Marketing with Postcards (it’s not what you think!)

I would take a strong bet that when you hear the phrase “Marketing With Postcards,” the first thing that comes to mind is a mass-mailing marketing strategy.

Am I right?

Today I want to share with you how postcards can be a useful tool for marketing your independent music studio – but from a whole different angle.

The best part is, it’s way easier and much cheaper than any kind of mass mailing marketing strategy.

Would you like to hear what it is?

Student birthday cards!

My next bet is that you just rolled your eyes a little after reading that I’m calling student birthday cards a “marketing” tool.

Am I right again? LOL

In this post, I’ll first explain why it’s a good marketing strategy and then I’ll share some details on how I do mine and organize/streamline the process.


A Good Marketing Strategy

When I first opened my studio, I spent several years tracking every inquiry and registration including – most especially – how people heard about me.

The results of all my marketing work and research were presented in a session I gave at the 2016 MTNA National Conference in San Antonio, Texas: The Wild West of Marketing: How do you know what really works?

The easiest and best way to recap the findings for you is from a snippet written by (current MTNA President), Karen Thickstun in the (now former) “It’s None of all Your Business” article series of the American Music Teacher Magazine.

“When Amy Chaplin opened her studio in a small Indiana town a few years ago, she implemented 40 different marketing strategies. Two years later, she had a full studio and waiting list.

She meticulously tracked every inquiry, every registration. Of those who inquired, but did not register, 35 percent came from traditional marketing (location near an ice cream store, fliers, print ads); 20 percent came from personal marketing (referrals, networking, personal connections); and 13 percent came from online marketing.

However, when she analyzed who inquired and registered, she found that 54 percent of her students learned about her studio through personal marketing, 20 percent through traditional marketing and 6 percent through online marketing.

As evidenced by Amy’s research, word-of-mouth is a trusted, powerful method of sharing information and building a studio.

August/September 2016 issue, “Re-Defining Word-Of-Mouth”

In short, over half of the people who actually registered for lessons came as referrals from people I already knew including current students, other teachers I had networked with, friends and family.

It’s true. Word-of-mouth does work, ESPECIALLY in a small community. (Just remember, it can’t be your only form of marketing – but that’s another topic!)

Lots of people inquire when they see you online, or they see your great location. When it comes down to making that commitment, however, it’s those who know you best that ultimately drive your business.


Building Rapport

Building rapport means that we’re working to develop mutual trust, understanding, and emotional affinity. If I want someone to know I care, I show interest in more than one aspect of their lives. In our case, I care about my students beyond the piano.

“If people know you’re thinking about their lives, they’re more likely to want to do business.” -Brad Johnson

How can we do that? Of course, there is a multitude of ways, but here are a few ideas:

  • Attend a choir concert in which you have students performing.
  • Send a card if there’s a death in a student’s family.
  • Have conversations with parents and students about topics other than piano. Treat them as real people – your neighbors – not just a client that needs to be scooted out the door. Let me give you a quick personal example.

I was chatting after lessons with a mom whose family had just moved to the area. She said they were going out for her birthday dinner that night but wasn’t sure where to go. I love food and restaurants, so I spent 5 minutes talking to her after lessons and gave her advice. Two days later she texted me a photo and feedback of how they took my advice and loved it!

By the way, the next week, she told me she had a friend from church that had called me about lessons but wasn’t going to follow through because of cost. This mom told her they loved me and looked at it as an investment and that very afternoon, the other mom called me and said she changed her mind and asked me to put her on my waiting list. A few months later, I had an opening, they registered and paid the whole year upfront for two kids!

  • The last idea – and the one we’re talking about more specifically today – is to show students you care by recognizing their birthdays.


Marketing with Student Birthday cards

Imagine parents at home sorting through the day’s mail…

How often do you think their kid actually has something in the mail?

Rarely if ever.

So imagine their reaction when they see a card in the mail from none other than their piano teacher!

If I were the parent, I KNOW I would say out loud: “awwww!! that’s so sweet! Honey, look you got a card from your teacher!”

Yep. It’s pretty heart-warming.

While celebrating student’s birthdays could be done in a variety of ways – anything from giving them a small gift from your prize box or their favorite candy bar – I have found sending a card via snail-mail to be an excellent unexpected and special surprise.

I especially love hearing their excited voices when they come to lessons thanking me for their card.

One year I decided to do something different besides the card, wishing students happy birthday in my studio newsletter with a link to a recording of me playing “Happy Birthday” on the piano.

Of course, no one said anything about NOT getting a card, but they also never mentioned the video. I realized wishing them happy birthday in the newsletter was not enough as they’re not even the ones reading the newsletters!


Don’t You Enjoy Getting Cards in the Mail?

Occasionally I get a neatly printed hand-written note from one of my closest friends. Every time I get a card like this in the mail my heart smiles as I tear it open.

Once, I recall getting a card from her in the mail, but when I opened it, my heart dropped when I realized it was just a thank-you note for donating to a local charity that she runs. I have to admit, I was disappointed because I was looking forward to reading a more personal note!

At that moment I realized how students must feel when I send them a hand-written birthday postcard. So this year I’m doing it again and plan to continue for good.

Let me share how I streamline the process.


Organizing Student Postcard Mailings

On my student registration form, I always ask for students’ D.O.B. After they register, I have a small checklist of things that need to be actioned. One of those items is to add their name, address, and birthday to my Avery address label template.

On the Avery labels I write it like this:
First / Last Name (Day/Month of Birthday)

Billy Smith (03/10)
1 Keyboard Way
Piano Town, USA

All postcards for the whole studio get labeled and stamped in August and stacked in date order next to my computer so I see them all the time.

A week before the birthday I write a personal note and send it out. Boom – easy!


Getting Personal

Here are a few examples of the personal notes I’ve written:

Hi, Tia!

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday! I hope you have a great day. I missed working with you this summer. Did you have fun playing t-ball? You’ll have to tell me about it next week at our first lesson. See you soon!

Hey, James!

Happy Birthday to you! I can’t wait to hear about your party – you sounded so excited about it last week at lessons. Hope it was a great day!

Hi, Leah!

I just wanted to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I can’t believe you’re already 16. It seems like yesterday we started lessons – how fast these 10 years have gone. I’m so proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished!

Hey there Gabe,

Sorry this postcard may have made it a day late but I hope you had a great birthday. I just wanted to say thanks for all your hard word. I appreciate how you come to lessons always giving your best. You’re such a joy to teach!


One Final Resource

Teach Piano Today has some printable Piano Student Accomplishment Postcards

These would be great to use in the same way. Print out enough for all your students, pre-stamp, then when you feel a student has accomplished one of these pre-titled postcards, drop it in the mail.

Remember, building relationships with families IS building your referral network. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic effort, just simple, thoughtful moments.

What little things do you do for your students/families to build rapport? Share in the comments!

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  • Fantastic post Amy, I’m kind of a marketing nut so this was a real treat to read. Your post reminded me of a story I heard before about Zappos. Apparently one of their customers bought some shoes and asked to return them. When Zappos didn’t get them back in the mail, the customer emailed them and said that her mother had just died and she hadn’t had a chance to take care of it, but that she would soon. Zappos replies saying they arranged with UPS to pick them up, so she didn’t, which wasn’t their policy.

    A few days later she also got flowers delivered to her from Zappos. That’s some good customer service. It’s always inspired me to do more for my students. I love how you say we need to treat them as real people.

    It’s just the right thing to do. Sending birthday cards is a great idea. I haven’t done it before, but I think I’ll get on that.

    • I love that story, Brian! That’s the perfect example. Figure out how we can do something that is above and beyond that shows we care.

  • Loved your comments Amy! I also give each one of my students a Birthday card. At the lesson closest to the date I have a special card ready for them. They also choose a Sucker from my “Birthday container”. (Tootsie pops). This is a big deal to all of them! I go to the Christian Bookstore & buy boxes of cards when they are on sale usually BOGOF. So doesn’t break the bank!

    • Great idea, Connie! It’s so nice to just have everything ready to at the beginning of the year. I used to ask them their favorite candy bar at the beginning of the year then go out and buy a candy bar each time a birthday got close. That took too much “memory” space and leg work. The tootsie pop is a great idea…if I can stay out of them myself! LOL.

  • I love this! I used to do birthday cards but then got out of the habit. I just recently made the decision to do it again and this article just confirmed that decision! I also send them a personal card after their first lesson and have also sent flowers after the death of a loved one. My favorite aspect of teaching is the relationship building!!

    • Wonderful, Monica. I agree and have also sent cards for deaths of family members. Sending flowers definitely takes it one step further and really shows you care!

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