Ask the Experts

Can you give advice on marketing for newer teachers trying to build a program or studio?

Marketing your new studio or music program is similar to marketing any other business that focuses on personal and professional services. In essence, you are the product—you, your expertise, your skills, your experience, your education and specialized training. Parents will bring their children to be taught by you (and pay you to do it!) because they trust you.

How can you instill that sense of trust? How can you communicate your expertise and dedication? First and foremost, I would recommend that every bit of marketing or advertising you do be up to the highest professional standards—always with excellence! Excellent doesn’t have to mean expensive. It does, however, mean correct grammar and phrasing, so if writing and proofreading aren’t your strong suit, ask a friend to look over what you create.

If you plan to use a “corporate” name or logo for your studio or program, choose it wisely and use it consistently. Use the same studio “name” on letterhead, invoices, flyers, business cards, and websites. Create an email address specifically for your studio (if you don’t have a website with its own domain name, get a free email account from Google). Have a dedicated phone number if you can, and make sure your voicemail greeting sounds professional.

Do you want a website? It’s easier than you think to make your own, especially if you’re a Mac person and have iWeb, but there are plenty of pre-made designs available through various web hosting companies. Web hosting only costs a few dollars a month, and having your own domain name can make you look established even if you’re just starting out.

Think you can’t afford Microsoft Office to create documents and spreadsheets and flyers? Look at the much more affordable teacher/student version. If that’s still too much to invest, hop on the Internet and download a copy of Open Office, a free software program with most of the same capabilities (including the ability to save files in Microsoft Office formats).

You need business cards, and you need to carry them with you everywhere you go. There are a number of companies online offering 250 or 500 professionally printed cards for $30 or so. They have hundreds of pre-made designs to choose from, including many with musical and educational themes. Get some, and get in the habit of looking for a chance to give them to people you meet.

Where do you find parents? Think about your natural networks—schools, soccer leagues, places of worship, community organizations. Do you have a spouse/partner? Tap into their networks also. Then think outside the box! Is there a local coffee shop where dozens of parents stop in after dropping off their kids at school? Put up some flyers, spend a few mornings there getting to know the staff and striking up conversations with customers. Are you an introvert who hates to talk to strangers? Then stand outside the coffee shop, open up your case with a bunch of your cards in it, get out your instrument and play a few Suzuki pieces as those parents are coming and going.

Finally, marketing is chiefly about attitude. If you believe you have something of great value to share with the world, others will notice. Remember that you are a valuable professional with years upon years of training and study, no less valuable than doctors or lawyers or business executives. You are bringing beauty and truth into the world. Value yourself and others will value you; respect yourself and others will respect you.

—Dan Browning, SAA Board