In just one short month, students will be heading back to school, and music teachers will be gearing up for another full year of teaching young musicians to make beautiful sounds on their instruments. August is a prime time to recruit students, whether you’re starting a new studio or only looking to fill a few places. But how do you know that the actions that you’re taking to market your studio are the ones that will really make an impact and get people’s attention?
While re-reading Martha Baker-Jordan’s Practical Piano Pedagogy this week, what struck me as particularly relevant was the section on Impact/Effort Evaluation in marketing your studio (p. 67), which is the process of determining which ideas can have the best impact with the least amount of effort (and cost) associated with the implementation of the idea. In this line of thinking, the goal is to find the most effective advertising vehicles for the least amount of time and cost.
Until you’ve actually got the students signed up, your job has less to do with pedagogy and more to do with marketing and sales. The difficult part about advertising music lessons is that each community has its particular culture and methods by which its residents glean information about products and services. What you need to know about your neighborhood is which ideas work. Here are some things to keep in mind when coming to a decision:
1. The right places to advertise. Traditional advertising vehicles include putting an ad in the newspaper, door-to-door flyers (either distributed by hand where by-laws permit or using a delivery service), advertising in community centers, grocery stores, music stores or churches. Joining your local registered music teachers association can also work, as can getting to know people through your church’s music ministry. Online marketing avenues include teacher directories, blogs, and Google AdWords. Some teachers give free recitals as a way of attracting possible students. Others offer discounts for parents that refer new students to the studio.
The difficult part: different strategies work in different places. Get to know your neighborhood, its residents, and how they access information. Established teachers in your area can be a huge help in this regard.
2. The right time to advertise. What do the people in your neighborhood do in the summer? Do they stay at home? Do they move to their cottages? If so, when do they return en masse? If you live in a place where people go away for large chunks of the summer, a good time to target advertising might be the last week of August and first week of September.
Another strategy increasingly used by music schools is to go to market before anyone else, such as early May (often with early registration discounts). If you’re the first one out of the gate, you might just get the attention of families eager to get a jumpstart on their child’s music education before the end of the current school year. Conversely, mid-September advertising can work when there are busy teachers in your area whose studios are already full.
3. Talk about your MTH-enabled studio with the right advertising language. Nearly every teacher who has used the incredible array of tools available through Music Teacher’s Helper has wondered how on earth they ever got by without it. But how do you tell that to families new to these types of tools?
Online registration is one feature that is still relatively rare among most music studios. Only a few music schools have the infrastructure to offer it, and I’ve come across many teachers and administrators who still consider it the unattainable Holy Grail of music education. Something as simple as “Register Online” featured prominently in your advertising copy can get this point across quite easily.
But where MTH’s functionality shines through the most is in how its web tools can help you better deliver instruction to your students, keeping them and parents better informed about their progress through lesson reminders, repertoire tracking, and logging practice time. “Complete online resources and support” might strike a chord with prospective students, as well as MTH’s upcoming mobile support (“Get lesson notes on your cell phone”).
With any luck, you’ve had a restful and rejuvenating summer before the autumn madness starts once again. And in spite of today’s challenging economic landscape, I hope that your studio is able to grow and thrive with some strong teaching and better visibility in your community.