How to Market Your Music School With a $0 Budget Part 1 | EP 183

Market Your Music Lessons Without Spending a Dime

I recently asked members in the Music Lessons and Marketing Facebook group to share what marketing tactics they use that cost little to nothing. I received some great feedback, and I want to share the many creative strategies that were shared. 


My budget for advertising my music school goes anywhere from $500 to $1,000 monthly on Facebook Ads and Google Ads. Currently, I’m starting up some group piano classes for my Piano Jam program here in Cleveland where I spend about $700 a month on Facebook Ads.


I thought in the first episode of this series I would share with you a list of different marketing strategies that cost little to nothing to implement.


Some of these are marketing strategies that I used in my music school. I’m currently using some with my group piano classes. Others on this list are strategies that I’ve heard either in books or podcasts, specifically from Jay Abraham and John Jantsch. Those are the two people whom I’ve picked up some great strategies for more grassroots word-of-mouth marketing.




Marketing Strategies that Cost Little to Nothing 


1. Motivate your customers to refer 

Perhaps you’ve seen this before, where someone has a little message right before their name in their auto signature. I got this from John Jantsch, and I use this idea in my music school. He says it’s important to just remind your clients that you rely on referrals. The occasional reminder keeps that idea top of mind now and then.


One auto signature I used was “We love referrals. If you have a friend whose child might benefit from music lessons, please send them our way.”


2. Ask for Reviews

An idea that I picked up from John Jantsch as well, which I still use to this day, is to have a scripted email template.


Whenever you get a compliment from somebody, like they say something nice about you, your music school, maybe about one of your teachers, or how much their child’s enjoying their lessons, have a pre-defined email template where you thank them for their thoughts.


You can also include your Google business page’s link which will take them to the portion where they could share their words and actually write a review. This tactic got me a lot of reviews.


That moment when your clients feel heightened emotions gives you really an easy time to invite them to share their thoughts.


3. Flyers

Yes, it’s old-fashioned, but it works, and I love it.


I have no idea how effective they are. I mean, that was my only marketing strategy back then.


When I started my music school some 20 old years ago, social media wasn’t really a thing yet, though to this day it’s something that I focus on for brand awareness. So I’d just post flyers in coffee shops, getting my brand out in front of people.


Typically, flyers are being posted on a pretty cluttered board along with other flyers. So one thing that I would make a point to do with my flyers is to really focus on minimalism. That helps them stand out.


4. Attend Events

Events were a big part of my marketing strategy. I’d always attend camp fairs. Arts and crafts fairs, too. Perhaps four or five times a year.


I would attend fairs that I knew my ideal client was likely to attend. Arts and crafts fairs are one of them. These are fairs where there are arts and crafts projects that kids could do.


I’ll go to the store and buy something that kids can do while they’re over at my booth. Typically, these stores were also vendors at these fairs. The thing with these different fairs, especially those that are just trying to get some traction in your community, is that people need to sell booths.


There was a fair I attended once. It’s called The Rock’n’Roll Craft Show. A lot of it was mostly fashion. It was a young production, and they were eager to sell booths. They were fine selling a booth to me maybe for around $100 or $200. It wasn’t that much.


I didn’t have any clothes to sell, but my booth appealed to the same type of people attending this fair, so it worked out well.


That was a Jay Abraham concept—this whole idea of looking for events to attend that are outside of your industry.


5. Be Seen in Your Community 

Just be out in your community. Be present. I’m sure the city or county you live in holds fairs and different carnivals. Potentially, you have the ability to provide entertainment for these. The more the leadership in your community knows about you, the more likely they’re going to turn to you or ask you to participate in community-wide events.


I was once a judge for a talent contest held in the community park. Just a couple miles away from my school. I bet most people at that event knew about my school, knew its name, or were familiar with it. By being out in your community, you’re keeping your brand top of mind.


6. Cross Promote With Other Businesses 

Network with other business owners that serve your ideal client. This is a write-out of the Jay Abraham playbook.


Let’s say there’s a dance studio and gymnastic studio martial arts. Something you could do is reach out to these studios and say “Hey, I’d love to promote what you’re doing to my clients. Could we come up with some sort of promotion that’s unique or just for the kids in my music school? In return, I’d like you to do the same.”


You could cross-promote each other or even take it a step further, maybe after you’ve formed a relationship with these different local businesses.


Make a direct mail piece promoting youth enrichment programs in your city and include three or four different businesses that will share your expense for creating the mailer and postage costs.


Clearly, this doesn’t fall into the category of cost little to nothing, but this approach can dramatically decrease your expense by partnering with other people.


Doing cross-promotion simply through your email list certainly doesn’t cost a penny.


7. Seize the Benefits of Social Media-It’s Free!

Be consistent with your social media plan. Creating content that’s entertaining, inspiring, and thought-provoking—not from your perspective nor from a musician’s, but from a parent’s perspective—is the key to social media success.


Your posts are going to be most likely more kid-focused and less music-focused. Even so, you can certainly tie music into it as more of an afterthought.


For example, you could create a short video of a kid playing the intro of Stairway to Heaven on the guitar. In your post, your caption could read “Hard work and determination pay off. Calvin shows off his mastery of Stairway to Heaven”.


Hard work and determination—that’s the focus of that post, not the music. This type of message is going to resonate more with a parent than this one: “Hey, Calvin. Great job for being able to play Stairway to Heaven.”


8. Inspire Your Customers to Brag About You

We talked about this once. You could ask for referrals through your auto signature or every time someone compliments you.


What’s more, you could even have an email that goes out once or twice a year to some of your top clients. One way you’re able to keep costs down is through referrals.


Trying to incentivize people through money or some sort of cash reward to refer is like saying “We’ll pay you if you talk about us”. People would also expect to get paid whenever they talk about you.


First of all, the question is “What are they going to talk about when they refer?” because that’s important. If you can provide an experience—maybe an amazing concert or recital or a camp experience—if you can give parents something to talk about, they’ll talk about you.


One thing that I would make a point about is I would never give a gift card or cash of some sort for a referral. What I would do is I’d send it to them as a gift. I wouldn’t tie it in with the email. I wouldn’t say “Hey! Refer a friend and get fifty dollars off.”


I’d always encourage them to refer. If they did, I’d send them a gift. Maybe a fifty-dollar gift card to Amazon.


9. Free Local News Listings

When I had to close my music school, say it’s due to snow typically, I always made it a point to have it listed on the local news. I‘m able to get my message out via email and text, but this service right here where they list all the school closings is for free and open to music schools or any afterschool programs.


It’s really more about brand awareness. One time I noticed they were listing which schools or churches are open on a Sunday. Well, I was open that Sunday. So, I listed my school as a business that was open that day. Later, people would often comment to me “Hey. I saw your name listed on a channel for news.”


10. Online Event Calendars

Whenever I had concerts, I keep a list of all the different online event calendars. We would put on rock concerts, but I would never list a recital.


I always list my rock band concerts. Often, I was able to create a link back to my website, which was certainly helpful for SEO and Google ranking.


11. Social Nights at Your Music School

I used to host movie and open mic nights at my school. Students were able to bring a friend. They’d pay $10, and I provide them with pizza and soda. They could also bring a friend if they want for an additional $5.


That helped create community and culture within my music school. It was also bringing in new people. Kids loved the idea of having a place to go on a Saturday night. They typically never have that or they rarely had opportunities to do that, and it was pretty cool to go to their music school on a Saturday night and watch a movie and hang out with friends and with other kids that they knew from the music school.


12. Write Blogs that Spark Your Customers’ Interests

Have a local interest blog on your website. Write blogs about different businesses and different personalities that your ideal client would be interested in. This is kind of tied in with number 6, this whole idea of networking with other businesses in your community.


If you write a blog about a local business that also serves your ideal client, there’s a good chance they’re going to share that blog. It’s good marketing for them.


You’re obviously going to let them know that you just wrote a blog about them. You might think, “Should my blog be about music stuff?” Not necessarily. Your music school is about music, but it’s also a part of a larger community.


Writing a blog about “How to Buy a Guitar” or “10 Practice Tips”—these topics are geared towards musicians. You want parents to read your blog. Specifically, you want moms to read your blog. Writing blogs with topics that relate to your music school but also have a direct interest in your ideal client is likely to get found on a Google search.


Again, if you’re writing about local characters and personalities like the guys down at the firehouse and the owner of that cool funky clothing boutique that you know a lot of moms in your school shop at, they’re going to share that they’re going to send their blog to their email list.


Your blog about the guys in your local firehouse, they don’t have an email list that they’re going to send that out to, but the people in the fire department have a lot of interaction with people in the community.


The more people in your community know about you, those people who have influence, the more your message will get out into your community organically.


13. Buy Dinner for Your Top Customers

Lastly, buy dinner for your top customers who refer. Let’s say mom is the one who I’m dealing with within a given family. I would reach out to her husband on Facebook and say “Hey, you guys have been great customers. I’d like to buy you guys dinner, but I want to surprise your wife. What’s your favorite restaurant?” Then, I would call that restaurant and buy them a gift certificate for a nice dinner.


This has a positive impact in two ways: for one, it makes the person feel appreciated for all the referrals that they’ve given you or it could also be that you consider them one of your best clients because they have three of their kids at your music school.


There’s a good chance that they’re going to talk about their night out. “Hey, what did you guys do last weekend?” “Oh, we went to Tony’s. It was so crazy! Our kids’ music school bought us a night out on the town at Tony’s.”


You’re giving them something to talk about. There’s a good chance that they might take a picture at the restaurant, post it on Facebook, and make a comment about your music school. Maybe they will thank you on social media.


Use New Revenue to Reinvest in Your Business

Okay, so these are my ideas. Again, the dinner thing does not cost zero. Dinner doesn’t cost little to anything, but when you think about its impact, it really does. If somebody is referring people to you and you give them a gift, they’re that much more likely to refer more.


The money that I’m using is from the revenue that this person has helped me generate. I’m using some of that money to pay for their night out on the town.


So stay tuned, I’m going to be sharing with you in the upcoming episode some different strategies that music school owners have shared with me and how they are able to market their music schools by spending little to nothing on marketing.

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