3 Strategies to Grow Your Lesson Program

Have you invested in your music lesson programs and watched the money drain from your store, rather than go back in your pocket? At the 2016 NAMM Show, Joel Bertrand of Bertrand’s Music shared three powerful strategies that he’s used to build his lesson program and bring in more students—between 200 to more than 1,200 at five locations throughout southern California.

Bertrand encouraged music retailers to bring these lesson-building ideas to life in their own stores.

Strategy 1: Teacher Retention
Retain teachers for the long haul. Bertrand suggested you ask yourself, “What is the most important thing you look for in a teacher?” He shared that he looks for longevity.

Tips for hiring teachers. Bertrand offered these simple tips for hiring: ask the right questions; call references, including other students or parents; and use pre-screen employment tests, such as Criteriacorp.com and Wonderlic.com.

Retaining teachers. Create a comfortable working environment, including lesson studios, available technology and a staff-friendly atmosphere. Bertrand commented that his company offers to create a new-student package for teachers. This includes an instrument and music book. Get feedback from teachers (it can be in the form of staff meetings). Offer such benefits as loyalty points on all purchases, discounts and gifts to mark anniversaries with the store, holidays or birthdays. During store events, Bertrand lets teachers host a class and pass out information. The company’s teachers control everything themselves: their rates, collecting their money and scheduling their students. Bertrand’s only collects rent from them, so teachers aren’t intertwined with the business financially. Bertrand gives teachers access to the company’s website for lesson scheduling to avoid online scheduling issues. Teachers are incentivized to book more time because the rates drop. Teachers need to meet a minimum per month.

Key takeaway: Make the right hire, and partner with your teachers.

Strategy 2: Marketing
Do in-store customers know you offer lessons?
• When people call Bertrand’s, they hear “Bertrand’s Music and Lessons.” So, everyone who calls knows that the company offers lessons.

• Request a Bluetooth Beacon from Facebook. They’re free, and you can use one to help customers get more information about your business when they use Facebook in your store.

• Bertrand’s has a 50-inch TV in its stores, and one of the rotating on-screen ads shows a guitar student and teacher in a lesson studio with the caption “Private and group lessons available. Ask our staff.” Create a digital ad that catches customers’ eyes while they’re in-store.

How do you create marketing materials? Bertrand stated that he’s had success using Design Pickle (designpickle.com). It’s like having a marketing person on staff—Bertrand’s get professional-looking materials without paying a full-time employee.

Bertrand’s School of Music. The company created a club that’s designed to take non-Bertrand’s teachers and bring them into the fold. It’s free to join, and these teachers receive benefits, such as a 15-percent discount on purchases, 3 percent loyalty points, an annual free instrument tune-up and free recitals. The recitals get new people into the store and can help generate new sales and students. To join the club, teachers are simply required to pass out Bertrand’s School of Music cards to all of their students, who receive 10-percent discounts on purchases, 5 percent loyalty points, and access to exclusive events and sales.

Online marketing. Have a strategy, and follow through Bertrand advised.
• Google AdWords. Start using it. “Set your budget, and do it,” Bertrand said.

• YouTube. Bertrand’s creates a series of videos called Instrument FUNdamentals that help promote their lessons.

• Thumbtack. This is a new company that helps you find new customers and grow your business. For people looking for services, such as music lessons, Bertrand’s will receive an email. You set your budget and perimeter for distance from your store (or other criteria) and respond to leads using your materials. Your student registration fees will pay for this, according to Bertrand. “It’s a really easy way to start generating leads for you,” he said.

Website marketing strategy.
• Is it actionable? Can someone book a lesson on your website right away?

• Include videos of your teachers. Bertrand’s has a teacher who hosts a 15-second intro video about lessons, plus videos of his gigs. These engage people and get them excited about taking lessons from him.

Key takeaway: Use multiple outlets and resources to market your lesson programs, including community and school outreach.

Strategy 3: Outreach Programs
“If we can help create better and more engaged music students, we will create more lessons,” Bertrand said. So, the company has designed outreach programs around this philosophy to increase lesson sign-ups.

Bertrand gave several examples of the company’s outreach efforts, as sponsors, event creators and through community involvement:

Symphony Petting Zoo. Kids get in for free. They can try out all the instruments and get excited.

Easter Egg Hunt. Create custom events around holidays, and get the kids and parents involved.

Local Media. Connect with your local media.

Fasttrack. The company offers a month of free group lessons for every instrument it rents. After the first month, it turns into a paid class for a monthly fee. Bertrand noted that there are 130 students in this class. Teachers in the community love this program because it’s supplemental and the kids are more engaged and more likely to take private lessons.

Summer. Bertrand’s offers free summer sessions and markets to the school districts with a flier. Anyone can sign up for these lessons. These 30-minute classes are held twice a week for four weeks, and there are two sessions for the summer. Do it just for band (like instruments) and not guitar, and feed students into the paid Fasttrack program after that. Generate rentals and more engagement!

Headstart. Another way to generate rentals and income is through a free summer headstart program. Offer free lessons, and the student can bring their own instrument or you can provide.

After-school programs. Bertrand’s works with several school districts on after-school enrichment programs and will supply teachers and instrument rentals.

Honor groups. Bertrand’s partners with the local elementary schools. Teachers pick the honor students and host concerts (in a rented concert hall), and parents love it.

Ukulele circle. This is a free event Bertrand’s runs on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. It’s scheduled at the end of the day, about 30 minutes before the store closes, so it doesn’t take away from sales during regular hours.

Key takeaway: Develop successful outreach programs, such as free music lessons, after-school programs and group lessons, that will create more engaged students and generate income later.