Have you ever gone shopping for something you knew you needed or wanted but you really didn’t know enough about the product to be able to judge whether or not you were getting something of value?

I imagine this is how a lot of prospective students feel when they’re searching for a music teacher.

A couple weeks ago I was shopping for a new microwave. I started my search in-person at a local store, looking at row after row of microwaves. Each one had a sign attached to it listing the brand name and key features. Here’s a sample of what I saw:

GE Microwave
1.7 cubic ft
30” wide
Stainless steel
1000 watt
$278
LG Microwave
1.7 cubic feet
30” wide
Stainless steel
1000 watt
$188
Whirlpool Microwave
1.7 cubic feet
30” wide
Stainless steel
1000 watt
$259

Now tell me, based on that information, which microwave would you choose?

My thought process went something like this: “The features are identical, so why would I pay $278 for the same features I can get for $188?” Reason tells me there must be some difference that I just can’t see and I think “Is it short-sighted to get the cheapest microwave?” My pride reacts to that and I wonder “Am I sucker if I get the most expensive one?!”

The problem was, aside from the price difference, the signs gave me no information to actually help me make a decision.

(I know you’re screaming “LOOK AT THE REVIEWS ONLINE!” Don’t worry, I did. But stay with me because that just reinforces my point.)

Features-Based Advertising

The weakness with the microwave signage was that it focused strictly on features. The specs. The boring details that any microwave manufacture could (and did!) replicate.

How often does our music studio advertising resemble these microwave signs?

Teacher 1
Degree in music
30-minute weekly lessons
Two recitals per year
Teacher 2
Degree in music
30-minute weekly lessons
Two recitals per year
Teacher 3
Degree in music
30-minute weekly lessons
Two recitals per year

Given this, why are we surprised when prospective students call and ask how much we charge? Our advertising has told them we are exactly like everyone else, so the only sensible way to make a decision between us and our colleagues is by price.

But we’re not all alike as teachers! And we’re missing a huge opportunity here to share what differentiates our studios and teaching styles.

Some of us are really great at engaging young beginners. Others have a way of captivating tired students who are on the brink of quitting music lessons. Still others can explain music history in a way that is so enchanting that every student they encounter becomes a classical music lover.

Benefits-Based Advertising

What I needed to know about those microwaves in order to make a decision was how each one could change my day-to-day life for the better. I wanted to know about the benefits.

I expect any microwave will heat food, but if one microwave makes my life happier every day because its fairy dust coating keeps it magically clean all the time, I’m sold! (Spoiler alert: I didn’t find one with this quality.)

Prospective students want to know the benefits of our studios. They expect they will come to regular lessons and learn to make music, but they want to know how studying with us be different from any other teacher. What are the unique benefits they will only experience in our studios?

Consider these rewritten ads for three fictional music teachers:

Teacher 1
Lessons filled with games and activities to delight students and make them beg to come back to music lessons!
Teacher 2
Master the basics, and you can do anything! Teaching students the fundamentals of music theory and notation gives them a solid foundation on which to build a wide-open musical future.
Teacher 3
They say music is the language of the soul and this studio is where students learn to speak. Creative opportunities abound for students to explore self-expression through music.

If I’m a prospective student, when I see messages like these, I can make a better decision. There’s no “right” or “wrong” teacher, but these explanations resonate with me in different ways and help me connect with a teacher who really gets me.

(Bonus: When I realize there is a teacher out there who is uniquely suited to teach me I am also more willing to pay a bit more for those lessons!)

Revamping Your Studio Messaging

Switching your communication from features-focused to benefits-focused can be like trying to play a familiar music score backwards. Something you thought you knew well all of a sudden jumbles your brain.

If you want to revamp your messaging to highlight the benefits, here’s an exercise to get you started:

  1. List the “features” of your lessons (quality instrument, weekend availability, MTNA-certified teacher, group lessons, etc.)
  2. Ask yourself why each feature matters to your students
    1. How does it give them a great music experience?
    2. How is their life different because your studio operates in this way?
    3. What outcome can students expect because of that feature?

The answer to the second question is the benefit. If you can’t explain why a feature matters, then it’s time to ask yourself if it’s really a feature worth mentioning.

A Parting Thought

Ultimately, I made a decision about the microwave by reading online reviews.

This post is about crafting your own studio messaging, not about getting testimonials (you can read about that here), but I thought this was worth mentioning…

Do you know who is really great at ignoring the features and talking about the benefits of your studio?

Current students.

No one ever wrote a review that said “I love my teacher because she gives me 30 minute, weekly lessons!” No, studio families say things like “My daughter used to dread practicing but, now that we’re with Ms. Teacher, I have to pull her away from the piano to eat dinner!”

So think like your students and your prospective students and give them the insights they need to pick a microwave music teacher!

P.S. If you want to see what microwave I chose, you can find me on Facebook. ????

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