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One frequent question among new and seasoned piano teachers is, “What is the best way to market piano lessons?”  Of course, there are many ways of marketing lessons, but some are clearly better ways of finding and keeping committed students.  Whether your studio is full, has vacancies, or you have moved and need a whole new set of students, chances are you’ll need to market your services at some point in your career.

First, it is important to understand several important principles of marketing:

  • It is easier to market to your warm market than your cold market.  Your warm market includes your current and past students, family, friends, neighbors, anyone who knows you and what you do.
  • Most of your new business referrals come from your warm market, so it is important to keep your warm market happy and reminded about the perks of studying piano with you.
  • It is easier to retain a current student, than it is to find a new student.
  • When marketing to a cold market, remember that first impressions are extremely important.
  • Piano teaching may seem like only a service, but your referrals and most of your students will come because of your relationships that you take the time to make and cultivate.

If you understand these principles of marketing, you’ll understand more about why the following are some of the best and worst ways to market piano lessons.  Here are the 10 most popular ways to market piano lessons.   

1.  Networking

Networking is an area that is not discussed in much detail among piano teachers.  But it is every bit as important for a piano teacher to network as it is for a banker, lawyer, or real estate agent.  Referrals come from people who trust us and if we are not out meeting people, making friendships, and helping others, then we are not establishing trust with anyone new.  Here are some important people with which piano teachers should network:

School Music Teachers

Music teachers in school are frequently asked who they would recommend as a private instructor of specific instruments.  It’s a good idea to meet your local school music teacher in person, tell them what you do, give them your business cards (give them many so that they can hand them out), and ask if they might be willing to refer others to you.  In addition, you might want to prepare a professional looking magnet with little tear off business cards so that these teachers can hand them to interested families.  Some schools may even allow you to put flyers in students folders toward the end of the year to inform parents about summer music camps, lessons, etc.  It never hurts to ask!

Preschool Music Teachers

Another good professional connecting to make is with the local Kindermusik, Musikgarden, or other preschool music program teachers in your area.  Some of these teachers also teach piano, but many do not.  Take them out to lunch so that you can tell them about your studio and find out more about what they do.  They will be as interested to get your referrals as you are to get theirs.

Fellow Piano Teachers

As mentioned under Word of Mouth, our own colleagues are frequently the source of many good referrals.  But, most teachers will only refer students to people that they trust.  You must be a part of and giving to the teaching community in order for teachers to get to know you and trust you.  When they know and trust you, they will be much more likely to refer students to you when you inform them that you have openings.  Don’t forget about the “giving to” part of that equation.  Everyone loves someone who will share ideas with them and help them when help is needed.  Be a true friend to your colleagues and their referrals will usually come.

2.  Word of mouth

Most piano teachers will attest to the fact that most of their business comes from recommendations from current or past students (your warm market).  Because of this, it is important to tell your current and past families that you have openings and are currently taking applications for new enrollments.  Some teachers give incentives to their families if a referral becomes a student (e.g. $20 per referral, discount off one month of lessons, etc.).  If you are a good teacher, I think most families are happy to refer you even without a referral program.

It’s easy to forget that not only are our current families potential referrers, but our fellow piano teachers are as well.  I am constantly asking my colleagues, “Do you have openings?” because I am inundated with requests for lessons each month.  (See next point on website as to why.)  Having good relationships with your colleagues makes it easy to send them an email saying, “I’m currently taking new students and wanted you to know in case your studio is full and you have a call about lessons.”

A free and easy way to let your colleagues, friends, and family know that you have openings is to send them an email stating this. Keep the email short and simple, link to your website, thank them for any referrals they give you, and above all, do not CC (carbon copy)!  Whenever you send an email like this, remember to respect the privacy of others by not giving their email address to all your friends.  Instead of CC’ing everyone, make sure you BCC (blind carbon copy) every one, or better yet, send out individual emails.

3.  Your Website

While word of mouth is usually the best way of getting new students for most teachers, having a professional looking website has boosted the number of inquiries I get by a substantial amount.  As a matter of fact, I have thought about mentioning that my studio is full on my website, but I do like people to continue to contact me about lessons so that I can refer them to my friends and colleagues.

In a similar way that having a good website can have a positive affect on your number of inquires, having a BAD website can turn people away.

Here’s an important point to remember.  The parents who are currently searching for piano lessons for their kids are roughly 20-45 years old.  This is Generation X and Y who basically live by their computers.  These are the early adopters of FB, Twitter, websites, and blogs and they most certainly have email and know their way around a computer.  If they look for your studio online and do not find you have a web presence, they may easily dismiss your studio as “outdated” and may think you must be too old to relate to their children who don’t know anything but technology.   I will admit that I belong to this group of 20-45 year olds and I almost always go to the web FIRST when I am investigating a class for my children.

If you do have a website, remember that it takes a while before your site will turn up on a search for piano lessons in your area.  Make sure there are key words on your site about your town, piano lessons and remember to update your site often.

4.  Professional Associations

If there is a local MTNA association or Guild group in your area, I would strongly encourage you to join one and find out who is their referral chair.  I am constantly sending inquiring families to our referral chair when I have to inform them that I do not have any openings.  As stated in the previous paragraph, your best best is to interact with these groups of teachers, but at a minimum, belonging to their organization might get you some referrals.

5.  Newspaper and magazine ads

These typically do not generate a lot of leads that lead to long term students or are often not worth the investment.

6. Yellow Pages Ad

I know that our local association can take a short ad in the yellow pages for free since we are a non-profit.   Prices will vary for private teachers depending on the size of the ad.  Of course, the internet is easily taking the place of the phone book, so listing yourself in an online piano teacher directory may yield equal a greater amount of inquiries.

7.  Craig’s list and other general online ads

I have heard of some teachers getting a number of inquiries from Craig’s list, so this may be an option for some.  But, I think that most people shopping Craig’s list tend to be shopping for a bargain, so I tend to shy away from using this kind of service.  I am not the “old lady down the street who teaches for fun” (i.e. pennies).  But again, that is based on my experience, and different teachers have mentioned that they have received some long term students from this service.

8.  Piano Teacher Referral Sites

If you are a teacher of specific curriculums, say like Piano Adventures, there are sites that will list you as a “Piano Adventures Teacher.”  In addition, there are other sites to which you can belong to for a price.

9.  Getting Out in Front

Playing for a church or community event attended by families with children is a great way to get your face and your abilities in the public eye.  Make sure you have business cards wherever you go so that you can hand these out to interested families.  If you are taking new students, it usually only takes 1-2 inquiries for word of your availability begins to travel around small communities (like a church).

10.  Media Opportunities

Try contacting your local newspaper to ask about writing an article about how to find a good piano teacher or the benefits of music lessons.  Offer to allow your local news station to interview you about the benefits of music education or how piano lessons are different now than how they were 30 years ago.  Marie Harris, a teacher I met online, did just that and you can watch the video of her interview here.

If there’s one thing I would want any teacher to remember from this article, it is this: Get out there and connect with other piano teachers and the general public!  Be kind to all you meet, go out of your way to be helpful, and eventually this will pay off in referrals (and friendships!).  Advertising to a cold market is probably necessary if you wish to increase your number of students significantly, but the your best market is your warm market, so take care of those relationships that exist in your circle of influence.

I’d love to hear what has worked for you.  Please leave your comments or send me your ideas and I’ll include them in this list which I know will be helpful to many teachers.

Next: Marketing 102: Moving to a New Community where I’ll share the top things I did or would do in the future if moving to a new community.

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