3000+ students inquiries in 2 years
From 1984 until 2003 I had mostly done private teaching and focused on catering to the needs of individual students. After years of teaching guitar I had perfected my teaching to the point where I was always fully booked with a long waiting list. To handle the demand I had opened a school and hired other guitarists to teach. The problem was these teachers were not me. Some of them were good in their own right and some not so good but the big problem was not so much whether they were good or bad but the fact that results from students and their methods of teaching were inconsistent. You see what people want more than anything is consistency. When students came to me for lessons they were expecting me and when I referred them to another teacher within my school they still expected me. Well not exactly may but they expected much the same experience. This became a big problem because when I refer them to other teachers they were getting a different experience and as a result it was affecting my reputation. I then read a book called the E-Myth which gave me a completely different view of the situation. This book was all about how to build a successful business based on systems and why it was so effective. He pointed out how franchise businesses are far more successful then independent owner operated businesses and it all made perfect sense. So here is what happened.
20 years of consolidation
In 2003 I sold my music school (Learn2Play Music) in Caringbah Sydney Australia and took a 2 year break. In that time I planned my strategy for G4 Guitar. I wanted G4 to take everything I had learned to date and build a method and business that would produce consistent results. I had started teaching guitar in the early 80’s (mostly to kids at my high school) so in 20 years I had tried lots of different teaching and business strategies, read hundreds of books and articles as well as attended dozens of business and marketing seminars along with personal business coaches.
Time to launch
Putting all that knowledge and experience together in a business system and teaching method I launched G4 Guitar. I knew that for my business to grow effectively I needed a method that other teachers could use to get the same results as myself which meant it could not rely on me. A system of learning guitar that if applied correctly would ensure the success of 95% of guitar students and of course the success of their teachers and the business. The next step was to put all to the test. In other words I need to build a prototype. I was starting from scratch in the north of Sydney and I was a complete unknown in the area. It was the perfect chance for me to see if my systems really worked. So here is what I did.
Awareness and familiarity
People prefer the familiar. Study after study shows that we are more likely to trust the familiar. One study showed how we will choose jobs and even partners who have similar names to ours. In the USA the most popular name for dentists is Dennis. Don’t laugh. It makes sense based on our evolution. Familiar faces tended to represent safety through out much of our evolution and in fact the unfamiliar often meant danger. I knew that for students to enroll with me without hesitation they needed to be somewhat familiar with either myself or G4 Guitar. This is why branding is so critical.
Strategic marketing is based on making yourself seen from several angles. One form of marketing tends to have limited impact. When people hear about you from different sources you will seem familiar. Think of a movie with an unknown actor. First time they are just another unknown actor. The second time you see them perhaps in a magazine they seem familiar. Third time you see them you are looking them up on Wikipedia. Same applies to brands. The reason Pizza Hut delivery do TV and letterbox is because the TV creates awareness of their latest specials so when their flyer lands in your letterbox it will be familiar. So the point is my first step was tp build brand awareness.
What did I do?
I did a combination of letterbox flyers, visible signage, local newspaper, school newsletters and talking to local businesses. Internet was not part my main strategy at this time. I was only just launching the G4 Guitar website. So let me go through each one.
- The flyers created local awareness. I knew based on years of previous testing the direct return was about 1 student in 1000 flyers. I should point out that my mother also opened a chain of successful bedding shops by doing flyers when I was a kid. This is why I knew it worked. I saw her build a million dollar business mostly from flyers.
- Having a visible location meant that those who received flyers and saw my sign on the street were more likely to respond.
- Local newspapers are still viable now but less so. If you can get cheap advertising with good distribution it may still be worth the investment.
- School newsletters are hit and miss in terms of parents seeing and reading your ad but it is a nice way to get to talk to people at the local schools. Asking them to promote you is often met with a firm “no thanks” whereas if you ask if you can sponsor their newsletter they will often be happy to take your money. You should also offer to give a lesson voucher for any fund raisers they do. Anything that can build a relationship basically. At Northbridge I enrolled dozens of students from the local schools and a lot was just word of mouth from different sources. Parents, students, teachers, newsletters, fund raisers and local music teachers and other local business owners.
- Talking to local businesses is very under-rated because often we think that they simply have no interest in what we are doing or are skeptical about our motives in approaching them. I spoke to about a dozen local businesses and most were friendly but more importantly I was now on their radar. Remember they speak to people who live in the area everyday and occasionally they are going to come across people who are interested in learning music. If they know about you you are more likely to receive a referral. But there is one other important point. You will get ideas from them. When I arrived in Northbridge the local business owners would mention names of school principals, good noticeboards, marketing that had worked for them and on occasion would be interested in marketing with me.
A unique product, sales and branding
The next important part of my strategy was ensuring that I had a unique product. If you are selling guitar lessons you are selling a commodity. Its like selling coffee. Coffee is coffee right? Not according to Starbucks. Starbucks sells an experience not just coffee. If I was going to be different I needed a unique product. If you are selling guitar lessons you will always lose to the lowest bidder. Usually a 17 year old who is willing to teach for $18 an hour or less. My unique product was the G4 Guitar Method. I now had a brand and it was truly unique and my main selling point was a structured system of learning guitar based on 20 years experience.
Selling the system not your lessons
I knew I had a system that could be easily explained but best of all got results. I apply this same idea in my guitar teacher coaching. If I was just selling marketing or ideas on how to succeed in business there are a million people out there who claim they can help you but what I am selling is chance to be part of a unique system that works and as you can see is based on tested and proven results. When I started G4 it was really an experiment to see that what I believed would work really did work. So if you are selling guitar lessons when students inquire we need to talk. What you should be selling is a unique system of learning guitar called the G4 Guitar Method and if you are not sure how to do that then we need to go through it together.
The G4 Guitar Method is like a MAC computer
Creating the buzz through group teaching
Group teaching may be a risky strategy for you but if you are serious about enrolling more students than you can handle this is your best option. When you teach students in groups you create a buzz. I would do a 5 week private introduction and then group them. I did not do any private teaching after their intro. Let me paint the picture. My studio would have 5 students coming in as 5 were going out along with parents and siblings. At times I could have as many as 30 people there at one time. Can you imagine how this looks to people? There is a real buzz of excitement and the word quickly spreads throughout the community. I would have people come in off the street to inquire about lessons because they saw people constantly going in and out with guitars. It didn’t take long before I was hot on the lips of kids and parents.
5 Star Service
I am sure you would agree that great service is rare. When we go shopping we often have to wait in lines or at restaurants the service is slow or at the bank the tellers seem bored and so on. Good service is far from the norm but great service is something we rave about. I made sure that my students got 5 star treatment. This means that I consider them in every decision I made. I would constantly be seeking feedback and addressing any small concerns. I was fast to respond to emails and phone calls. I ran lessons on time so as to avoid keeping students waiting. When you give your students 5 star service the word spreads like wild fire. Success in business is not difficult. Its just like any good relationship. Listen to your students and you will come to understand their problems which you can then solve.
80/20 Do more of what works
The above strategy worked not only in Northbridge but then in 4 other locations. If you are not getting the results my guess is something is missing. I am yet to hear of a case where the strategy above was followed and did not yield a good result. The reason companies like McDonald’s, KFC and thousands of others succeed is because they follow simple principles. The strategies I used work because they respond to human nature. If the strategy you are using is not working it is because something about your strategy is lacking and you need to find out what is missing.
So in summary your business needs to be a system that is reliable. Most teachers and business owners have some systems in place but they fall seriously short of what is needed. It takes years to develop systems mostly because a system in the real world is very different to a system on paper. Each time you test your system you will almost invariably need to go back to the drawing board and tweak or in some cases completely redesign your system. No system is ever perfect but this is a point where your system becomes reliable enough to get consistent results. G4 Guitar is a complete system that will work for you if you stick to it but there are always unique circumstances so its important to assess your situation to make sure G4 Guitar is right for you.