Fill Your Lesson Rooms During the Dead Times

Music retailers with empty lesson rooms, take note. At the 2016 NAMM Show, music lessons guru Pete Gamber revealed how to keep your lesson rooms filled with students whenever the lights are on in your store.

Here are highlights. (Watch the video for the full session.)

Know your lesson room potential.
Do you know the maximum capacity of your store’s lessons program? Gamber offered a simple exercise that lets you see how much room you have for more lessons in your studio or store—and for getting to where you want to be. Here’s Gamber’s formula:

• Multiply # Rooms × 8 Students/Day (3–7 p.m.) = Daily Lesson Room Potential
• Now Multiply × 6 Days (M−S) = Weekly Lesson Room Potential

Use this formula to play with different multiples, including hours, students and days. “If it’s the only thing you do when you go home, look at where your lesson room potential is,” Gamber said.

Meet your lesson room challenges.
Empty lesson rooms mean lost opportunities for your teachers and your store. Gamber posed these typical scenarios to remedy:
• Are your lesson rooms empty after 7 p.m.?
• Can’t get lessons happening on Fridays?
• Most students want weekday slots from 3–7 p.m.
• Your staff says, “No one wants those times.”
• Are you turning away students because your prime times are full?

Develop a lesson schedule plan.
Use common sense when it comes to the best times for certain demographics. Be aware of patterns. For instance, very young students don’t do well in the evening, teens are often available at noon and moms tend to have more flexible schedules in the late morning. Here’s Gamber’s general schedule:

Noon­­–2 p.m.: adults, seniors, home-schooled students, moms
2−5 p.m.: elementary school
5−7 p.m.: late elementary to junior high
7−9 p.m.: older teens and adults

Saturdays tend to work for all ages.

Gamber said he’ll also teach in the morning hours and before noon in some cases. Make your schedule work for your store.

Train your staff on the lesson schedule plan.
Explain the benefits of the lesson schedule to your staff.  Make sure every one of your employees asks the right questions and knows how to respond.
• Ask, “Who are the lessons for?”
• Don’t ask, “What time works best for you?”
• If you’re successful, the prime times will fill themselves.
• Make sure your staff looks at every time slot as a priority
• Don’t make time slots sound as if they’re left over. (No one wants leftovers.)
• Offer daily special lesson times, and make them sound appealing.

Adopt a new approach to lesson times.
Make sure your staff books lessons with a positive attitude and directs customers to a lesson time that works best for your store. Train employees to use such responses as:
• “I have a fantastic teacher at 8 p.m.!”
• “We’ve got some really great teachers on Saturdays!”
• “I have a perfect time for you at noon. Would that work?”
• “We have a great teacher for adults on Friday night!”

Staff should communicate firmly and with enthusiasm.

Book dead times first—and make them your new prime times.
Start a campaign to fill the dead times first. Gamber shared a real-life example of two busy music stores. Store A is located in an industrial park, and Store B is in a commercial center with steady traffic in and out. Store A has far more students, simply because it books Saturday lessons first. The only difference between the two stores is the way Store A sells lesson times.

Here are his tips to see an increase in overall lessons:
• Always offer your dead times first.
• Don’t ask a negative question, such as, “You wouldn’t want to come in on a Saturday, would you?”
• Filling the dead slots opens prime-time availability during the week.

Develop a lesson program for seniors.
Gamber has a steady stream of senior students. Here are his tips for working with seniors:
• Schedule them early in the day when your store is less hectic.
• Get a few good teachers who want to work with seniors (even one day a week will build your program), and have them come in at designated times.
• Bill senior music lessons as an adult program. Create a community and senior village at your store.
• You’ll find that retired students can come in earlier than anyone else.
• Seniors will see other students their age coming in. (It’s about socialization and having fun, too.)
• They’ll pass the word to their friends, creating more lessons at your store.
• This opens up more prime-time lesson slots in the afternoon.

Promote lesson times to moms.
Make this part of your adult lessons program. Tips:
• A great time for moms to take music lessons is 10 a.m. −1 p.m., when the kids are in school.
• Schedule moms for the same times that work for seniors.
• Get teachers to come in early for both of these groups.

Attract more people into your store by promoting adult music lessons.
Gamber increased his students by 30 percent by having a simple poster in the window with a big headline “adult music lessons.” Also, use your website, Facebook, email, texts, Instagram, and in-store posters and fliers to reach potential adult students. If you’re not familiar or comfortable using these tools, ask a high school student to help by offering guitar strings or a small incentive. Get creative.

Get serious about booking more lessons by offering incentives.
Offer spiffs for the dead spots in a lessons schedule. This works! Here are Gamber’s recommendations:
• Offer a spiff for every dead spot an employee fills. This can be Starbucks or a food incentive. (Buy them a burger!)
• Send a message that you want these times booked with lessons.
• Get creative at your store. Consider withholding the registration fee for dead-time slots.

Make it your goal to increase the number of lesson students from opening to closing every day.
• Your store and your teachers benefit from increased lessons.
• Your customers benefit from what your music lesson program provides.
• Get creative with your ideas.
• Have fun!
• Advocate for certain groups (e.g., more female musicians) to take lessons, and promote it every chance you get.
• Keep it simple.