Okay, so it’s not a real insurance policy I’m talking abut, but rather a metaphorical one. And an important one at that. By “taking out an insurance policy” I mean doing everything you can to protect yourself from losing any of your current piano students. And this time of year is the perfect time to start.
It’s Cheaper to Keep ‘er
Piano teachers (unfortunately) do not have access to limitless marketing dollars. We don’t have an advertising team. We don’t have a PR manager. Sometimes we barely even have a computer printer that works! Lacking all of these things makes it difficult for the average piano teacher to really effectively market themselves. So, it makes the most business sense to invest in the students you already have. It’s cheaper to keep the students you currently teach than to go on the hunt for new ones.
Don’t Assume They’ll Stay
The biggest mistake we can make as piano teachers is to fall into the comfort zone. The place where we tell ourselves “I’ve got 23 students right now…I’ll have the same come next year!” or even “My students all love me… they’re not going anywhere!” Complacency is the kryptonite of your business.
Skip the Obvious… Go for the Unexpected
When you are considering what kinds of things you can do to create your “insurance policy”… skip the obvious. I hope your lessons are already enjoyable, that you project a professional image, that your students progress well, that you use innovative teaching methods, and that you keep up to date on what interests kids today. Put that to the side and now strive to be unexpectedly fabulous. Here’s how:
1) Identify the parents you see the least – these families are the fender bender waiting to happen in your insurance policy. Make sure you touch base with them by email or phone regularly at this time of year if only for a short update on their child’s latest lesson. Every family in your studio needs to feel a connection with you. If you run a large studio this is a difficult (but do-able!) task that is even more important than if you teach just 10 students.
2) Build a sense of community – because piano lessons are an individual activity, the families within your studio only see each other briefly in your driveway and then at the two or three recitals you hold per year. Keep in mind that people are like sheep – if one person is doing it… others will want to follow. Building a sense of community in your studio is the airbag that will protect you if something goes wrong. Create opportunities for your studio families to interact, chit-chat about how wonderful you are, and get to know the “who’s who” in your studio. It’s harder to leave something that you feel you have a real place in. Think family picnics, movie nights at your community centre, piano games day etc.
3) Brag… but tastefully – make sure you are regularly informing your studio of how wonderful you are! Post student achievements on your studio walls, send announcements in newsletters and emails, submit press releases to your local newspaper etc. etc. Show your studio families that YOU are where it’s at. They say the grass is greener on the other side… but if the grass on your side is emerald green and regularly watered your clients will stay put.
4) Choose your battles – We piano teachers are tired at this point in the year. It’s a demanding job and our smile muscles are starting to wobble with fatigue. You may be feeling as though you’ll snap if you get one more request for a make up lesson or if you receive one more late payment. Take a deep breath and choose your battles wisely and demonstrate all the patience in the world (without being a doormat). A little goes a long way. This time of year is not the time to take on the role of the “Inflexible Enforcer”.
Finally, go above and beyond… just that one step further than what is the norm. Act as though your clients can leave a “comment card” behind after every interaction with you. And while it does take extra time and effort to be this way, it’s much more efficient than pounding the pavement for new clients. Save those advertising dollars and do something wonderful with them instead.
Up for a challenge? Make it your mission to one-up your retention rate from last year (even if it was already fantastic). If you need a few more pointers, why not check out Piano Hands Shouldn’t Flip Burgers?