I live in a small town. Like, very small. Like, less than 5000 people small.
The town where I live is considered a retirement community. On my street, half of the houses stand empty because they are vacation homes -- meaning people come here for a few days and then they leave.
Within a 10 mile radius of me, there are two other well known, and well liked piano teachers, both of whom have been teaching in the area longer than I have. There is one elementary school, one middle school, and the high school is 20 miles away.
So, what does a piano teacher like me, with a very limited chance for growing my business do to actually grow my business?
I shift my demographics.
Let me explain . . .
We all know that the bulk of piano students are often elementary students or preteens. Maybe, if we are lucky, the occasional teenager will stick around and we might have an adult or two.
But when you are in a situation where your studio just will not grow, maybe its time to think outside of the box.
Shift your demographics. Go younger. Go older. Be open to teaching a group that you've previously not engaged as much.
When I started my current studio, I had the usual influx of those elementary/preteen age kids. I LOVE working with them and I really enjoy that age group.
But, after that influx of the "usual" age group, I decided to aim for a different demographic: adults - both middle aged adults and retired seniors.
You see, I was convinced, through my own experience of starting tennis lessons when I turned 40, that adults were an untapped market in the piano lesson world. Everyone thinks they are too busy (they are), but I know how much my tennis lessons mean to me, so I was pretty sure that piano lessons could be meaningful for them.
So, I aimed it at them. I aimed my marketing, my conversations, my Facebook posts all at encouraging middle aged adults and senior adults that, if they've ever dreamed of taking piano lessons, NOW is the time.
With the middle aged adult, what I was offering them was a chance to take time out of their very busy lives to do something for themselves. I was offering them an opportunity to take just 30 minutes, once a week, and come to a lesson where they will learn, laugh, and play lots of great music. Then they could practice at home and experience the joy of getting better at something, of growing in a skill.
With the senior adults, what I was offering was the chance to keep their mental sharpness and physical flexibility fine tuned. I was offering them the opportunity to learn a skill that they could carry into their much later years, finding enjoyment and stimulation in playing the piano. They could take 30 minutes, once a week, and come to a lesson where they too would learn, laugh, and play lots of great music. Practicing at home would give them another goal to work toward.
Was I selling a pipe dream or trying to convince these adults against their will? Of course not . . . middle aged adults ARE, in fact, very busy, and would love to have something all of their own. Senior adults DO, in fact, think about their mental sharpness and want to continue to age well.
And what I was offering them was the real deal. From my clients, I have heard time and time again that they love having "their thing" now or that they love how their piano lessons are so good for their mental and physical health.
This isn't me selling an elixir, hoping people will buy my hogwash. This is me actually offering a service to adults and framing it in a way that maybe they hadn't seen before.
So, I shifted my demographics and aimed for the adults as well. It worked, and I LOVE working with my adults. They make me laugh so hard and their stubbornness but sincere desire to learn make me love my role even more. I feel privileged to be a part of this journey for them.
But, then my studio reached another enrollment ceiling, so to speak, and I realized I needed to shift again.
In my little town, there is only one or two home-based preschools and that is it. There are a few community groups like MOPS or other things that are welcoming to the preschool set, but other than that, there's not much. And, perhaps most importantly, the other piano teachers in the area do not take preschoolers (to my knowledge).
So, I took a chance and started a preschool music class as a part of my studio. I kept it simple -- using a simple curriculum for preschoolers that I expand into a full hour. I incorporated some games and an art project and lots of piano exposure.
And I advertised like crazy to the preschool families in the area. What I offered these weary parents was something unique for their kiddo. An educational, musical, artistic service where they knew their little preschooler could come for an hour class each week and learn and have fun.
I aimed my marketing, my conversations, my Facebook posts at the preschool families letting them know that I was here for them if they wanted something special for their child. I talked about how music exposure helps children prepare for formal schooling, how the class scenario helps them gain valuable social skills, and how this class would set them up for awesome music studies as they get older.
Was I selling a sappy toddler commercial, hoping they would buy my pie in the sky promises? Not at all.
Its absolutely true that there is a strong link between music studies and math scores. And trust me, a room with six preschoolers who all want to use the purple hand bell at the same time is a crash course in social skills. What I'm offering these families is something real and good and valuable. And best of all, their preschooler loves the class and I LOVE teaching them!
So, here I am, with these shifted demographics, and my studio is more full than ever. My studio makeup is roughly 1/4 preschoolers, 1/2 students, and 1/4 adults (middle aged and senior). And I truly enjoy every single minute.
There is something about my piano lesson day that just makes me happy when I move from teaching a tiny tot to a senior adult just like that. My demographics are varied, so my day is varied. And I like that just fine.
So, Piano Teacher Friend, what demographic have you been avoiding or ignoring? Would reaching out to one of those help boost your studio?
If this idea intrigues you, give it some thought. Ask yourself these three questions:
1. What generational demographic seems missing from my studio?
2. Do I want to and am I able to reach out to them?
3. What needs to shift in my studio or teaching to make this appealing to them.
Trust me, if you make the decision to open up your demographics a bit, you may be incredibly surprised at how quickly students flow to you. Word of mouth is very, very powerful here, because adults talk to their friends about their hobbies and what occupies their time. Preschool families tip each other off to great opportunities in the area for little ones.
Give it a try. See if you can expand your studio with a different demographic. You'll be glad you did.