Question From Sara Chatalbash: What to Charge for Group Music Lessons
I offer 60-minute group lessons. My competition offers 60-minute private lessons at a higher price. So I’m wondering if I should up my prices to compete with them for 60 minutes, or if that would end up converting fewer people since I don’t have other options for them to pick if they can’t afford my 60-minute lessons. People have been saying that it’s not the same, apples to apples since I’m not doing private lessons. But I’ve taught both, and the style of lessons actually is getting more results and progress for my students, so I don’t necessarily agree. What do you think? ~Sara Chatalbash
Compete With Yourself. Not Your Competition
Sara is looking at her competition, looking at their pricing, looking at their options, and to be honest with you, I don’t think people really look so much at your competition’s pricing, or I don’t think that customers get too bogged down with comparing two music schools. I think what they look at is…
- Your message
- Your website and how your message makes them feel
Maybe they look at your pricing, but the more effective you are in your messaging, the more your messaging resonates with them and gets them excited, makes them feel like you understand them, your brand promise is something that they are actively thinking about and looking for and hoping that their child will receive, the less they have to look to pricing. If you don’t give them a clear sense of the value of your service through your messaging, then they have to resort to pricing as the thing that sets you apart, or that makes you desirable.
Parents Want What’s Best For Their Child
When it comes to seeking out a service for your child, parents typically want what’s best for their kid. The way that you can signal to them that your service is what’s best for them, is through pricing. It makes them feel like they’re giving their child the best when they are paying top dollar for something. If you had a child and you were going to look for a therapist for them, and one therapist charged $180, and another therapist charged $120, which therapist do you feel would be most likely to help your child achieve the outcome that you’re looking for? The $180 therapist! Clearly, the perception would be that they’re better. Even if the $120 therapist is just as good or possibly better, it doesn’t matter. That higher price makes you feel a certain way.
How Price Sensitive Are Your Customers?
I think a good question to maybe ask your customers is whether they considered pricing before they chose your music school, whether they were comparing you with another studio, and whether pricing was a factor or whether the comparison of the two prices was a factor. Most parents don’t get too caught up in that unless they themselves are working within a tight budget. And even if they are, they’re still inclined to reach out to you to see if maybe there’s a scholarship program available.
Keeping up With the Competition
Sara points out that her competition offers 60-minute lessons and 30-minute lessons and 45-minute lessons, and that they charge more for their 60-minute lessons than she does for her 60 minute SGL class. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the SGL program she’s talking about, that’s Daniel Patterson’s group piano program, which is a combination of one-on-one instruction, as well as practice time alone, or practice time during the lesson. So it’s a group class. Maybe you got four to six kids in there and the teachers moving from student to student, spending some time working with them, but then also allowing them time to practice on their own.
You Can’t Be a Perfect Fit For Everyone
Maybe some people are going to look at Sara’s website, they’re going to look at the price. Maybe it’s not going to work for them, and they never reach out to her. The question that Sara needs to ask is are there enough people in her market, in her community that can afford that price that can allow her to run a successful and profitable business? That’s why it’s important to really know your demographics, know what kind of money people are making within the radius that you’re marketing to.
Your Pricing Sends a Message
Clearly, her pricing is working for her. She mentioned in an email that she’s charging $219 for an hour group class, and her competitors, in general, are charging a little bit more than that. I do think it gives her some wiggle room that she can go up. The last thing you want to do is be the cheapest in your market.
Would You Rather Be The Higher or Lower Value Option?
When the School of Rock moved into my market, there was about a 40 to $50 gap in what I was offering compared to them in that I was 40 to $50, less than what they were charging. Now, their program was rock band and lessons, but they were offering a three-hour-a-week time commitment. Mine was a two-hour-a-week time commitment for band and lessons. If you break it down per hour, I was already charging more than they were, but I didn’t think that people were doing the math going, “Huh, Dave’s school is only two hours a week. This one’s three hours a week. School of Rock is a better rate.” I think people looked at which school was closer to them, which school’s message resonated with them. If the price was a factor, I appeared to be the lower value option. So even though per hour, I was charging more, I cranked up my prices at that point. I was still lower than they were, but I narrowed that price gap. I didn’t want to look like the lower value option. In the end, it was a real win for me.
Parents Want What’s Best For Their Child
I think the question that Sara really needs to ask herself is when it comes to price, is what are people comparing? What are they thinking about when they see your price? Are they looking at the price of another studio and the price of yours and basing their decision on that? And what signal does your price send to your customers? Parents typically want what’s best for their children. One way to help parents feel like they’re giving their children the best is through pricing.
Service Vs Commodity
I think music schools have to be careful not to think of their product as a commodity and not to price it as if it’s a commodity. For example, if you go to the grocery store and you’re going to buy a commodity, such as dishwashing soap, let’s say Dial is selling it for $2.99, but the generic brand is $2.59. Okay well, how much do you really value the quality of the dish soap? You’re going to go for the generic brand because it’s a little bit cheaper because the price is what really matters. As long as the generic brand is as effective as the known brand that’s fine. You’re going to focus on the price. But when it comes to something as child development, helping children be better people, being happier people-people don’t compare pricing as much.
So yes, I do think this is an invitation to Sara to bring her prices up a bit. It’s important that she’s comfortable with that price. The more she values her program, the more comfortable she’s going to be with raising her price.
Perception and Pricing
Now, she also talks about, and she talked about this in an email with me as well, the perception that people have of group classes. Here’s what she wrote in an email to me. She said, “The rub of what I offer is that people think they’re making less progress in group lessons. They’re not getting the attention they need. Yes, you’re getting less attention than in a 60-minute private lesson because I’m not sitting right next to you, looming over you every second, but nobody needs that kind of attention to learn piano. You get exactly the amount of attention I think you need from me to foster independent learning.” Parents when they’re signing up for private lessons, what they’re not interested in is private attention. What they’re interested in are results.
Lead with Benefits
Sara’s starting to talk here a little bit about a marketing challenge of how do you persuade these parents that the 60-minute group class is of equal or potentially greater value than a 60-minute private lesson? If she can successfully persuade them of that, then she can have the freedom to raise her prices and raise them dramatically. So this is where marketing skills come into play. The secret to doing this is not to lead with the word group class; it’s to lead with what the children are going to get. What benefits, what life skills they’re going to get from the program.
Teaching Life Skills in Group Music Lessons
What I find the most attractive about Daniel Patterson’s SGL program is the independence that the children learn. If the teacher goes to the student and explains something, sees that the child has basic comprehension, and then says, “Okay, now I’m going to leave you for a moment. I want you to work on this.” Basically what’s happening is at home practice is now happening in the room. A lot of kids get tripped up at home when they practice because they don’t have their teacher there at their side to assist them. Daniel’s program sounds like it’s facilitating that. It’s allowing the child to have some alone time to work, to struggle through something, to see if they on their own can problem solve and troubleshoot the musical challenge that’s on their plate, and then when they need help, they got their teacher right there.
I would be inclined to talk about the self-discipline, the independence that they teach. If you use language like that, if you say, “Well, in our music program not only do we teach children how to play the piano, but we’ll focus on your child developing self-discipline, and independence that they can apply not only to the piano but other areas of life.” There’s a lot of language I think you can develop from those ideas.
Stack the Value of Group Music Classes
Once you can sense that the parents are really excited about these additional skills or character traits that you’re going to be working on, once they and realize that, “Wow, this is even more than what I was hoping for. I wanted my child just to learn the piano so they can feel good about themselves, be a little bit more confident, but now you’re telling me that you’re going to be working on helping my child develop independence and self-discipline, which they can apply to their homework and other areas of their life, sign me up. How much does it cost? Whatever it costs, I’ll pay it.” That’s where you then unveil that it’s done in a group class, and the group class setting allows you to facilitate this type of environment that kids actually progress at a faster rate.
Teaching Children Independence
Kids feel better about themselves because their hand isn’t being held all the time. Their hand is being held some of the time. It’d be great to even point out how this class allows the child to experience at-home practice in the actual group setting. And instead of struggling with it at home, they can struggle with it and then ask for assistance, that our group class is actually a more productive learning environment than the one-on-one setting. I haven’t taught this way before, but it really makes sense to me.
I think if Sarah can get and on the phone with prospective students and present herself as a likable, knowledgeable, trustworthy expert, she’ll have no problem filling up her classes at a higher rate, but she’s going to need good sales skills, good marketing skills so that she’s answering those objectives prior to her unveiling the fact that it’s a group class. Once she reveals that it’s a group class and she’s been successful, the prospective customer will say, “Oh, well, I don’t have any objections because she already answered my objections prior to her unveiling the bit of information that could be a sticking point.”
How to Sell Group Music Lessons
So what I encourage Sara to do and anyone to do is to write out what are the objections that somebody might have to your group class. Figure out a way to answer those objections, and then through your sales pitch or during your sales pitch, address those objections. Not by saying, “Hey, I know you might have an issue with the group class. I know a lot of people view it as a lower value option, but actually, it’s not.” No, instead of doing that, just state the value of what you’re doing. Say, “Your child’s going to experience X, Y, and Z. They’re going to be learning these skills. The only way we can achieve that is through our group class because, in the group class, it allows the child to have a combination of one-on-one instruction and independent practice.” Or maybe you come up with some term for it; independent learning.
The Secret to Sales Success
If prospective customers like you, if they perceive you as an expert, as an authority on the topic, then they’re more likely to trust you. If they trust you, they’re that much more likely to be receptive to your program that might be a little bit different than what they had initially thought or initially wanted. When people think they want private lessons and you’re going to try to sell them on group classes, you have to tear down their false beliefs about group classes and then rebuild them.