How do I save my education company?

I’ve been running a Boston-based small education facility providing tutoring and test prep for five years now, and I’m noticing that my roster is slimming down. Two years ago it began, with the loss of 10 clients over the course of the year. Last year, we lost 6 clients over the course of the year. This year, I started doing some investigative work to figure out what has been going on. I’ve compared my organization to our local competitors and we are certainly not lacking in our digital marketing and we advertise regularly in our local newspaper. I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s that we don’t use as much technology, aside from iPads and projectors for in-house presentations. At this rate, I don’t think I can keep up with losing revenue, and after five years, I don’t want to close down my business. How can I turn this ship around?
— Max. Boston, MA

Hi Max,

Thank you for writing in! I certainly understand your frustration, as each client provides a significant portion of your annual revenue. As with any service-based business, client retention is vital, and there are specific things you could do to begin creating an environment that encourages long-term commitment among your clients. 

Because you mentioned that your website, social media, and live-advertising are all areas that you currently invest in, I’d suggest exploring the quality of the content that you’re sharing. The purpose of social media is to share your organization’s ideas and innovation with your target market, in creative and exciting ways. Are you currently sharing video? What about interactive posts that encourage your supporters to take some sort of action after viewing? Consider investing in a short recurring video series where your organization can share bits and pieces of your expertise to clients and prospects via your website, social media, and e-newsletter. Yes, I said it - do you have a recurring e-newsletter? An effective website, social media presence, and e-newsletter allow you to engage your current clients and entice prospects to chose your organization.

Because you’re looking to develop new business and penetrate a market saturated with established and respected national tutoring and test-prep companies, consider not placing an ad in your local paper, and using that budget for strategic public relations initiatives instead. Consider opportunities that allow your organization to meet directly with parents and decision-makers. Where can you find your target clients? Are they at the local PTA meetings? If so, consider sponsoring an upcoming meeting, by providing complimentary snacks and beverages - and have a presence at the meeting to distribute information about your organization. You could also come prepared with a special coupon for attendees. Think through all the local places you might be able to find your target market at, and explore creative ways of reaching them.

You mentioned technology, and I’m happy you did. One major competitive advantage that your organization is up against is the level of technology that your industry-counterparts are using. This includes mobile apps for parents to keep track of their children’s progress, and software that allow students to study at home while their tutors are able to keep track via video or chat. There are also loyalty program apps that could be beneficial to your clients.

I’d also recommend that you take a deep look at your pricing structure. Is it competitive to other local education/test-prep companies? Are you more expensive? If so, what are you offering that your competitors are not? Are you cheaper? If so, how are you able to demonstrate value to clients?

The last thing I’d recommend is to consider creating a philanthropic program for your organization. How could you better engage with the people who live and work near your organization? Are local schools looking for sponsors for special events? Is there a local park that could use some love? Gather your staff and schedule a park clean-up day! Is there an upcoming event that you believe you’ll find your target clients attending? Find a way to attend - you could simply network, or explore any options for sponsoring the event. 

As you can see, there isn’t just one thing you could do to fix this entire situation. It requires a concerted effort that takes into account what motivates your target clients, what excites your prospective students, and how you can create a sense of trust between your organization and your target clients. Good luck, Max! We’re here to help!

Thoughtfully, 

L. Blake Harvey
Chairman & Global Chief Executive Officer
Lawrence Blake Group Int’l.