Get more private lessons students with one simple, meaningful technique.
The old-school techniques for getting more private lessons students no longer work.
No more emails to directors– they’re too busy to read them. No more posts on sites like Craigslist– no one is reading them. No more mailing flyers to directors and parents– they’re immediately thrown away.
Why don’t these methods work? It’s simple– these techniques lack the most important word in business: relationships. And yes, you have to think of yourself as a business.
Relationships are the key to growing your teaching studio.
Companies spend millions– sometimes billions— to acquire new customers. They spend it on billboards, TV/radio commercials, social media ads, special branded packaging, and influencer marketing. Customer acquisition costs a boatload for these companies because they need so many of these options to get customers in the funnel and keep them there.
You don’t have millions to spend– and you don’t need it. Our industry is different. The music world is small and relationships are king. Leverage your talent and personality alongside a little business savvy to build meaningful and genuine relationships with directors. These relationships may then get you an “access card” to their program and its students.
It’s easy to be too “salesy.” Directors can sniff out when you’re just using them to get somewhere else. Be yourself. Talk about them and their interests. And don’t make it all about music. Go deeper by sharing more interesting stories about yourself, especially those that have nothing to do with music. Opening yourself up in conversation with directors to more than just music will highlight your human side and give them a better view of who you are. After all, this is what we naturally do with our friends.
Just as with the students, directors won’t remember so much what you taught, but how you made them feel while you were there.
Invest in them before you can expect them to invest in you.
The old-school methods of student acquisition (e.g. flyers, business cards, emails) required little work on your part upfront, really putting the first move on the student or director.
Today, it’s imperative for you to provide tons of value upfront before you can expect them to buy into you.
You need the attention of the gatekeepers— in this case, the directors. They have the access to the students you’re looking for, so get their attention by investing in their programs. Once you’ve given tons of value to the program and put yourself in front of their students, you’ll be able to “ask.”
Here’s how to do it.
- Find the names of the schools that have the students you’d like to work with.
- Call those directors at school and say you’d love to meet them (leave a message and follow up!). Go to their room after school and introduce yourself.
*The best ‘first option’: Inject yourself into their community. Do this by finding their performance schedules. Then go to their concerts. After the performance, introduce yourself to the director and compliment the students’ performance.
- Tell the director you’d love to give them some value by leading a sectional, teaching a clinic, or sitting-in with the section during rehearsal–FOR FREE.
- At the end of your session at the school, hand the students a business card or flyer offering them their first lesson FREE. This is where you can finally make the “ask.”
- Expect a 1 – 3 % return for each of these sessions you give away (in this case, the return is the number of students interested in lessons with you)
At this point, you’ve provided tons of value to the director and the student. All this facetime will result in some action on their part. You’re basically guilting them into giving you something in return.
If the director liked your job, they may ask you to return for future sessions– this time for pay. Or at the very least, they might keep you on their ‘short list’ for people to contact when they need teaching specialists for future events. If the students liked you, they may contact you for lessons.
A quick note about FREE… So many people are afraid to give away their product/service for free. They expect customers to buy into them without every knowing the quality of the product. In music, quality is best measured through experience. Remember that you’re not selling lessons, you’re selling YOU. Give the directors and students a chance to test-drive your teaching and your personality before expecting them to make any sort of long-term commitment.
Make sure the students have fun and feel like they’ve learned something.
It’s easy to get caught up in the goal to get more private lessons students. This goal may suffocate your personality and make you look salesy. Be yourself– smile and have fun. It’s okay to laugh in rehearsal. In fact, make it a point to make laughter a part of the session. The students won’t necessarily remember what you taught them, but they’ll remember how you made them feel. You’re hoping to be spending a lot of time together in lessons. They’ll want to know it’ll be an enjoyable experience.
The other obvious one is to make sure they’ve achieved something in your session. Any measure of improvement is worth celebration and praise. Remember, you probably don’t know much about these students at first and won’t know their baseline for improvement. And because you don’t know their journey, everything is worth celebrating. At the end of the session, do a quick verbal review of what you did that day, pointing out what they students can now do that they couldn’t prior to your time together.
Your curriculum for the day should be adaptable to meet the performance level of the students. Consider using a handout that you use throughout the session that students can reference after you leave. It also acts as a reminder of your visit long after your session is over. I’ll make a separate post that dives into the details of creativity a great session. I won’t do that here.
Use social media to prompt more school visits.
Ask the director to take photos of you working with the students. Ask the director if you can add them on Facebook. Post this photo to Facebook (since that’s where most directors’ keep their attention in social) and tag the director so all his/her director friends may see it. Use a headline that says you enjoyed your time at that school. In the caption, thank the director for the opportunity, praise the students for their achievements that day, and end by saying how much you enjoy sessions like this one. This may prompt other directors that see the post to contact you first. Use this same post content to generate platform-specific posts on Twitter and your Instagram Wall. Use your other photos to make a fun Instagram Story documenting your session. The director will see that you tagged them in the posts and will COMMENT and SHARE your post.
It’s important not to ask for anything in these posts. Don’t ask for more opportunities. Don’t tell other directors to contact you if they want a session. These posts serve to both celebrate the students you visited and to show your musical activities. It’s not bragging, it’s PR.
Repeat this entire process for each school. And if you do it right, the directors will talk positively about you– quietly to one another or out loud via social– leading to other sessions. And maybe it will lead directors you don’t know to make the first move to contact you. Notice this post mostly about getting the attention of the directors as the means to getting access to students. Get into as many directors’ rooms as possible to amplify your presence in the community and land more students.
It’s a numbers game. Just go out there and do your thing. And remember, it’s about them.
Thanks so much for your attention. I respect and appreciate it. Let me know your reactions to this. Feel free to PM with questions.
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