What Popsicles and Tour Guides Have To Do with Teaching Piano

There are SO many factors in attracting and keeping piano students.

Although a strategic marketing plan may help to get your name out there, it’s also important to focus on what your students experience in your studio. How do you keep current students happy and coming back for more? Satisfied families stay loyal and give referrals because they may like your approach, enjoy your personality, prefer your teaching style, appreciate your….fill in the blank. 

Take a break from your busy day and read the following guest post by Rachel Bradley–fellow Colorado teacher who so kindly took photos for my re-modeled website. You’ll learn that your studio doesn’t need to “put on the Ritz” in order to be special.

Before reading, take a moment and ponder:

  • What’s good about your studio?
  • What’s unique about you?
  • What experiences do you offer that keep peeps coming back for more?
  • What’s your “magic touch” that sets you apart from fellow teachers down the road?
  • How can that magic touch provide a niche marketing tool?

If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions or are looking for help on building a magic touch and customer loyalty, check out how a popsicle hotline set apart an average hotel and begin dreaming…

We’d all love to hear your ideas and your “magic touches” in the comment section.

-Leila


My husband and I recently toured New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, CO. As we were winding our way through barrels and pipes, what struck me was not the process of making beer, but rather the enthusiasm the tour guide had for the company for which he worked. He couldn’t stop saying enough good things about it. And not in an annoying, scripted kind of way—but sharing personal examples and excitement for future events.

And so, as I was sipping on a sour beer (did you know it is fermented, similar to yogurt and that’s what gives it the sour taste?) my thoughts were drifting to how I can create this same enthusiasm for my “company.” How can I create this loyalty from students and families, and even more than that, how can I create a culture and a community that they are proud to be a part of? And that leads me to the popsicle hotline.

Shortly after we took the brewery tour, I was listening to a podcast while cleaning the house (I love being able to learn while cleaning! Who’s with me?) and it really brought together my thoughts from our tour. The podcast was the Science of Success and the episode (you can find it here) was, “This is How You Create Life Changing Moments Starting Right Now with Dan Heath.

In it, he tells the fascinating story of a hotel in Los Angeles that, on the surface, appears to be just your average hotel: the lobby is basic, the rooms are standard, and the outside is nothing fancy. And yet, this average hotel regularly outranks the fancy hotels on google ratings. It ranks above the Ritz! How are they accomplishing this?

By creating an experience and a memory instead of providing perfect hotel rooms.

So here’s what the hotel does have:

#1 They have a 24-hour popsicle hotline by the pool and whenever you want a popsicle you get to pick up this bright red phone and call a butler who comes out with a silver platter piled high with popsicles.

#2 They do your laundry for you.

#3 And they have any kind of snack that you could possibly have a hankering for available for free.

They create such an amazing experience and a lasting memory that kids and parents will talk about—because who wouldn’t remember the fun of a popsicle hotline—and so families choose this hotel over the Ritz!

Can’t you just envision the kids going home and telling their friends about a popsicle hotline! Much harder is imagining a child going home and raving with the same enthusiasm over a neatly made bed and fancy decorations.

Are you starting to imagine how this could relate to our teaching?

The podcast was interviewing Dan Sheath, author of the book, Switch. In his book he talks about how to design these memorable moments in our lives and also for those we serve.  He talks about the four things that elevate moments in our minds and looks at ways we can create amazing moments and memories.

A couple quotes from the show really stood out to me and are very applicable to us as teachers are:

“We are in the business of creating an experience for people.”

“To create a great experience doesn’t mean non-stop perfection but, if we get the peaks and transitions right, we can create a great experience that doesn’t bankrupt us.”

Did you catch that?

We don’t have to be perfect or fix every problem to create a studio that people love being a part of! We don’t have to have the perfect piano policy, we don’t have to pick the perfect lesson book, and we don’t have to always have everything…perfect.

Instead, maybe we should be focusing on creating experiences that lift our students out of the norm of everyday life. Maybe we should focus on creating an awesome new-student experience more than on making sure we get through our entire first-day lesson plan. And, maybe our studio doesn’t have to be fancy in order to have kids excited to tell their friends how awesome their piano teacher is.

Personally, I think that is really encouraging, as well as something I definitely need to give a lot of thought to!

My students aren’t going to remember my carefully planned lesson, but they are going to remember how I make them feel and the experiences I provide for them.

Am I giving as much thought to creating community, memories, and excitement as I am to my schedule, policy, and tuition rates as I prepare for the new school year?

In the next blog post I will share the four things that Dan Sheath listed that elevate moments, as well as outline some specific ways we can apply these things to our teaching.

So as I wrap this up for today, out of curiosity, I googled the. They are ranked #3 on Trip Advisor and the Ritz-Carlton is ranked #10.

Their motto on the top of their amenities page is

“More than you expect,”

and the first sentence under their amenities is

“It’s our little magic touches that our guests like most.”

So I invite you to join me in imagining how we can transform the atmosphere in our studio and brainstorm ways we can apply our own “magic touches” in our studios.

I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Rachel Bradley has taught piano for over 10 years, written a young beginner’s piano curriculum for a private school, and currently teaches group lessons in Westminster, CO. When she’s not teaching or brainstorming new ideas, she loves seeking out adventure, traveling, and trying new things. With a passion for learning–and learning about learning–Rachel enjoys reading about neuroscience and how to use piano lessons to help teach students practical skills for life. She’s just recently finished writing a book of piano songs to help teach a growth mindset to her students; you can find her book, Masterminds, and other resources here.

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Leila Viss

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

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I’m getting my pedagogues confused, but one of the greats (was it Frances Clark?) said that students need to experience playing beautiful music every lesson. That’s one way I strive to create “magic touches” in my studio.

    Some students have collections of “X’s Favorite Pieces” and their lessons always start with a performance of one of these polished, memorized favorite pieces. Not all of my students have such collections, but there are other ways to create beautiful music: improvisation, playing part of a piece that they’re learning with the teacher duet, or anything that makes the student feel like they’re awesome at piano. For some students, it’s a successfully executed technique exercise that’s played with musicality. Then I get to say “this is what you’re capable of” and the child beams!

  • Great article, Rachel! Thought provoking and inspiring, for sure.

    It reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    I want to pick up that book now 🙂
    My wheels are spinning!

    Rachel, do you have any examples on how you’re doing this in your studio? I’d love to hear!

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