Wild West of Marketing: Marie’s MTNA 2016 Report Part 3

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Amy Chaplin at MTNA

Aren’t we always looking for tips that help us figure out how to find students and build a successful studio? In her third report from her quick trip to MTNA’s 2016 conference in San Antonio (find the others here), Marie Lee shares her notes from Amy Chaplin’s, session called The Wild West of Marketing: How Do You Know What Really Works?”  

Carry on, Marie…

What is marketing?

Bestselling author, Seth Godin said,

If it’s noticed; it’s marketing.

When Amy began with this quote, I was instantly tuned in. Like Amy, I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin‘s philosophies. Another quote by Seth is this,

Good marketers measure. Good marketers tell stories.

That’s how I’d describe Amy. She’s a good marketer with good stories and actual analysis. In my book, Amy presented one of the best classes of the conference!

Amy Chaplin’s entrepreneurial drive to build a notable piano studio led her to open an independent business in 2011. Located in a small Indiana town, Studio 88 had a waiting list in a little more than two years.

What Amy tried for two years in order to market her new studio

You’ll be amazed at the variety of tactics she tried, and even more amazed when you learn what actually worked!

  1. Studio Facebook page: tag photos, keep your posts to studio achievements, schedule posts at the best times for viewing (Weekdays 11:30am or 7pm, Sat 10am. Avoid Sundays.)
  2. Google My Business (formally Google Places) to get your business hours, phone number and directions on Google Search and Maps
  3. Amy has a nice retail location near a Dairy Queen and used signs out front to attract customers.
  4. Sent informal email introducing herself to church leaders
  5. Listed her studio on her city’s business page
  6. Her current students walked in a local parade
  7. Hung fliers in local offices, pet store. Tire store was the best because what do people do in a tire shop? They wait and stare at the fliers on the wall.
  8. Placed an ad on Craig’s List
  9. Ad in Senior Living magazine about adult piano classes
  10. Paid newspaper ads (cost lots of $$$)
  11. Booth at a local event
  12. Twitter—connected with local education leaders
  13. Attached business cards to candy to hand out for Halloween-trick-or-treating
  14. Called and met with local public school music teachers. She asked by phone for a 5-minute slot to introduce herself in person and every teacher said “yes.”
  15. Yelp
  16. Linked-In
  17. Homeschool newsletter
  18. Mailed fliers to local teachers
  19. Offered free classes at the community center during the summer
  20. Car window decals
  21. Coupons/Holiday specials/Gift Certificates.

Are you ready for what worked and what didn’t? Amy kept track of what she did and how much it cost. When she got inquiries she always asked, “How did you hear about me?”

When she analyzed her results, here’s what Amy found

  • 10% Online—mainly her Facebook page

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    Both Tim Topham and Marie were impressed with Amy.

  • 29% Traditional methods–her location was huge, followed by a few newspaper and flier inquiries
  • 14% Public/Community—schools, her community center classes brought in two students which she felt was worth her time
  • 3% Seasonal Specials/Gift Certificates
  • 34% Personal/In-Studio referrals and networking with other school and music teachers
  • 10% Unknown

Amy got a lot of online inquiries but very few registered. On the other hand, most of the inquiries from her personal connections and teacher referrals registered for piano.

Here are a few tips that Amy learned from her research

  1. You MUST have a Facebook page. She’s working on building a studio website but it isn’t high priority because online marketing brought many inquiries but few registrations. Amy highly recommends Daniel Patterson’s very thorough Piano Teacher’s Ultimate Facebook Guide.
  2. Location is huge!
  3. Newspaper ads are very expensive with little return. No one reads newspapers. Don’t waste your money.
  4. Put out quality materials. “What you see is ALL there is.” People make their 12963606_976871642405095_8365291258571065047_njudgments based on your advertising. No free clip-art here, teachers! Amy likes Canva and PicMonkey.
  5. Make yourself visible to the community—perform yourself and take your students out to perform, join business organizations.
  6. Market yourself—what makes you unique?
  7. Build rapport with your current families = word of mouth advertising.

“If people know you’re thinking about their lives, they’re more likely to want to do business with you.” –Brad Johnson

With her analysis overwhelmingly showing referrals and personal connections as the most successful way of gaining students, Amy’s overall message to us was:

Who You Are Matters

What Type of Teacher You Are Matters.

But she strongly warned us,

Word of mouth can’t be your only advertising. Even if you’re currently full, you should be building up your brand over time. No one marketing tool works. You need to throw a lot of tactics at your community.

Click here for Amy’s handout and list of helpful resources.

Here’s a link to Amy’s blog called Piano Pantry. You’ll want to check out her fresh perspective on teaching.


Thank you, again, Marie! Amy provides remarkably helpful marketing tips. I couldn’t agree more that..

Who You Are Matters

What Type of Teacher You Are Matters

Who you are and what you offer sets your studio apart. I believe adding Off-Bench time with your On-Bench instruction can add a whole new dimension to your teaching and will make you stand out from the crowd.

I’m here to help you get started with this lesson format. Together, we’ll design a unique plan to suit your needs with a balance of tech-savvy and non-tech activities. Via Skype or Facetime,  I’ll coach you along the way as you launch off-bench activities combined with your on-bench instruction. Learn more here or contact me at lviss@me.com.

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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio