This is a guest post by Bill Hazelton
Education is one of the world’s leading industries and by the year 2017 the private tutoring market alone is expected to top $100 billion.
Parents are worried about the quality of their children’s education. Class sizes continue to grow and schools aren’t able to meet individual needs, yet parents often lack time to help their own kids with schoolwork.
Schools are testing all age students more frequently, and college prospects have to pass placement and scholarship tests.
No wonder the demand for tutoring is growing.
That’s good news for your business, but also for your competitors. Your success depends on smart, strategic marketing. This includes a successful email marketing campaign. There are nearly unlimited ways to promote yourself, but unless they are cost-effective they aren’t worth your time and money. Fortunately marketing can be very affordable, and fun, too.
1. Create a plan
Developing a marketing plan based on your overall business goals will keep you focused and help identify the strongest promotional options.
Consider the specific services you offer. Do you specialize in some subjects? Or provide tutoring? You’re marketing yourself as well as your business, because tutoring is very personal. Why are you the best choice, as opposed to another tutor?
Consider your target audience. With younger students you’re advertising to parents, whereas with older students you’re advertising directly to them.
Consider the size of your sales territory. Perhaps you have a franchise business, or you’re independent, operating from a store-front, your home, or your students’ homes. Your territory has to be large enough to provide plenty of prospects to support your business. Unless your students always come to you, how far are you willing to travel?
Your business type and size will dictate what kinds of advertising make the most sense for you.
2. Look beyond traditional advertising methods
Unless you have a very large budget, typical mass media – including print and direct mail – aren’t good choices for a specialized service like tutoring. However, local radio and cable TV can be cost-effective, and a direct mail campaign might be worthwhile if you concentrate on a small area with a high concentration of prospects.
Yellow Pages advertising is expensive, and while it gets criticized as no longer being effective in the Internet-age, it’s still something you might consider.
On the other hand, a high quality brochure, small posters and business cards can be very versatile. Post them anywhere families gather or you find community bulletin boards — public libraries, community centers, sports facilities, coffee shops, grocery stores. Periodically check your posts and replenish if necessary.
3. Network, network, network…
Word-of-mouth advertising is free, and third-party recommendations tend to carry more weight than anything you say about yourself.
You can get referrals from:
- Friends and classmates of your students.
- Friends, neighbors and co-workers of your students’ parents.
- Local public and private schools. Build relationships with teachers and guidance counselors and leave behind brochures, cards or a poster.
- Coaches, whose team members must keep up their grades.
- Your own friends and colleagues.
Join the Chamber of Commerce and attend networking gatherings. Join other leads groups, Rotary, teacher or tutor organizations including LinkedIn groups. Offer to speak at PTA, service clubs and other community groups. Request testimonials from students, parents, teachers.
4. Online marketing is CRITICAL
A good website – with good search engine optimization (SEO) — is your most important marketing tool. A professional look says everything about you and your business, but you don’t have to unload lots of cash to get an appealing and high-functioning site. Include all your course offerings and those all-important testimonials. Offer downloadable articles as well as your brochure. Put your web address on all other marketing materials.
Many people these days do everything they can to block traditional advertising, which is one reason why social media marketing is so important these days. And it’s free. So create a presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and make the most of them with visuals and testimonials. You can connect with prospects, convert them to customers and expand your marketing reach with online sharing and recommendations.
Learn about content marketing to improve your SEO and maximize your online branding opportunities. Content drives people to your website, so create an e-newsletter and a blog, posting information readers can use, not just self-promotion. Make a short video about how to study, how to pick a tutor, etc.
Always work to capture your prospects email addresses with “sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter and get your first class free” or some other enticement. ASK readers to forward or share your posts. And make sure your brochure, blog and e-newsletter have a look that’s consistent with your website.
5. Be Seen Everywhere – A Few Places You Should Be Advertising
Penny Hoarder: Advertising via search engines should be a priority for any tutoring business. If you’re not familiar with Adwords, take a look at the image below to get an idea of what I mean. Those listings up at the top are sponsored and a great way to get your name in front of new clients…
Because pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be very tightly targeted, it can be quite cost-effective even if your business is very small or strictly local. Set a budget so you don’t overspend, and get professional assistance to assure the best return on your investment.
Take advantage of free online advertising via Craigslist or other sites. Or create a Groupon offer – you might not profit from it, but you can get excellent visibility.
Here are a few more potentially valuable ideas:
- Offer referral incentives and family or other group discounts.
- Hold an open house.
- Offer free short workshops or seminars on learning-related subjects.
- Advertise on retail merchandise bags or receipts.
- Use promotional give-aways, but make sure they’re useful and relevant to your business.
- Partner with other local businesses that cater to your age students. Create cross-promotions such as “complete 10 tutoring sessions and get 15% off” your partner’s products.
- Say yes to sponsorships that will put your name in front of students or parents — ball games, school activities, community events, etc.
- Write a periodic newspaper or trade journal article.
- Put a sign on your car. You can wrap the whole thing, or just use adhesive or magnetic signs, but make them consistent with your other visuals and keep your vehicle clean.
- If your business operates as a private school, you may be eligible to become a Supplemental Education Services Provider through the No Child Left Behind Act.
Take the same advice you’d give your students – do your homework. Then track all your marketing efforts to determine what works best and most cost-effectively. Refine what’s working and eliminate everything else. And keep at it, because repetition and consistency are the keys to marketing success.