Boost Your Lesson Sign-ups—and Keep the Students You Have


Three years ago, Liane Rockley of Rockley Music made a calculated decision to gut her lesson program and rebuild it from the ground up. It’s now a successful, thriving program, as part of the new Rockley Education Center. And at the 2015 NAMM Show, she shared her unique story and inspiring ending. “We’re steadily getting new students, plus keeping the ones we have,” Rockley said.

She chalked up her company’s successful gamble to two things: better marketing and retention. At this NAMM U session, she encouraged fellow retailers to explore different ideas and avenues for their lesson programs. “You’re in charge of your education center, so exercise your marketing power and creativity,” Rockley said.

Here are highlights from the session video:

Direct Mail. Rockley stressed that direct mail remains one of the most effective ways to reach customers. Even though it tends to be expensive, direct mail yields results, and there are many ways to keep costs down. Graphics and taglines are important to branding your store. She shared that one of her company’s mailers that got a 10-percent return and translated into 75 new students for her lesson program. She advised that direct mail copy should include unique information about your store—in her case, the fact that her company does background checks on its music teachers.

“What’s interesting about direct mail is that what worked well the first year doesn’t necessarily work so well the second year,” Rockley said. “Mix up the demographics instead of sending to the same lists over and over again.”

Online Advertising. This been very successful for Rockley Music. Online marketing can be less expensive than direct mail, and you have numerous options, such as e-blasts, social media and Rockley shared that her store sends out email blasts to its customer lists twice a month. She embeds and attaches advertising fliers for special lessons, classes and events.

​Rockley Music also has an active Facebook account and a Yellow Pages presence through On a profile, a retailer can add content to its landing page, including pictures and reviews. Rockley said she hands out forms at in-store events, so customers can write reviews, which she submits. She recommended exploring, as it’s helped dramatically increase her company’s lesson traffic.

Community Events. Rockley suggested marketing with community conventions, music educator and teacher organizations, silent auctions and charity events, school band music nights, and wherever you can establish a presence and get your store’s name in front of the community. She emphasized the importance of signage, including stand-up banners, which are inexpensive and worth the investment.

Newspaper. Rockley has worked with her community newspaper for free advertising. She was approached to write an article, which resulted in her store being featured three times. She advised that you get involved with your community paper to help spread the word about your store.

Website. Rockley has customized her company’s website, so customers can request a lesson appointment and lesson surveys can be completed online. She suggested talking with your website provider to ensure your needs are being met.

What good is building a lesson program if you can’t keep your students? “It’s all about having the right teachers,” Rockley said. “You need to invest in quality teachers that have drive and vision and want to be a partner with you and work together.”

Classes. Offer unique, interesting classes. Rockley pointed out that there are many possibilities to engage students and keep them at your facility other than private lessons. Her company offers groups lessons, ensemble classes and specialty classes, such as a recording basics class given by a staff member, group ukulele lessons, Music for Little Mozarts classes and a world music program.

Performance. Rockley Music’s education center has an in-store stage and hosts three showcase recitals a year. This is a way to keep students moving forward. Rockley noted that she includes a media release as part of her lesson registration packet, so her company can use pictures of recitals and students in its marketing.