderful! Normally I would send a full length video, but this clip will give you an idea:
The Lesson Notes option in Music Teacher’s Helper is FANTASTIC. You should definitely be using it. In Music Teacher’s Helper, you can add Lesson Notes after each lesson is complete. Just this action alone makes me stand out as someone who is professional and really cares about her students. They don’t have to be long. Just a little summary of what happened in the lesson. You can write their assignments or not. Just give Mom and Dad an idea of what went on in the lesson. I think this is a major reason for my business’s ability to retain students on a long term basis.
I don’t believe you have to go crazy with Newsletters, but I do think an occasional well crafted, nice template design with helpful information and studio updates can make you stand out. Again, it shows that you don’t stop thinking of them once the timer goes off in their lessons. You are invested in their success and you want to be helpful even outside of the lesson.
In the Newsletters you may include some helpful information about piano practice, some fun videos from YouTube, studio updates, and perhaps a contest? Have fun with it! I like to use MailChimp. It’s free and elegant and very easy to use.
How does it make you feel when someone brings you cookies they baked themselves? Pretty special, right? Even if it’s just sliced up store bought cookie dough they threw in the oven the night before; the fact that they thought of you, put them in a container, and brought them to your house is SUCH a kind thing to do! (For the record, Pepperidge Farm cookies are also a fabulous surprise.)
I didn’t always do this, mostly because I hate baking. But for last year’s recital, I baked 60 cupcakes from a mix and gave them out to celebrate our studio’s 10 year anniversary. To me, it was not a big deal because, like I said, they were from a mix. But people acted like I had grown and pounded the wheat myself! They were all so appreciative and happy! It really went a long way, so now I occasionally bring a container of goodies around to my lessons just for a fun surprise. I think it helps them to remember I love being around them. Plus it’s so fun to see them smile!
K.I.T. (Keep in Touch)
Private lessons are a very personal thing, especially if you travel to private homes like I do. You are usually in a relationship with these people for a long time, usually anywhere from 2-9 years. And you see them every single week. How many people in your life can you say that about? For me it’s only my students, their families, my boyfriend and his kids. That’s it.
And it isn’t like waving to a neighbor across the street each day. You spend at most an hour every week with these people. Most likely you chat with the parents before and after the lessons. You get to know each other. I used to keep a very professional distance from my clients, believing that was the right thing to do. Then I realized what I am telling you now. How many other people get to be that involved with you on such a regular basis?
So keep in touch! If you know one of your piano moms is having a rough time at work (because she confided in you) send her a text the next day wishing her a better day at the office. If you go on vacation, consider sending a photo to everyone with a little note saying that you’re thinking of them and looking forward to seeing them when you return. If you and a piano Dad find out you have a favorite reading subject in common, send him a link to the newest book you discovered in that genre.
It’s the “little things” like this that keep us wanting to connect. It’s what makes people want to work with you. The truth is you could be the most talented, most effective music teacher, but if you don’t know how to connect with others, you may not have much longevity in your business. On the flip side, you could have a limited amount of piano knowledge and a kind personality with a drive to help people as much as you can and energy that inspires — and your business will thrive. That is a fact.
I hope this is helpful for you and that you grow and thrive in your business and your beautiful life!