Why Consistency Equals Student Referrals

This can be a tricky subject. Simon Sinek author of the book ‘Start With Why’ goes into great detail about manipulations. A manipulation is anything you do to sell products that is not actually associated with your why or reason for being in business. In other words we are selling the dream of playing guitar. Our offering is a structured method for learning guitar that will help people achieve that dream efficiently. Nothing more, nothing less. If what we offer matches what we deliver (consistency) people are happy and word will naturally spread through the community. The reason word spreads is because consistency is actually very rare and anything rare becomes valuable and generally talked about. 


What is not rare then are inconsistent businesses. Those businesses that offer one thing and deliver another or who are inconsistent in their delivery. Imagine going to Starbucks, ordering your usual and have it tasting different every time. That might be okay for some people but it would not build loyalty. It’s unpredictable and most coffee drinkers want predictable. They at least want a choice in whether or not they want to be surprised. The reason most businesses are inconsistent is because consistency is very difficult to achieve. It takes highly developed systems and lots of practice. As musicians we know this well. It takes lots of practice to play a song the same way every time.


Now when it comes to your product (guitar lessons) to get around the consistency problem most businesses do what Sinek calls ‘manipulations’. A manipulation is any tactic you use to get people to buy your product that is not actually related to your product. Basically you are manipulating people who have not purchased your product for what it is with offers of one type or another. A manipulation would be to offer your lessons at half the usual price or to offer a free trial or to give them an all expenses paid  trip to Disneyland with a stopover in Hawaii. In other words if the manipulation is big enough people will take you up on the offer but there is a problem.

The bargain hunter

Gaining enrolments through manipulations is a game you will ultimately lose. Businesses that run sale after sale generally go broke. This happens because each sale has to be bigger than the last until the point where the only way to sell anything is below cost. They create a short term spike in sales but long term it kills your business. The reason is you are not attracting long term fans but instead short term bargain hunters. Bargain hunters by their very nature are not loyal. The bargain hunters shift your focus from long term students to quick sales. Over time the bargain hunters runout or lose interest in your manipulations. Meanwhile the long term students have all disappeared due to you giving all your attention to the bargain hunters. When you remove all the manipulations the bargain hunters will disappear and you will have more time to focus on long term students. Long term students are of course many times more valuable to your business than bargain hunters. They not only stay a lot longer but they refer more students who also tend to be long term.

Let’s talk referrals. 

The wrong way to seek referrals is through manipulations. A manipulation would be to offer a free lesson, a discount, a 2 for1 offer etc. I have read many marketing books that promote these ideas so this can be a hard pill to swallow I know. I have even at times recommended you guys do them but I realised on reflection that I never did with G4. At no time did I offer a free trial or a two for one offer. I didn’t even run an open day. The only freebies I gave away were a few workshop vouchers to currently enrolled students and I realise now in hindsight they were manipulations. Now the right way to get referrals is not by offering anything free but by delivering great lessons. The kind of lessons that people talk about to family and friends. Let me give you an example.

Spreading the word

At one of my schools in Sydney there was a teacher who had a group of just two boys about 8 years old. I was visiting the school and the teacher told me how the two boys were trouble and wouldn’t sit still and kept messing around. I also spoke to one of the mothers and she said they were probably not going to continue with lessons at the end of the month. I decided to watch the class in action and could see the problem immediately. I took over the class and implemented the 2 rules. At first the boys kept trying to test me and every time I told them to put their guitars down and we went over the 2 rules. It took all of about 10 mins and they had completely transformed. I then had about 10 mins left to teach them something. We did one skill and part of Smoke on the water. The following week the mothers rang (the boys were friends) asking if I would be their permanent teacher. I said no but I would be overseeing the lessons. They said their kids had practiced more in the  last week than in the last 3 months and could not stop talking about their lesson and were driving their parents crazy with Smoke on the water.

Why people refer

People refer a product or service for one of two reasons. Either it helps them or it helps a friend. With my students getting referrals was easy. They were happy with the program so in many cases they were telling family and friends but I gave them one more powerful reason to refer. All I did was ask questions like “Does Johnny have any friends who play guitar? I only ask because it makes all the difference if he has a guitar buddy to learn with.” I would often tell my story. To this day my closest friends and also my brother have the common connection of music. I didn’t raise the subject with the pure intention of trying to get a referral. I did it because I knew that if they had a family member or a friend also learning music their chances of success went up. My point is my students realised I was giving them advice opposed to a self serving sales pitch. Find a friend to learn with and your odds of success go way up. Try it but it may take practice. It’s worth noting that it will only work if they believe in you and the G4 program. It’s often a good test. If you are not getting referrals from certain students even after asking the above questions you may need to dig a little deeper. 

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