How to Bring Your Marketing Message to Life
The word marketing has so many definitions. I think a lot of people default to this idea that marketing is advertising. I like to think of marketing as relationship building, but a conscious effort and a systematized effort to build that relationship. The more you can map out different ways to connect with your students and have everyone on your staff implementing those strategies, the more likely you are to improve customer retention and have more loyal customers.
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3 Things To Achieve in Every Music Lesson
There are really 3 ideas that I want to talk about regarding how to market to the student and how to market to the parent.
- Music feels good to play
- Music comes easily to them
- Relationship building
What Parents Really Care About
In the early days of my teaching career, I really felt this pressure to show the student and show the parent how much information I was sharing with the student and how much, maybe the word academic progress is something that I was really focusing on. I would try to sell the parent on this idea of the educational value of what it is that I was teaching.
I was trying to convey this idea that I was a very skilled and a really good teacher in teaching their child at a high level. Through surveying my customers, I began to realize that they didn’t value that as much as some other aspects of the lesson, which I’m going to talk about.
Focus on the Heart, Not the Head
When I say music feels good to play, we certainly want all of our students to feel that way, but how do you achieve that? That certainly can tie in with your grand promise. For example, a lot of music studios talk about how fun their music lessons are. So in order to make your lessons truly fun, you have to focus on the heart, not the head.
Take Your Students emotional Temperature
By simply thinking about how the student feels right now? Do they feel frustrated? Do they feel bored? Are they, at this very moment, having fun? And by simply being sensitive to that and trying to focus more on that, you’re more likely to achieve those results. Taking the pressure off yourself, taking the pressure off your teaching staff to always being making academic progress and focusing on emotional results can have a huge impact.
Experience Vs Academics
If you look at some sort of method book, it’s very academic. Page one, exercise one, here’s the exercise. And then you turn the page, and it’s a new exercise. And I think a lot of people model their teaching based on how a book is organized. Well, a book by definition is something that’s academic, but by simply asking yourself, “How does the student feel right now? How would I measure the fun factor right now for the student?” Well, the easiest way to create fun, to create a good feeling for the student is to get them up and playing music quickly, finding the least path of resistance to get them up and playing an idea.
My approach to teaching was always, and I incorporate this into my Kidzrock and Jr. Rockerz and Piano Jam programs, to show the child what to play first. Maybe it’s just a measure of music, have them play it over and over. And then after that, talk about what it is that they played and how that’s expressed in the sheet music in front of them.
Play First – Teach Second
I will then take that one-measure idea and say, “Okay, now that you can play that first measure, you see how easy it is, let’s look at the second measure and see if you can figure that out.” So my first objective was always to get up playing as quickly as possible. Let them see that playing, this idea really isn’t that hard. If they can play one measure of music and they perceive it as easy, well, the second measure of music probably is going to look somewhat similar to it, and they’ll be less intimidated by it.
Using Repetition as a Teaching Tool
I think it’s important for us grownups to understand that our tolerance for repetition is pretty limited when it comes to music. Whereas a child is much more likely to enjoy playing a measure of music over and over and over and over again. The more they play it, the more their mind relaxes and the more the student is able to feel the music.
If you want your students to have this belief that music feels good to play, you have to focus on them experiencing that awesome feeling we have when we play music. You want them to get out of their head. When they’re in their head, they’re looking at the book, they’re trying to decode what’s on the page and get that information on the staff into their hands. And there’s no emphasis on feeling at that point.
Being a More Self-Aware Music Instructor
By simply asking yourself, what is my student likely feeling right now? What cues are they giving me with their body language? Am I talking too much as a teacher? Am I instructing too much? Am I trying to convey too much information? Perhaps I should just show them how to play it and let’s loop it up. Let’s repeat that one or two measures over and over, so their mind can relax and they can feel the music.
If they’re playing a simple melodic pattern, let’s say, on the guitar that’s two measures, well, maybe there’s not a lot of content in, say, this two-measure idea that you have them repeating. But as the instructor, you should have the knowledge to come up with some chord accompaniment to make it musically a little bit more interesting so that it’s enjoyable for them to be in that repetitive playing for a while.
Share Your Teaching Strategy with Your Music Students
Something that I would always say to my students, if I was going to have them play an idea for, let’s say, 16, maybe even 32 measures is I would say, “We’re going to play this for 24 bars.” It allows them to know, oh, okay, good. I can really relax. We’re going to play this for a long time. Or I might say to a student, “We’re going to play this for two minutes straight without stopping.” That’s maybe an easier way to go because if you say 32 measures to a beginner, they can’t really perceive how long that is. Okay.
So the number one idea is selling them, marketing to them this idea that music feels good to play, which means they have to experience that. Number two is that music comes easily to them. You’ve got to sell the kid on that music comes easily to them, which means they’ve got to have quick wins upfront. They have to experience success early on. If you open up a method book to a student and say, “We’re going to work our way through this piece,” and they’re looking at this long piece on the page, maybe the piece is only 16 measures long, but if they’re a beginner, it’s this huge mountain that they have to climb.
Be Careful Not To Overwhelm Your Students
What I like to do is not to overwhelm the student, but to focus on that first step. Maybe that first step is they’re going to play a C to an E flat, and they’re going to play it, and it’s two eighth notes right there. I might just have the kid go back and forth between C and E flat in eighth notes. I’ll strum something on the guitar. I’ll accompany them on the piano.
By simply being sensitive as a teacher and asking yourself, how easy does my student perceive this right now? If it takes more than a few seconds for them to be up in playing an idea, the feeling of this is hard is going to enter their mind. The feeling of maybe I’m not that good at music, maybe I’m not talented in music.
Those are all thoughts that you as a teacher … This kind of ties in with number one, this whole idea of music feeling good. The way you can create this belief for a student, that music feels good to play and it comes easily to them, is by spending less time talking to them about what it is that they’re going to be playing and spending more time simply just playing it, which means you might have to just show them verbally, “Here’s how to play it. Let’s play it. Let’s repeat it over and over.”
Whatever it takes for the student to think to themselves, “Wow, this really feels good. And I’m pretty surprised how quickly I was able to pick this up.” The more traditional teacher might think “Yes, but you have to teach them how to read music. The proper way to learn is that you teach the kid how to read off the staff and then translate that onto the instrument.” Well, look, that’s great as long as the student has totally bought into that way of learning. You’ve got to get the student to buy into this idea that if they’re playing and it feels good to play and that it comes easily to them.
Communicating Your Teaching Philosophy
One of my big selling points that I would use on the phone with talking with moms is I would always say, “We approach our music lessons,” or “We teach our music lessons the same way kids learn a language, by listening, by imitating, by speaking, and then ultimately learning how to read. That’s exactly how we’re going to teach the kids here.” I meant it, and that’s how I taught my students. It’s not that they were weak readers. I just knew if the kids weren’t loving it, they weren’t going to stick around. They were going to quit. And what’s the point of focusing on teaching kids to be good readers if they want to quit after a few months?
Number three is this whole idea of building a relationship with your students, getting to know your students. Spend two minutes, maybe even a minute, of each lesson, just, “Hey, how was your weekend?” I would make a little note in my notes if the kid told me that, oh, this weekend their cousins from Chicago were coming in town. I’d make a note of that, and then I’d say to them at the lesson, “Hey, how was your weekend with your cousins? Did you guys do anything fun?” The music teacher can really position his or herself in a unique way in that you’re not their peer, obviously, but you’re also not like their teachers at school.
Life Lessons That Music Lessons Teach
You can try to be that teacher where the kid’s just sitting there and you’re barking orders and commands at them. Play this. Now play that. Or you can be a bit more of a life mentor and a life teacher for your students. The whole act of learning how to play and master an instrument, that whole process you can apply to different areas of life.
By pointing that out to your students, teaching your students how to problem solve a musical problem, you’re teaching them that skill of how to problem solve pretty much anything. Isolate the problem or identify the problem and smooth out the problem spot first, as opposed to slowing down every time or letting that problem trip you up. Kids can’t play in time or they can’t transition from one chord to another because there’s some little issue right there. Some little bump in the road that needs to be smoothed out, which transitions well to the next thing I want to talk about are the three ways you can market to parents or specifically how to market to them while their child’s in the lesson.
How to Communicate Your Marketing Message to Parents
The three ideas that you need to sell to parents is the idea that their child enjoys playing music. You need to prove it to them. Sure, it’s important that the child can say, “Hey mom, I really enjoy my piano lessons.” But if mom can see that enjoyment, that’s a huge advantage that you have. You have to sell them on this idea that their child is making progress, and you have to sell them on this idea that you are a good mentor. And I prioritize the word mentor over a teacher. It’s hard to measure whether someone’s a good teacher or not, but it’s very easy to measure whether you think someone is a good role model or mentor. Those are the three ideas that you and your teaching staff need to be selling to the parents, that their child enjoys playing music, that their child’s making progress, and that you or your teacher is a good mentor.
Bringing Parents Into the Music Lesson
So how do you sell them on this idea that their child enjoys playing music beyond just relying on the kid conveying it to the parents? Well, bring the parent into the lesson at the end. I had all my teachers do that. It was mandatory. At the end of the lesson, now maybe during COVID it’s a little more complicated. But the parents had to come into the lesson, and the kid would play for the parent. The teacher would accompany them, and it was always what they would play for the parent was their most successful moment in the lesson that day.
By accompanying them, the kid sounds better than they would if they were just playing it alone, or musically it becomes more dynamic. If you’re or the teacher is supporting them with chords or some sort of harmony or rhythm, that’s enhancing their child’s playing. If the child believes that what they’re playing feels good to play and if they feel like it came easily to them, they’re going to convey this feeling of enjoyment or the parent will perceive it as, “My child enjoys this.”
How to Show Parents That Their Child is Making Progress
Number two is that the parent really wants to feel like their child’s making progress. So how do you do that? Well, practicing is a big indicator of progress. Or parents believe that, “Oh, if my child is practicing, they’re making progress,” and that’s not necessarily the case. Maybe they’re downstairs at the piano and they’re playing something that they learned in their first lesson that they love playing over and over again. It doesn’t mean that they’re actually practicing what you gave them. If they’re not practicing what you gave them, they’re not making progress in that idea. Maybe they’re making progress in terms of their fine motor skills. There’s certainly value in just simply playing the instrument.
A really great way to show parents that their child is making progress is have the parent come into the lesson and ask them to take out their phone and make a video of what the child’s playing. And I actually use these videos as a way of communicating to the child what I want them to practice. I would never say to them, “This week, I want you to practice X, Y, and Z.” I would say, “Next week at our lesson, we’re going to work on X, Y, and Z.” And I’m going to do a podcast on how I handled practice. I never made practice mandatory in my studio, and I made a conscious effort and launched an internal marketing campaign on trying to reeducate parents on this whole idea of practice.
How to Deal With The Practice Problem
I positioned practice as a goal in of itself that a student is going to try to work up to. I would then have them make another video of me explaining what we’re going to work on next week. What mom does is she’s got eight videos from the couple months that they’ve been in your studio, and it’s all of their kid playing, and they can hear. They’ve got proof that their kid sounds a little bit better after, say, six or seven lessons.
So yeah, maybe the child’s not practicing that much at home, but they seem to enjoy the lesson. And according to these little videos that they have on their phone, the child’s clearly making progress of some sort, which is certainly something that parents want. If they’re going to be paying a lot of money for these lessons, sure, they want their kid to be happy, but they also want to feel like they’re making some sort of progress.
Positioning Yourself as a Good Mentor and Role Model
The third thing you have to sell them on is that you’re a good mentor or that your teacher is a good mentor, a good role model for their child. And that means teaching beyond the lesson. It means showing the parent or persuading the parent that you’re teaching their child things about life, that what’s going on there in the lesson is helping their child not only learn an instrument, but you’re teaching them practical skills that they can apply to life.
So here is an example, and I’ll tie this in with what I was saying earlier about problem-solving. Let’s say that the kid plays for mom. She makes a video, and it sounds great. And then you say in front of mom, “Now, Billy, remember, we talked about that transition from that C minor to that G7 chord. That’s a big leap, right? And so you and I talked about some different ways that you can problem-solve that, different ways that you can make that a smooth transition.” And then turn to the kid and say, “What were the three different things we discussed on how to problem-solve that issue and how to make for a smoother transition?”
And then the kid says, “Well, first we talked about just practicing just that C minor and taking my time to jump up to play that G7. And then we talked about practicing just those two chords back and forth in time, but at a slow tempo. And then last, we talked about taking those two measures and trying to practice those in time.” You just showed mom that you came up with this problem solving system, and then you follow that up with “Now, look, Billy, that’s a great way to approach any problem in your life. Identify the problem, smooth it out, and then try to reincorporate it back into whatever it is that you’re working on.”
Make Mom Feel Proud
Now, mom’s eating it up because you’re talking about life skills now, problem-solving, troubleshooting. Mom isn’t so interested in their kid learning the instrument. That’s great if the child shows interest in it. The most important thing is that the child’s learning and growing as a person. And if you can show them that no, their child is not only learning about instrument, but they’re learning these valuable life skills, they’re learning about setting goals, they’re learning about how to be patient with themselves, they’re learning about how to be persistent and how to persevere, and to incorporate that language into your lesson and point out to the student and point out to the parent what a great job Billy did. He was patient. He identified the problem. He wasn’t distracted by anything else other than smoothing out that problem. He brought it back into the music, and he persevered as a result.
Teach More Than Music
Another quick little teaching hack that I love doing in my lessons is I learned early on that I would use words or I’d use vocabulary that your average eight-year-old just isn’t familiar with. All adults do that. You might say to an eight-year-old, “Now this idea in music is a really complex concept.” And I turn to the kid and go, “Do you know what the word complex means?” The kids like, “I think so, but not really.” And then what I would do is I would define the word for them. And then I’d ask them out of the blue in the middle of that same lesson, “Hey, what does the word complex mean?” And then when mom came into the lesson, I would ask the child again. And I’d say, “Hey, what was the word today that we defined?” The kid says, “complex.” “Yeah. And what does complex mean?” And the kid defines it. And the moms love that. Wait a minute. You’re working with my kid on his vocabulary?
Exceed Your Customers Expectations
Customers come into your studio with a basic expectation of each aspect of their interaction with your studio. And if you can go a little above and beyond that expectation, you’re going to have loyal customers. Marketing is all about relationship building. It would serve you well to step back and look at the different ways you interact with your customers and ask yourself, how can you enhance the communication? How can you enhance the relationship? If you do that, not only will you see an improvement in student retention, you’re also likely to see an uptick in referrals. And as we all know, referral-based marketing is hands-down the strongest and most effective form of marketing.