Though many of us in the piano industry, both young and old, love our off screen time, we can’t help but face it — software and the internet are more and more essential to keeping our industry alive. This isn’t some idea in the future. It’s here now, as in today. And it leaves many veterans in the piano industry wondering, “How, in this new landscape, can I get the most out of the business that I’ve built?”
Even worse there’s “How can I get my business back on it’s feet?”
I’m going to give you 3 simple things to consider implementing. Once you have them up and running, the only reason you’ll look at a screen is to review the increases in your bank balance.
Consider a receptionist or office manager
Over and over again I’ve heard veteran piano technicians say that the best thing they ever did for their business was to have someone else manage the phone and office work. One fellow told me he increased his revenue about 80% the year he implemented a helper. So what does this have to do with the digital age? Why don’t you hire someone younger that understands the intricacies of social media and email etiquette? Get them to help you implement a plan of email follow ups and regular social posts. How much is it worth spending? Figures between $6,000 and $15,000 a year are standard. So if whatever you work out adds up to that you’re probably on the right track.
Set up your review sites
The basics are fine: Google Places, Angie’s List, Yelp. Again, I recommend you trust your instincts and ignore that screen. A good pro can get you set up with each of these for $300 to $500 a pop. Totally worth it. Then all you do is let your customers know that you have these pages and send them there as you leave the tuning. You’re doing great work so word will spread without much more on your part. Afraid of getting too many customers? Don’t be a dope. The more customers that contact you, the easier it is to rationalize raising your prices and demanding to work on a higher caliber of piano. And once more calls roll in it’s a clear reason to start mentoring an up and coming tech. Not only can he or she take some of the work load while providing you some extra income, you and he or she will both grow as technicians. Mentoring is a great way to do well by doing good. Look for a later post on how not to get burned as a mentor.
I’m assuming you are not still on index cards, but if you are, it’s time to move on. Yes you are used to it and it still works just fine. But you are making your business very unappealing to the next generation of technicians. You may not want to mentor, but if you can’t pass along your customers in an efficient and contemporary manner, you are not only losing a hell of a lot of value but you may be leaving your loyal customers in the lurch. Provide that next generation tech with a turn key business that will really be jamming as you decide to put your feet up and relax more.
What about that old DOS database you’ve got? That’s also just not going to cut it. Computers die all the time and you don’t want your data to die with yours. Bite the bullet and pay someone to get these records of yours digitized and in a format that can at least survive until the next thing comes along. Anywhere between $300 and $1000 would be a reasonable price to pay, considering the repercussions if you don’t do this before its too late. A simple google spreadsheet could do the trick. Hey, why not get your new office manager or apprentice to help maintain that? There’s also dedicated piano industry software options out there that can function like databases. Gazelle and Pianocal seem to currently be the most popular options. I haven’t heard much about how easy it is to get your data out of them if you want or need it. I’ve heard complaints about the complexity of these softwares and the problems associated with letting customers muck around in your schedule. But just get the office assistant or apprentice to handle the screen time and enter the scheduling and they could be great options. Feel free to share your own knowledge or experiences in the comments.
Thanks for reading.
Eathan Janney is a piano technician, mentor, and software entrepreneur in the piano industry.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org