Before I launched my own studio, I was teaching under the umbrella of two different churches and my own home.
I was easily able to retain 80 - 90% of my students each semester.
When I launched my own studio, 98% of my students who had been taking with me between the churches and my home followed!
But after the first year of being in the new studio, I noticed retention had dropped to 60%.
My studio actually ended our first year of lessons with MORE students than when we started!
But it didn't matter.
Shauna and I were focused on making more money, so naturally, we focused on learning how to advertise and persuade MORE new students to sign up for lessons.
We achieved the goal, but ironically, it cost us more.
Here are 3 reasons why...
1. Our current students were our biggest fans until we put them on auto pilot.
I didn't have a clear path of where I was taking each student, but I also had stopped thinking about it.
They caught on.
Most of them didn't even leave disgruntled.
Most of them gave valid reasons for moving on!
The underlying problem was this:
Because I stopped focusing on making the lesson experience better, they lost interest.
2. If I had kept my current students happy, they would have stayed and brought MORE referrals my way.
I think parents were still happy to refer others to my studio if they were specifically looking for lessons... but when their kids were LOVING lessons, parents would actually START UP conversations with others about how much Billy loved guitar and how Stickandstrum was amazing.
3. I wasn't able to keep the NEW students walking in my studio!
I had also hired a lot of teachers who were brand new to teaching.
Though I don't regret hiring beginner teachers, I do regret not training them well enough to teach.
A lot of our teachers were flailing.
Most of them overwhelmed or underwhelmed their students.
Kids left our studio either bored, or thinking they weren't good enough to play since they were over-challenged.
Trying to fill our teachers' schedules was like trying to fill a styrofoam cup with a hole in the bottom.
We were working our BUTTS off advertising, but all of it was wasted because we weren't able to keep them!
At The Studio Challenge, we talk aggressively about getting new students...
We all want a full schedule of happy students!
We don't want to worry about money.
Our dream is to sustain ourselves and make a living doing what we LOVE!
NONE of it matters if we can't keep our current students invested!
I learned how to improve my student retention, but it took a few years to figure it out HOW to grow and keep students engaged without having to consume my time worrying about them!
As studio owners, we have MANY things we have to worry about.
Let's get the necessary systems in place to improve retention and the lesson experience so we can keep students happy and keep growing...
Let's make sure your studio is set up to both ATTRACT and KEEP students in your door so you don't end up over-working like I was...
We're going to talk and work through 4 things next month:
We'll focus on one of these areas each week. A workbook and lesson videos are included.
how to create an amazing first lesson
We all know first impressions matter.
It's a one time shot and there are no do overs.
So, what is the first impression that your students and families get for you?
It should start BEFORE their first lesson.
Here are some simple things you can do that make a HUGE impression on students and parents after they've signed up for lessons...
Send them a Greeting
Email, Phone Call, Text, Postcard...Video?
Before students begin their first lesson, you have the chance to really make a great impression on them.
Chances are that you've been talking to the parent this whole time.
Not a lot of 9 year olds sign themselves up for lessons, ya know?
Now is your chance to make an impression with the student.
While an email, phone call, or text would be a great way to reach out we want to take it up a notch.
A postcard is a solid option.
NO ONE gets anything good in the mail anymore. But kids never get mail.
How awesome would it be for mom to head to the mailbox and for your student to hear,
"Hey Jonah! You've got some mail!"
What? That has likely never happened before. I mean, maybe a card from grandma but even she is just sending a birthday text these days.
He runs over to the mailbox to see a postcard with a handwritten greeting from you introducing yourself and saying that you can't wait to meet him and start lessons next week. Awesome!
But, how about we take it a step further?
What if you sent a personalized video to him?
Take a quick video in your studio introducing yourself, calling him by name, and saying how excited you are to meet him and get started.
How cool is that?
LessonMate is a great and simple option for this. You can quickly record a video DIRECTLY into your browser and send a link over to his parent's email. No awkward download/upload process. No waiting. No having the parents sign up for some confusing new software that they'll never understand. Just a quick way for you to send a video and put a smile on a kid's face.
Walking in for their First Lesson...
Make sure that you, the teacher, or the desk staff is there to meet the student and family at the front door and greet them BY NAME as soon as they open the door.
Their first moment is everything.
They are in a new and unsure location and looking for a sense of belonging. Give it to them.
One of our members, Emily, has a GREAT way to do this. She has a board welcoming in new members. She calls it her VIP Board, or something like that. Basically, it's a board welcoming in new students and they can see their names and feel like rock stars as soon as they walk through the front door.
But it doesn't stop there. Expand on it with a full VIP package. Give them a backstage pass to wear with their name on it. Give them a Swag Bag filled with studio merch like a t-shirt, stickers, pencils, headphones, and anything else you can think of or get your brand on.
The idea here is to completely overwhelm them with awesomeness from the first time they step in the door.
This is going to help to boost confidence and help them feel like they are part of the community from their first step into the door.
The Actual Lesson
No matter the instrument, the first lesson can be a little intense.
We have to go over posture, music reading, how to hold the instrument, and a hundred other insanely boring tasks that zap the enthusiasm out of your young and eager student.
So, how can we improve this experience?
There are too many instruments in here for me to get into specifics but here are a few suggestions. I also tread lightly here because you're here for business advice, not pedagogical advice.
This first lesson should be experiential, more than educational.
Do NOT overwhelm with information.
Overwhelm with the power of music and let them experience it!
For drum students, that means we're playing We Will Rock You at the first lesson. I don't go overboard on stick grip or proper posture, though I mention it. I just want them to get in and have an awesome time. I want to inspire them so that they can't wait to come back for more.
Take time to get to know the student. It's easy for us to just switch into full on teacher mode.
After the First Lesson
Typically this is where it ends, right?
"Well, start practicing and I'll see you next week! "
But that's not where you end.
First, make sure you have time to go and talk to the parents even if you have to cut the lesson short by a minute or two.
Go over what you learned, but don't overwhelm.
This is a chance to talk about how awesome their kid is.
Find something that you connected over and brag about their kid!
When they Get Home
Within 24 hours you need to follow up.
Like before, this can be call/text/email or you could also send another video.
Just depends on your style.
But it's important to follow up after the lesson is over to help them to realize that they are getting more than just a 30 minute lesson every week.
It also helps to remind and reinforce what they should be working on in between the lessons:
"Hey! Enjoyed our first lesson today.
"You did great! Remember to work on blah blah blah and I look forward to seeing you again next week!"
A postcard or email later in the week before their next lesson will also go a LONG way towards making them feel like they are already an important part of your studio.
What are some ways you make new students feel welcome at your studio?
Let us know in the Facebook group!
Join us for November's Challenge:
Starting next month, Studio Challenge Members are going to work on improving the lesson experience at their studios!
When you are done with this month's challenge:
Join TSC's Silver Membership NOW to take part in November's challenge.
(You can cancel anytime.)
Growing your studio takes time, but sometimes you cannot focus on the long term growth.
If rent is due next week and you need money ASAP, here's a quick way you can get some new students in the door this week...
Nothing will EVER beat word of mouth in our business.
If you have a studio full of happy and engaged students, you have a network of people ready to help you.
Your students have:
So, it’s time to use this!
On the simplest level you can just send an email letting them know that you are looking to grow your studio and wanted to see if they knew of anyone interested in lessons. Make it easy by extending an offer or flyer for them to give to friends.
Emails to Current Students Quick Tips:
Which one grabs you more...
"Come take lessons with me! I am open every day, and you can sign up whenever."
"I only have 4 spots left for guitar lessons on Monday! If you enroll today, you can begin next week!"
Using scarcity marketing not only prompts people to sign up for lessons, but it also gives them comfort in knowing:
1. You have students taking who trust you, and
2. You run a legit business and your time is valuable.
When you flaunt being open all the time for anyone to take, well, you look sketchy like this guy.
That's why Shauna create ads for YOU that are designed attract students to sign up, and do it NOW.
Subscribe today, and get your first scarcity marketing template immediately.👇