Several weeks ago, I blogged about how I conduct market research in my area to ensure that my tuition rates are reasonable & competitive. Last week, I began compiling data on the piano studios in my city. While I haven’t completed my research, it brought up a compelling question for me.
Should studios list their tuition rates on their websites or not?
There are pros & cons either way …
I have read compelling arguments why we should NOT list our tuition rates, but I have not come across arguments stating why we SHOULD list our tuition rates. As a little disclaimer, I have chosen to list my tuition rates on my studio website. But, more on that later.
Why to NOT list your tuition rates …
- People may just want to pick the least expensive option.
- It gives you a chance to educate callers on the importance of music education.
- Potential clients get a chance to see what you offer, rather than focusing on the price.
These are some good reasons in the “don’t list your tuition” category &, I am sure, there are many other reasons that can be added.
What happens when you do NOT list your tuition rates …
We all hear about how the rates of enrollment in music education are declining. How sports seems to take a front seat over piano lessons for many families. The exact numbers are difficult to find, mostly because we do not necessarily have a governing body that keeps track of that type of data. (A search using the main search engines led to a list of studios, but no actual data.) But, it does lead to an important question …
“Why are we making it harder for people to choose us?”
At one point, I took my tuition rates off my studio website. I was ready to educate people who called & convert them into clients! My reality turned out to be much different.
Sure, I received lots of calls about piano lessons. Many of those people were very nice. But, they didn’t want to be educated. They didn’t want a conversation about the benefits of music education. They wanted to know the price this education was going to cost so they could budget for it. What I hadn’t realized was most of the people who called already valued music education … that is why they wanted lessons in the first place. They had already looked at my studio website & were interested in me. All they needed to make that final decision was to find out the price to see if they could afford it. It turns out that I was wasting their time AND my time by not listing my tuition rates.
Where do people look to find information?
Let’s focus on late gen-X, gen-Y, & gen-Z for our demographic of either students or callers. This means that people born in the mid/late 70’s straight through to now (around a 40 year age demographic) typically look online to find information.
They do a search (often on their cell phones) & check out the top hits that come up. Each website gets about 10 seconds to convince someone to stay. You may get another 20 seconds if it is well designed & if your content is what they are looking for … well, they may stay longer. For more information on this research, got to Nielson/Norman Group.
We all lead busy lives. For families, this can be doubly so. Parents are trying to find information while they are waiting for one child to finish an activity so they can pick up the next child. Or, perhaps they are doing a quick search while waiting for that pasta water to boil. As a parent myself, if a business does not have their prices listed online chances are we will be purchasing elsewhere. We want to price check before purchasing (something Best Buy found out back in 2012). It doesn’t necessarily mean that we will choose the lowest price …. but we WILL chose the best option that fits out budget.
What happened once I listed my tuition rates?
While I get less calls on my business line, there have been some marked positives. The calls I get are more likely to lead to a positive client relationship. What does this mean?
I no longer get calls or emails from individuals who only care about price. While I may have converted them into clients before, they were high maintenance. Every book, every activity, every raise in tuition or change in policy was a difficult conversation. They had no interest in being educated, so my efforts were wasted. Loved teaching the kids, but when those parents took so much of my energy it left very little for the students.
My time is sacred. Having my rate listed means I get the best quality calls & emails. These are from referrals, people who want lessons after checking the site, or clients that want to share or clarify something. And, yes, the occasionally machine calls to tell me I have won a trip. But, I really don’t feel bad hanging up on those calls. This one change to my site has freed up a lot of time for the important things, like student programming (i.e. repertoire & activity selection, blended learning activities, etc.), the admin side of the business, and my time with my family.
While I do list my tuition rates, I also include where that tuition goes. This allows me to educate those who want to be educated & have a great conversation on the phone with those who call. They know the importance of music education,which is why they are looking into lessons. They also know exactly where their tuition payments are going … right back to student programming. If they are calling, it’s just to double-checking what their research has already told them. They want to hire me.
So, to list rates or not list rates?
It really is a personal choice. There are advantages to either side & your experience may turn out differently than mine did. However, I know that I will need to continue calling studios to find out not just their tuition rates, but also what services they offer. Just so I can be assured the 2016/2017 rates I ask of my clients will be fair to all. Fair for my clients as they budget during a major recession. Fair to the other educators in my area in that I won’t undercut their rates. And, myself as I make a living from these tuition choices.
It isn’t all bad though. I got to speak with a great piano teacher yesterday in which we talked about all sorts of things from tuition rates, to recital venues, to traveling to student homes! And, the studios that are rude or unprofessional on the phone with me … well, I keep a list of studios that I can send students to if they aren’t going to be a good fit for me (i.e their goals do not match up with my teaching style) or those who no longer wish to be on the wait list. Needless to say, the studios that are negative do NOT make that list.
I would love to hear from you! What were your reasons for choosing to list (or not list) your tuition rates on your studio website?