Stop Giving Away Free Guitar Lessons
What I am about to say might go against everything you have been told but read on. Most guitar teachers believe offering their first lesson free will attract more students. After all it seems logical right? Someone is looking for guitar lessons and they don’t know anything about you other then whats on your website. You figure by offering a free trial lesson it reduces the risk for the student. It gives them a chance to have a lesson without risking their hard earned dollars to find out the lessons were a waste of time and money. While its seems logical I am going to argue against the whole idea. I should say that this is not just my opinion. I have owned and operated a dozen music schools and I did not give free trial lessons except for an occasional open day which will be the exception to the rule. Here are the reasons why I believe you should not be giving free trial lessons and, why they are likely doing more damage to you and your teaching business than you realise. I have also added the alternative I recommend below.
Don’t accept gifts from strangers
Despite what we would like to believe most people are cautious about free trial guitar lessons. The free trial will not sway their decision in your favour and is in fact more likely to cause the very opposite response. Their sceptical mind tells them if they take up your free trial offer they will feel obligated to continue. In other words it looks and feels like a trap. We know instinctively not to accept gifts from strangers. When people pay for their first lesson it feels like a transaction. They paid you for your time and can walk away without guilt or future obligation.
But what about all the success stories?
You might argue that many successful businesses use free trials or offerings to attract new customers. This is very true but there is a distinction here. When a person can remain relatively anonymous they will take up free offers all day long. The Internet with its free trial software or member sites or big companies where the interaction is fairly impersonal are good examples. In these situations people are not dealing with an individual (guitar teacher) with real emotions and feelings. They don’t have to say “Thank you for the free lesson but I am sorry I won’t be continuing.”
Get them while they are hot
When a student phones you for the first time they are almost certainly at their peak in terms of motivation to start guitar lessons. This is the time they are most likely to pay you. If, at that point you don’t take their money there will likely be no greater time. They will cool off. I also know from experience that when someone has not paid they are only about a 50% chance of turning up. Either they will cancel or they simply won’t show. What was a hot potential student on the phone has now been downgraded to a 50/50 bet. Add the fact that its only a free trial they are now about a 25% chance of enrolling with you. My personal success rate of converting students on the phone was over 90%. Going from 90% to 25% just doesn’t make any sense.
Commitment increases with payment
Free by the very definition has no monetary value. When a person pays for something it has value if only to the purchaser. Think about when you have purchased a book or movie. Even if you don’t like it you read or watch it anyway to ensure you extract the value from it. You may even tell yourself it wasn’t too bad and look for the positives to justify the money spent. When a student pays you for a lesson they will firstly almost certainly turn up and secondly, will be fully attentive to ensure they extract the value from the lesson. Free on the other hand is well, free. There is no justification required in terms of monetary value for the student. In fact they are much more likely to view the lesson as a sales pitch and you are more likely to deliver the lesson as a sales pitch further decreasing your chances of a paying student.
So if I am ruling out free trial lessons what am I suggesting in its place. Paid lessons of course but not just paid lessons. What I recommend is a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee. Swapping out a free trial lesson for a money back guarantee will make all the difference. The way I see it is a genuine student is not looking for free but, they also don’t want to lose their money. If a prospective student is not willing to do a paid lesson with a money back guarantee they are either highly sceptical (lack of trust but thats for another article) or aren’t really serious. Every year I spend thousands of dollars on educational courses and every year I refund a few of them. The reason I refunded a few was because I found they weren’t suitable or of value to me. I was happy to pay to try them but only if there was a guarantee. I generally avoid free because free is almost always 90% sales pitch and 10% content. I would rather 90% content (paid) and 10% sales pitch (usually another associated product) with the option to get a refund if I am not satisfied.