The better you understand what parents want the better you can market to them. In this episode, I share how to see your music school from your customer’s perspective and how to make your marketing speak directly to them.
The Biggest Frustration Music School Owners Face in Teaching and Marketing Group Classes
I wanted to share with you some results from the recent questions that I posted in the Music Lessons and Marketing Facebook group. The questions go like this:
1. What is your biggest frustration when it comes to teaching group classes
2. What is your biggest frustration when it comes to marketing group classes?
In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan of group classes. By the time I sold my music school 3 years ago, I’d say 70% of my students were doing some form of a group class. As more of my students moved into a group class, my profits increased without even necessarily having to enroll more students in my school.
Now here are some great feedback I got from music school owners who shared their frustrations with group classes from both teaching and marketing standpoints.
1. Parents View Group Classes as Not as Good as Private Lessons
Chrissy Misso, the owner of Chrissy’s Studio in Rochester, Minnesota, has this to share. She said that parents view group classes as being not as good as private lessons, especially for the beginner, and she’s absolutely right.
That is a perception that most parents have, and what troubles me most about this is that parents enroll their kids in all these after-school activities like dance, karate, and team sports. Everything’s done as a group, yet parents perceive private lessons or group music lessons as being of lower value.
I think as music educators, we’re guilty of that because that’s just a model that we’ve traditionally always followed. You started in a private lesson, you build some skills, and then eventually a child can move into an ensemble. That’s certainly a group learning experience, but the core foundational music skills are best taught in a private lesson. Perhaps you feel that way yourself that the private lessons are best suited for that.
2. Teaching the New Students Along with the Experienced Group is a Real Challenge
Founder and director of the Six-Figure Guitar Teacher and Head of Guitar Michael Gumley, who also hosts the TopMusic Guitar podcast and owns the Melbourne Guitar Academy in Melbourne, Australia, has this to say about the challenges of group classes.
He says that it’s challenging to integrate new people into a more experienced group, where the teacher has to balance teaching the new student, or the fundamentals, which everybody else in the class has already learned.
I experienced this myself and I put together a group guitar class where kids were picking up and progressing at different levels. I felt like the more experienced musicians really weren’t being challenged enough because I was spending so much time focused on the kids that were struggling.
3. Scheduling Group Classes
Kyla Duckworth from Musicality Studio in Sumiton, Alabama, has this to say. One of the biggest challenges with group classes is scheduling. She said that they’ll set a time and then people can’t do that time, then they ended up having some solo students when really what they were hoping would be a group class.
That’s a real challenge, right? You get one kid to sign up for a group class, and that’s the only kid in there. How many weeks can you go when you’re trying to market it where you eventually just have to convert it into a private lesson?
The way I remedy that in my school if that so happens, where I only had one student enrolled in a group class, is I’d call the parents a few days before the first class and say, “Look. Currently, your child’s the only one in there. How about you come and join the class? It’ll make for a great parent-child bonding experience.” This really worked out great.
I would always make a point to ask the parent at the end of the class if they’d like me to capture them in a video playing together. Of course, the parents can say yes. I’d also encourage the parent to share with their friends and family on social media how much fun they’re having with their child.
4. Articulating the Value of the Group Versus the Private Lesson
Rebekah Trevelise, the owner of Austin Arts Academy in Austin, Texas, says she struggles with articulating the value of the group versus the private lesson, and I’m sure we all can relate to her. What I would encourage Rebekah or anyone to do when it comes to trying to better articulate the value of the group class over the private lesson is to write down everything—all of the benefits of the private lesson, the benefits of the group class, the shortcomings of the private lesson, and the shortcomings of the group class. Line them up side by side and see how you can craft a sales pitch that is really built around the benefits to your group class.
By doing this exercise, your group class might reveal to you that there just certainly aren’t enough benefits currently in the way it is structured. Maybe you simply need to add some components to your group class. One of the greatest ways to increase the value of any group class is to create an experience in there that can’t be replicated in a private lesson.
– – – EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS – – –
How to See Your Music School Through Your Customers’ Eyes
The more I mature and grow as a marketer and a business owner, the more I realize that marketing and music have so much in common. What it takes to be a great musician is exactly what it takes to be a great marketer.
The Common Ground of Marketing and Music
Both marketing and music are about communicating an idea or a feeling. I’d even say that the lessons I’ve learned from music and the lessons I’ve learned from marketing, in terms of communication, also applied to teaching music itself.
Specifically, this lesson is the ability to see your business, your music lessons, and the music that you create from your customer’s perspectives. It’s all about the ability to look at the music you create from your listeners’ perspective. Also, it’s being able to see your music school from your client’s perspective. When it comes to teaching your music lessons, it’s the ability to see it from both the child’s and the parent’s perspectives.
Understanding Your Business From Your Customer’s Perspective
Now, on the one hand, it’s pretty impossible to really view yourself from someone else’s perspective, but what is possible is to simply make the effort to try to better understand your music and your business from your customer’s perspective.
When I think back to myself as a young musician, I was really caught up in trying to impress the listener. I wanted people to perceive me as a good musician. As a response, I only play stuff that looked and sounded impressive like running fast scales, which could imply a message that I am a good musician. When I was in my teens, the greatest compliment I could ever receive from someone who heard me play was “You were a great musician.”
But as I got older, I realized that it was not. Rather, the greatest compliment someone could give me as a musician is this: “Wow, your music made me feel great. That song you played brought me to tears.” Now, that is a sign of great music.
How to See Through Your Listener’s Feelings as a Musician
1. Shift Your Music Expression From Yourself to Your Listener’s
When my wife will hear some music on the radio or on a concert, she’ll often turn to me and say, “Hey, is that person a good musician?” My response is always this, “If they make you feel good, if you like it, then they’re a good musician.”
That was a shift that I had to have with my own personal music expression. This shift in my mind was “I don’t care what people think of my musicianship. What I care about is how my music makes people feel,” which led me to approach my instrument.
2. Place Yourself in the Background Rather Than Front and Center
Really, just to clarify, my main instrument is the bass guitar. This has encouraged me to stop thinking like Flea who plays busy, fast bass lines. Instead, I focused more on supporting the song’s melody line—stepping back in the background and creating lighting for the music as opposed to being front and center.
3. Feel Your Listener
The older I got, the more mature and confident I became as a musician. Also, the more I began to care about how the listener was responding. The same applies to marketing your music school and to your music lessons.
How to See Through Your Student’s Needs as a Music Teacher
1. Prioritize the Child’s Needs Over Your Own
As a young teacher, I wanted my students and their parents to perceive me as a good teacher. For them to have that perception of me, I wanted to seem knowledgeable.
In my lessons, I would focus on sharing my knowledge with the student. I would use some fancy musical term and explain it to them. I wanted them to understand what a relative minor chord meant and arm them with the language of music theory. I’d share that with them to show off to their parent that they understand what a dominant chord is.
But over time, I realized now what I need to focus on is teaching the child something that’s going to make them feel good. Something that will make them feel successful and feel proud of themselves. Anything that would make them feel like they’re making progress.
2. Focus on the Child’s Experience
As I got older and matured as an educator, I focused the emphasis away from me and maybe my own insecurities, too. I stopped wondering what people would think of me as a teacher; rather, I focused on the child’s experience. In the lesson, I stopped asking myself, “Did I share some important helpful knowledge with this kid today?” Instead, I began to ask myself, “Did I give this child a musical experience in the lesson that they’ve never had in their life before?”
When you’re dealing with a young musician, it’s pretty easy to give them a musical experience. Every lesson that’s unique makes them feel like they experience something new. As I grew as a teacher, I find myself asking more. “What’s this kid feeling right now in the lesson?”, “How engaged are they?”, “Are they looking at the clock?”, or are they thinking to themselves, “I hope this lesson doesn’t end soon.”
3. Show Genuine Interest in the Child’s Life
One of my music lessons needs to be fun and engaging, but how do I do that? I learned that I have to be really sensitive to where the child’s at in the moment. I focus more on my relationship with the child, being not just a music teacher, but also a mentor and showing interest in their life, not in a normal personal way.
Just starting off the lesson, I ask them about school. Then I’m finding out that they’re struggling in Math. I ask them a couple of weeks later how Math is going, then maybe give them a pointer on how to take notes in class or be a better student. Parents love to see their kids’ teachers being positive role models.
How to See Through Your Customer’s Perspective as a Music School Owner
1. Acknowledge Your Insecurities and Properly Deal With Them
Don’t Tout Your Music School For Impression
When I started my music school, my approach to my marketing was identical to that of my music teaching. I wanted to impress people. I would tout my music school’s accomplishments. I’d talk about the quality of our music lessons and what an amazing teaching staff we have and their passion for music. Then, I’d mention how our teachers have these impressive credentials and how they were touring professional bands and talk about the orchestras they hadn’t played with the colleges they went to.
Recognize Your Own Uniqueness
I was insecure in the early stages of my music school. The fact that it was a rock school worried me about the misconceptions that people would have about rock music—that it wasn’t really high art. It really never strives to be one, for when it does it turns into a prog rock.
My other insecurity is the thought that people would think that my teachers were all potheads and not good role models. The view that music education centered on rock music wasn’t just as legitimate as classical music also becomes one of them.
Never Leave Out Your Crucial Marketing Message
These were my own insecurities. So, what I would do in my marketing is I would tout the academic standards of my music school. We’ll talk about our curriculum and our teaching methods, of which there’s certainly value, but what I failed to include in my marketing message is how we help kids.
2. Become More Clear and Intentional
My marketing was full of multiple messages, hoping that a single one would maybe connect with a parent. Over time, just like with music, I learned how to simplify things and focus on just maybe one marketing idea.
In my messaging, I began to eliminate all the noise on my website by making it clear, clean, and simple. The message shifted away from me—my music school and my amazing, qualified teaching staff—to something that says, “This is how we can help your child discover their potential through music.”
3. Incorporate Your Customers’ Language by Making Notes of Their Responses
I began to incorporate that language when I was on a sales call with a prospective student. Every time I would say certain things, I began to make note of how parents respond.
People will give you a grunt, a moan, or a sound of approval. “Hmmm.” Maybe they’ll say that when you said something that they like. “Uhuh. That’s their way of going. I like what you just said, and you made me think about that.” “I didn’t realize that music lessons will help my child with problem-solving and goal setting.” “In perseverance, that makes a lot of sense to me. No one ever pointed that out to me before.”
4. Draw Conclusions for Your Future Marketing Message
Each time a parent would signal to me that they liked something, I’m going to make a note of that and then make other conclusions. If they liked the statement about perseverance—maybe a statement about the value of failure and picking yourself up to persevere—then we just think for a moment about all the life lessons that are being taught to a child in their pursuit of mastering the basics of an instrument.
5. Really Talk to Your Customers
Those lessons can be applied to so many different areas of life. Start talking to parents like that, and they’d be all ears.
Music has taught you a lot about life. How many hours did you spend alone in your room as a kid sawing away at the violin, plucking out the notes on your guitar, struggling through a passage of music that at that moment seemed impossible? And how did you feel when you overcame a hurdle? How has your music evolved your musical expression? How has that evolved over the years? You can use these lessons in all aspects of your life.
6. Stop Making Excuses
When people tell me that “I don’t like this marketing and this business stuff”, I think they’re just looking at it the wrong way. They don’t like it because maybe they don’t fully understand it, and that’s fine. By saying you don’t care or like this marketing and business stuff, or you’re just not good at it, that’s an excuse. You’re just coming at it from the wrong angle.
7. Be Sure Your Message Resonates with Your Customers
When your marketing doesn’t work, it’s usually because your message is not resonating with people. If you play in a music group and people don’t come out to hear your band play, the problem isn’t the people. People aren’t coming out to hear you perform because your music isn’t resonating with them on a level that will inspire and motivate them to come out and see your music.
The same applies to your music school and its marketing. People aren’t responding to your Facebook ads because of the message you placed in your ad. The problem is never Facebook. Your lack of knowledge in business and marketing might contribute to that fact, but the real issue is you not looking at your business from your customer’s perspective.
8. Study Your Customers’ Behavior
How can your marketing stop a parent in their tracks when they’re on social media scrolling through their newsfeed? What is your ad have to do to make them stop and say, “Whoa, what’s this?” You can discover the answer to that question by noting your customers’ behavior. Note which messages they respond to in a conversation and simply talk to them. Ask them what motivated them to sign up for lessons.
9. Ask Your Customers Better Questions
Know what they appreciate most about music lessons at your school. Ask them how music lessons have changed their child’s life. Ask them how music lessons have made their child a better person. Ponder what life lessons they feel music lessons are teaching their child.
10. Gain Insight from Your Customers
The truth is you’ll never be able to fully view your music school from your customers’ perspective because you’ll never be a customer in your music school. But by asking them the right questions and getting to know them better, you will gain insight into not only how they think but also how other parents view music lessons.
You’ll discover what hopes and expectations parents have for music lessons. If you listen carefully to your customers when they talk to you, they will literally give you the language that you should incorporate into your marketing message.