Music teachers are a key ingredient in the process of nurturing more music makers. It’s critical to their success, whether they are independent contractors or employees, that you provide the best possible teaching environment.
Industry-wide, there are numerous resources available to help retailers start, maintain and improve their lessons program. Although many topics are centered on the benefits of running a lessons program, let’s take a look at it from the teacher’s perspective.
What are you doing to help your teachers become more effective? Based on conversations with several teachers, I’ve assembled a checklist that addresses what they are looking for from retailers, so they can do a better job. Happy teachers have a positive effect on their students. Successful students tell their friends, and they buy more instruments, accessories and print music. This helps you make more money.
How engaged are your teachers?
Do your teachers live and breathe teaching, or is it just a job? Are they great ambassadors for your business? There’s something very powerful in the goodwill that happy parents and students share with their family and friends. An engaged teacher recognizes this and knows how to use it to his or her advantage.
How do they promote lessons and increase sign-ups?
In our store, several teachers have full schedules and a waiting list. They have mastered the effectiveness of word-of-mouth promotion. For those who are looking to add students, in what ways can you help them reach out to the community? One of the more effective tools is YouTube. Encourage your teachers to post sample introductory lessons, performance videos and recitals, along with testimonials from happy students and parents. Facebook works well for keeping students up to date on performances, recitals, education tips and other content that supports music in general.
Encourage your teachers to build their own Web site. There are many free site-building services available, such as Weebly and Wix. Even if the teachers claim to be “tech-challenged,” those services are very easy to manage. Most, in fact, use a drag-and-drop workspace.
For the store Web site, make sure that teachers’ bios are complete and accurate. Always have flyers available to give to prospective students, providing them with teacher listings and sign-up information.
Are you providing suitable studios?
Ask your teachers what you can do to make their studio space more comfortable. They need to stay focused on their students, as opposed to complaining that it’s too hot/cold/loud, or just plain drab. Provide an occasional facelift to the studio by painting the walls with modern colors and replacing worn-out carpeting. Pay extra attention to soundproofing; possibly, move teachers to other rooms with neighbors who are less “noisy.”
Why not convert some unused space into a classroom? A multi-purpose room can be used for small ensembles, group lessons, product demonstrations and clinics for your customers.
How are you helping with enrollment?
Have you trained your staff to engage with prospective students and to “match them up” with a teacher? There are various ways to accomplish this. Try using a one-page registration form. Include questions such as the following:
- How did you learn about us?
- How long have you wanted to play the [instrument]?
- What style of music do you want to learn?
- Did your band director recommend our store?
- Do you need to rent an instrument?
- Does your current instrument need cleaning or repairs?
- Do you need help purchasing an instrument?
Use that information to recommend the teachers best suited for that particular student. The form also serves as a way to collect all the important contact information so that you can enter the student into your customer relationship management system. Even if you utilize independent teachers, it’s still a great way to get the student and family on your marketing list.
Do you make it easy for teachers to work for you and with you?
Some stores treat teachers as independent businesses, simply charging rent. Other stores have them on the payroll as employees. Either way, it’s important that you provide fair terms and encourage teachers to grow their enrollment with you. Are your studio-rental rates fair? Do you provide other benefits, such as free Wi-Fi, coffee or beverages, a lounge area for breaks between students, free use of office equipment and so forth?
How often do you communicate with your teachers? Some stores make it a point to sit down with each teacher at least once a week to see how things are going, as well as to brief them on store events and other happenings. Teacher recommendations are a great way to sell more instruments. By offering your instructors information about sale items, closeouts and new products, you’ll sell more merchandise.
Do you support the teacher’s policies?
Above all, it’s critical to stand behind your teachers and their policies. That includes being knowledgeable about their missed-lesson policy and how (if independent) they will be paid. If all that information is properly presented at the time of sign-up, it’s rare for the store owner or manager ever to be drawn into a conflict.
Do you promote lessons on your Web site?
Well, if not, you should. With all the content available that supports how “music makes you smarter,” there is no shortage of material to help you promote the benefits of making music. Visit namm.org for details.
We utilize a three-click rule that allows parents and new students to find a teacher as quickly as possible. Once they find a list of available teachers for their selected instrument or voice, full bios are displayed, providing each teacher’s background, experiences, philosophy and credentials. Links to the teacher’s Web site and social media are included on the page, providing prospective students with more validation of the teacher’s skill set, philosophy and style of instruction.
Do you offer rentals?
Remember to ask prospective students if they need to rent an instrument. If they already have an instrument, then offer to have your shop go over it to ensure it’s in playable condition. Many sales opportunities are waiting for you at that point in the cycle. Best of all, once a student signs up, you see the parents on a weekly basis!
Use the information in this article to devise a checklist and see what your teachers say about you and your business. The easier you make it for them to focus on teaching, the better the results will be for your business.
David Hall is Retail Sales Manager and Webmaster for Hartland Music, Inc., and the Waukesha County Conservatory of Music, a full-line, 15,000-square-foot, freestanding facility with more than 2,300 students per week. E-mail him: firstname.lastname@example.org.