Marketing: How to Market a Tutoring Service

It feels as though tutor business-marketing has changed pretty profoundly in the last 10 years. But even so, it remains formulaic. If you think of marketing as a pyramid, the base would be Word of Mouth (referrals) followed by Groups, Events, and Paid Marketing. One may never have to spend $ on traditional marketing efforts if the first two foundational levels are fully leveraged and engaged.

If you do get to the point where you need to spend money to market create a budget of what you plan to spend and stick to it. Mature tutoring businesses generally spend between 4 – 10 % of Net Revenue on paid advertising etc.

And it is this area that has shifted the most. Paid marketing has shifted from the traditional domains of Grass Roots Marketing, Email, Direct Mail, and local Print Advertising to Internet Fueled alternatives.

Here are some basics to get you started down that road:

  1. website with a .com ending, .org second choice or a, .edu third (buy all if you can afford)
  2. Facebook page – brand consistent with website (colors, logos etc.)
  3. twitter handle – brand consistent
  4. Skype, facetime, Hangouts – brand consistent, name consistent
  5. Register as a business with YELP (but don’t pay to advertise)
  6. Register with Google Places, City Search and others
  7. Have a blog
  8. Link all of these together

These tactics should allow you to have a “jumping off” internet footprint.

Because the primary demographic does a lot of research as well as shopping via the web, the foundational items above will be helpful when tackling the next level of things: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Organic Search, Pay-Per-Click, and Content Based Marketing.

The shift in emphasis from traditional marketing to web-oriented has been underway for years but it is not preeminent. A combination of tactics from both the traditional list and the web based list seems to work well for our members.

  1. Word of Mouth. Referrals transcend the marketing strategy. Effective and virtuous products grow at at an accelerated rate regardless of where they are discussed or promoted.
  2. Community Outreach. Local contacts and gatekeepers are important to engage. One excellent school relationship for example, can fully sustain a small tutoring business. These face-to-face relationships grow in importance when the business is starting out, small, or highly specialized. Schools are a logical starting point but don’t forget about Not for Profits & Community Centers.
  3. Events. Kaplan, Princeton Review, and most regional tutoring concerns have Free Practice Tests, Free Virtual Tutoring Weekends, Free this-that-and the other. But most schools could use a broader menu of items to consider announcing to their students. This is an area where you may have a specific competency. For example, I have an Ed. Psych background, so maybe I offer a free study-skill workshop (rather than a free practice SAT). Having said all of this, I think Erika’s recommendation for free drop in tutoring once-per-week is excellent and an idea to start with; it gives the benefit of community outreach plus a free event to promote.
  4. Paid Marketing. If your business is local, some combination of the following works well. But this strategy is a lot like having a chili recipe; everybody has one and we all use the same basic ingredients, but no two will probably taste alike at the end. That having been said, here are some basics that should add to the flavor of your chili:

-Email (use a free service for up to 2000 names), pay $50 / mo for others

-Direct Mail (stick to postcards) have them in house holds when grade cards are released. Budget $.50 per card when doing the budget – math.

-Networking – Host breakfasts for local gate-keepers, free drop-in tutoring etc.

SEO: Pay someone to optimize your website ($30). Good SEO is often enough to generate web – page visits when starting out. Once one heads into Search Advertising & Pay-Per-Click the efficacy of one’s marketing dollar should be closely measured. At this point, small firms are often competing with industry heavy-weights in a virtual auction for words.

Content based marketing strategy: blog, Facebook, expertise on a site (like Quora), free items on the website, event announcements all work in a mosaic way to influence web page search and continuously engage not yet converted followers of your brand.

We recommend folks wrap all this up in the context of “Client Acquisition Cost.”

Simply put, track your dollar and the revenue it generates. Figure out what combination works best and change your chili recipe accordingly.

We have a number of free tools, templates at Some of the good stuff is gated but there is still plenty worth viewing.