‘Tis the season when musicians start looking to fill their teaching studios. It’s when I start to notice the fliers that they post around town: musicians offering lessons and doing a not-so-hot job of marketing what they offer.
Here’s an example of what I mean. The typical flier reads something like:
LEARN VIOLIN FROM A PRO!
Conservatory grad with 7 years of teaching experience
All ages and levels welcome
Will come to your home
Think about it. If you were looking for a teacher for your child or for yourself and saw this posted at your local cafe or online, would you contact this person? Is there anything in this that gives you a clue about what this teacher is actually like to work with?
If you’re looking to not only fill your studio but run it professionally and profitably, I recommend David Cutler’s excellent book The Savvy Music Teacher.
In the book, there’s a favorite excerpt of mine on this topic of promo copy—and his advice applies to fliers as well your website, Craig’s list ads, and in-person networking. It’s about framing how you describe your teaching.
David offers this example of not-so-hot flier copy (from pg. 216:)
“Why Study with Sue Saxophone?
1. Weekly lessons!!!
2. Yearly recitals!!!
3. Excellent teaching!!!
4. Over 23 years of experience!!!!
5. I studied at a top music school!!!!!
6. I won prestigious awards!!!!!!!!”
Of course, what’s wrong here is not just the overuse of exclamation points. David writes how there’s nothing in these 6 points that set this teacher apart from a gazillion other hungry music teachers. And there’s nothing here that’s an effective call to action to prompt us to contact Sue.
It’s the same issue, in fact, with most musician’s CVs, teaching résumés and bio, and teaching philosophy statements: there’s a crucial missing piece.
What’s missing? The USP
Sue Saxophone’s ad doesn’t include a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)—it’s missing what’s distinctive and of high value in her teaching.
As David points out, all music teachers provide weekly lessons and most provide annual recitals. Everybody claims to be excellent, of course. And, as for the number of years of experience, that’s no guarantee of quality, right? Many musicians have attended top music schools and many have won awards. So Sue has just made herself sound like everybody else—a commodity.
Musicians commonly omit a USP because they haven’t considered what is valued in their teaching and what extras are distinctive and appreciated. Typically, most ineffective marketing is focused on: ME, ME, ME, instead of on the intended reader. It’s hard to get outside our own egos, our own experience, and think what an outsider, a non-musician would want to know about us and our teaching.
(And yes, when it comes to booking performance, it’s the same dilemma.)
In the example above, Sue hasn’t put herself in the shoes of her intended readers to imagine what they might find most relevant and memorable. To do this requires . . .
Empathy — you need to zero in on your customer’s experience—your prospective students’ needs and concerns (and those of their parents)
Focus on how students experience studying with you. Think abut what you offer that’s especially appreciated and effective—the ‘value addeds.’
In contrast, David offers this alternative advertising (from pg. 217 of The Savvy Music Teacher.)
“Why Study with Dijer E. Doo?
1. Friendly, personalized learning environment
2. Monthly master classes
3. Yearly performance for an underserved community
4. All students improvise (no prior experience necessary!)
5. Technology integrated regularly
6. Students have won prestigious awards”
Much more customer-focused, right? The challenge for each musician is to describe what is true and distinctive about her own teaching. Start by simply brainstorming a list of what you do in lessons that makes your teaching effective and engaging for your students. Then talk it over with a colleague who knows your work. Get trusted feedback before printing fliers or placing any online listings. Working with a mentor can be especially helpful — you want to get informed objective feedback.
I recommend you get a copy of David’s book, not just for the advice on filling your studio, but for the pointers on diversifying your offerings and managing your teaching practice professionally. Too many musicians are operating without a studio policy, charging too little, and not having students pay in advance. This leads to musicians chasing late payments, dealing with constant cancellations, and guaranteed burnout.
But it doesn’t have to be like this! Get your act together: get The Savvy Music Teacher.
For even more help with recruiting students: see How to Recruit More Students.
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