Chat- Low Budget Advertising
Note: This chat was conducted before social media marketing became relevant.
Laurie R. I’m going to say a few things about continued exposure and target markets first, then open up for discussion before going on to some specific low-budget advertising ideas. Please hold any comments for just a few minutes.
About continued exposure…
It’s important that we provide exposure to SM on an ongoing basis. Especially since this program and Neil’s philosophies regarding music education are so new. To an extent, it is in our nature to feel skeptical about a novel or unfamiliar concept which goes against what we have inherited culturally. It is natural for us to become more comfortable with something when we keep seeing or hearing about it – multiple exposures seem to lend a sense of validity to the unfamiliar.
Or, sometimes we just need the reminder that we are interested in a particular idea or program or service. I’ve had several students sign up, only after having been reminded of their interest after seeing a 2nd ad or sign or article. Once, a woman called about lessons after seeing my sign which did not specifically say Simply Music, and when I told her about the program I teach, she said “Oh good!” I’m so glad to hear that! I heard about it a few months ago and couldn’t remember what it was called!”
The name recognition alone that you get with continued exposure will benefit you as a teacher and SM as a program. It’s good to get the word out wherever you can with whatever type of advertising you choose.
But you should also consider the types of students you can accommodate and target them in your efforts as well. Especially if you plan on teaching groups, you will want to attract many potential students of the same general age group that can start together in a group. I try to utilize as many opportunities as I can within that market.
For example, for school-aged children, I hit the elementary schools (flyers, signs, ads), don’t forget about Catholic, private and Montessori-type programs, as well as dance studios, sports facilities, children’s stores, etc. Or publications that parents are generally interested in. We will go into more detail on exactly what we can do in those areas.
If one of your targets is daytime hours, you would likely target homeschoolers, adults and seniors. This is all probably common sense, but we need to brainstorm different ways to reach these populations…..
Look into local publications that reach them, or organizations that serve them, etc. I do want to share a few things that have really been beneficial for us here.. (Nebraska)
Last fall, another local teacher contacted one of our local TV stations and offered free piano lessons if they would do a story on the news about SM. They took her up on it. If you want good exposure, try this!! They sent their consumer report guy for 12 weeks of lessons, brought in the camera crew periodically to film part of the lessons, and the news guy interviewed some students and parents. (one parent happens to be a doctorate of music at a college here who has 3 kids in SM!)
Karen What was done about the materials for the news person?
Laurie R. She paid for them
Debbie (USA) Was he private lesson or in a group?
Laurie R. He was in a private lesson, I believe, but I think you could do it either way. They ended up doing a 2-part news story on Simply Music (aired 2 consecutive nights). At the end of the 2nd part, he played Alma Mater Blues live on TV (the whole thing thru Level 2 with the blues scale ending) after having started as a total beginner. It was wonderful free exposure (except for the teacher’s time and material expense)
We got a big response from that story.
Karen A small investment for the return then!
Laurie R. Absolutely. Another way I got several students was through a neighborhood publication which goes to 33,000 homes every month. It said they were looking for story ideas, so I e-mailed them about Simply Music. The most important thing with trying to get a article published…..You have to have drama.
Laurie R. Or some interesting human element to the story. Here’s what I mean….
When I e-mailed them about SM, I mentioned that I have a student who is 62 and a professional clown who always wanted to learn how to play piano, and that I’m teaching my son with Down syndrome using this method, and I was teaching a teenage girl who had a very abusive childhood, who turned to music to cope with residual feelings… That type of drama. A human interest story, I guess you could call it.
Karen Yes, I see what you mean.
Laurie R. They did a story spotlighting the teenage girl, talked about her past in very general terms, and talked about how her parents looked to music lessons to provide an outlet for her.
Karen With her permission, and her name?
Laurie R. Yes, and her parents’ as well. The reporter went to her house and interviewed both her parents and the student. It was a good article; it ended with a quote from my student saying “One thing I know for sure, I will be playing piano for the rest of my life.” Woo-hoo!
Debbie (USA) WOW!!!
Laurie R. Got a big response from that, and it didn’t cost me a nickel.
Karen I sure like both the news story ideas.
Laurie R. I definitely recommend checking in your area for publications that you can approach with your story ideas. One of the other biggest boons for my studio have been yard signs (professionally made.) They are 18 X 24 corrugated plastic on a metal frame… All they say is “Play Piano”….on the next line “Ages 7 – 107”, then our website and my phone number. I cannot believe how many phone calls these signs generate. They cost me $15 each. Last month I had to take them down because I just couldn’t handle any more students or FIS’s at the time.
Karen Is there a picture of this sign? Where did you place the signs?
Debbie (USA) Are they only in your yard?
Laurie R. No….
Karen What a wonderful problem!
Laurie R. I strategically placed them at intersections close to elementary schools or just at large, busy intersections. Usually what happens is that they disappear within a week or two. But by that time I’ve gotten enough calls to pay for them anyway…..
Laurie R. I put up 3 signs in January, and they all stayed up for a couple of months… those were the ones I finally pulled.
A few other ideas that have worked well….
I had some nice professional-looking color flyers printed. I got them for 50 cents each, which is a good deal. I went around to elementary schools, especially Catholic schools where the students typically come from more well-off families, and asked if I could leave flyers by their office, or have them distributed with a school newsletter. One Catholic school told me no, but I have 3 siblings that attend there, and their mom got the principal to allow it!
My husband likes to go around to businesses and stick my flyers up on community bulletin boards…Grocery stores, libraries, Panera, etc… I have gotten a few students from these. He also gives my business card out. He’s awesome.
Karen Have you ever put yard signs in a student’s yard?
Laurie R. I haven’t, but I have considered doing that..
Bernie (USA) Laurie, you might have stated it but how big is your studio? how many in groups/private?
Laurie R. Bernie, I have about 60 students, mostly in group lessons.
Bernie (USA) How many hours do you work w/ those 60?
Laurie R. I spend about 13 hours/week actually teaching.
We have a lady here who runs her own marketing business. She holds seminars for any size group, and the fee is the same no matter how many attend, so several of us got in on this seminar really cheap and got tons of good ideas. She talked a lot about networking and just getting to know people, and including them in your “circle of communication” I think is the term she used. Encouraged us to go to networking lunches.
Janita and I went to a few ABWA lunches where the whole point is to meet other business people and network. We donated a gift certificate for a free month of lessons for a drawing. Just another way to get the word out.
Press released are another free marketing tool. You can use these to get in the news.
Karen How does a press release differ from a news story?
Laurie R. A press release is an announcement of sorts. For example, you could announce an FIS through a press release – but you always have to have a “spin” to make it “newsworthy”. (drama!) If you are interested in press releases, they have very specific formats to use. You could do a search online – there are formats out there and lots of helpful info. I would try getting an article published and get some signs out if possible.
Karen You bet, I wrote those down, and also the TV news idea
Laurie R. I’m going to just list a bunch of other ideas.
- Write e-zine articles
- Keep a blog
- Set up a website
- Gift certificates
- Buddy marketing
- Referral incentives
- Magnetic car signs
- Teaching at a community college (continuing ed type course)
- We have a Home School Learning Center here that offers some classes to home schoolers…Janita and I taught Level 1 there and they continued in our private studios.
We have used all of these ideas…..
Karen what about the materials for a college class, do the students buy them from you?
Laurie R. For the college class, you would be paid by the college, and the class would include a materials fee for the student (similar to a lab fee). When we considered doing this, we decided we would offer Level 1 only, then to continue they would have to move to our private studios.
Karen and how do I convince the college to hire me?
Laurie R. Karen, I would call and ask to meet with someone to pitch SM to them – it is something different that they could offer, unlike any other music class they have.
Marilyn (USA) What is buddy marketing?
Laurie R. Buddy marketing is teaming up with other businesses to cross-promote. For example, handing out coupons for a local restaurant in exchange for them including gift certificates to your studio in their take-out orders…. Or with a dance studio, or a business more related to what we do.
Marilyn (USA) I see, or perhaps a music store.
Laurie R. Yes, music stores, definitely. I gave my piano tuner brochures/flyers as well and some cards. We cross promote. I also refer new students to a particular piano store. They give me 2% of any sale I refer, and they know about me and my program.
Another high-exposure idea… Call a local radio station and offer to do an interview on a morning show. It doesn’t hurt to try! And the more people you approach, the more exposure we have.
One other thing I did was to get a blurb in a local Down syndrome newsletter. I want to teach more special needs kids.
Wayne Who do you contact at the schools?
Laurie R. At the schools, I usually approach the secretary to see who I need to talk to about getting flyers out. Sometimes it is the principal, sometimes it is someone in the administrative offices. Or sometimes the secretary can give permission.
You might also ask your existing students/parents if they can get in a good word about you at their schools. That worked for me.
One other thing I have not mentioned is referral incentives. I offer a $50 bill to any student who refers a new student to me. They are probably the best advertisements we have….people they know trust them, and can see first-had the results from an objective party.
It’s about time to wrap up – any final questions or comments??
Debbie (USA) Do you get many referrals?
Laurie R. Of my students now, 9 are from referrals, 11 are from the news broadcast last fall, 8 are from the article, 9 are from people I knew already, 10 are from signs. The rest are from flyers and home school resource events
Wayne Has any one ever tried CraigsList?
Laurie R. No, but it’s worth checking out!
Debbie (USA) Your ideas sound great! Now I need to get out and do some of them!
Laurie R. You go, girl!!
I hope you have gotten some good ideas today, and I wish each and every one of you as many students as your heart desires. Thanks everyone for coming, and best of luck!!!