Sunday, September 11, 2016

Marketing Online Tutoring: The New Gospel--Going Local, Not Global

How Do You Market Online Tutoring?

Launching an online tutoring service is no mien feat. The technology and teaching aspects, although critical, are not what will get your business off the ground. Instead, it is attracting students, and that translates into sales and marketing—and you need to consider this in the very beginning of your venture.

You need working technology and appropriate pedagogy, don't get me wrong—but if you don't have students, then you don't have any use for either.  Therefore, before investing in a tutoring platform or buying the latest chemistry books to brush up, consider these questions:
  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. Where are they?   
This is the New Gospel of Marketing Online Tutoring--going local, not global.

The Cost of Internet Marketing & Online Tutoring

Online tutoring makes sense as a start-up.  The infrastructure costs can be, at least to begin with, almost nil.  What many do not recognize is that the traditional approach--driving traffic to an Internet site--isn't a sustainable model for newcomers.  Marketing requires a huge investment, one larger than most self-starters are going to have.

Online marketing makes sense, too, since whoever sees it already has the minimum technology required to use it.  However, you have to be smart about online marketing from the beginning. You can pour thousands of dollars into Google Adwords and only attract a handful of students to your site. Why? Basically, because there are big organizations out there outspending you. Try it—do a Google search for “online tutoring” and scroll through the first 10 pages. Then just go to Adwords and calculate the cost per click they are paying.  Look at what Google AdWords advertisements are being featured. How many pages would a potential student have to see before seeing your Web site?

Getting Online Advantages

There are ways, though, to give yourself an advantage. The first and foremost is your domain name. If you are providing online tutoring, you need a Web site. The name of that Web site can have a big impact on who finds it. So, for example, searches for "new york city math tutor" and  “new york city online math tutoring” both come up with Craigslist as the top search result. This is a very good indicator that (1) There is no domain matching the search very closely, and (2) Money isn't being spent on those particular key words. There might be a reason for that--it could be the traffic is itself very low, meaning not a lot of students or parents searching online for math tutor listings.

Therefore, even before you begin your Web site you should look at Google Adwords and Google traffic estimates (based strictly on Adword spending).  Google now has a stand alone tool to estimate Google Adwords cost and traffic.  A rough rule of thumb (and this might be a goal rather than what you see) is that you can covert 1 out of 2000 visitors to your site into a student.  That means if you want four paying students, you need at least 8,000 visitors to your Web site.  Other places you might want to calculate advertising costs are on Facebook, or placement of banner ads on other high-traffic sites.  This gives you a sense of the cost to capture a potential tutoring student's click on the online market.  Don't forget the value of posting ads in free online classifieds like, Ebay Classifieds, or even the online classifieds at your local paper level. As we saw, a Craigslist add was the first two displayed items when we searched for "new york city math tutor."  While free, they require registrations and time to place each ad, and many have spam monitoring in place which means your posting and drawing attention to your advertisement is limited.

We do not know of any tutoring program using social media like Twitter or YouTube to draw large audiences, but these do assist in their branding and Search Engine Optimization.

A good domain name should have “tutor” as the first term, or you can even have a tutor dot your domain name sub-domain. So “” would be a great domain name. Bad news is it is taken, but this could actually be good news. It is taken, but it has been purchased by a domain re-seller and is just parked. You might pay a couple hundred dollars for the domain, but if it has been live for a few years, that will increase its appear in search results (Web site age is a plus, even if you change 100% of the contents). Whether you purchase a premium domain or create a new one, your domain name will impact your Web marketing effort and cost from Day 1.

You have to throw the net wide, however.  You could do this through your advertising campaign, targeting different states, for example, or you could have a number of landing pages or mirror sites--like  that in the end direct traffic towards yourself. What this strategy allows you to do, though, is target folks who may be looking for local tutors rather than just online tutors. If you already have a Web site, you can simply add a mirror sites with localized names that redirect at some point to your own.  However, if you have a site something like "" I highly suggest you turn that into "" to help improve your organic--that is non-paid--Web traffic.

This means smart Internet marketing and search engine optimization is key in creating a site that will have some success.  However, we suggest that the Internet might not be the best place to sell your Internet product.

 Localizing a World Wide Service

The key is to localize a global resource
A second reason why “local, not global” is the New Gospel of Online Tutoring is because it also allows you to focus your marketing. Google Adwords and Facebook campaigns can be used to target a specific geographical region as well as demographic. The problem is, though, if you are too localized you simply will not get any traffic.  It is a double-edged sword, though, because unless you have at least a $250 a day marketing budget, you aren't going to get much traffic with a nationwide campaign, either.  More traditional marketing venues are critical for the new business--however, localized online marketing can provide a valuable tool for lead generation and a possible trickle of customers.  At least it can be a reference at home for people to learn more about your company after hearing about it in traditional ways--in the newspaper, on a business card, or at a PTA meeting.

Localization also allows you to localize instruction and marketing and product focus. If you know the New York Regents exams are part of your local state curriculum requirements then you can target marketing speficically towards those tests, then spending your money on related key words, reaching the right parents and students who are looking for something you can specifically help with (and target).  Don't forget about localizing social media as well like Facebook (and yes, your company should have a Twitter and Youtube channel even if they haven't been proven to be the marketing tools of the future).  

Another local marketing strategy is using local online forums and classified ads. Use Craigslist and contact GroupOn about a local offerings.  If you can get local or state coverage of your business in the newspaper or their online edition, that is a great way, too, to help drive organic traffic to your Web site as well as smoothing the way for you to move into the local market.  If your somewhere like New York City or Los Angeles, with a large student population, we think you could very well build a competitive online program for your local market.

Selling an Online Service in an Offline World

Also, by going local you can do your own local marketing such as speaking to the local PTAs, posting your own fliers, speaking with local educators, parents and others and spreading the word.  Offline, advertise in the free classified papers and distribute fliers and brochures to local libraries. Working in the local market you can develop programs, like focusing on the local AYP tests, that are aimed at
Don't underestimate the power of an in-person meeting
local students--at least on the state level.  If specializing in a state curriculum, it also makes sense to apply for status as a Supplementary Education Provider through the NCLB programs.  If selected, it is a mark of endorsement that can be used for more than selling tutoring to local education agencies. It also allows you to follow local news, participating in state education debates and lobbying, and making yourself a respectable player, recognized by those you could work with in the future.  Strengthen your value and credibility in the local market—places where the Big Boys have a harder time penetrating.

Local radio advertisements, local access television, city and state publications, and a yellow pages listing can be effective lead generation points.  And a memorable Web site name can be easier to recall than a seven digit phone number we didn't get to write down.  These more traditional, local marketing strategies for tutoring are likely the future for new comers to online tutoring.  It is a market that is becoming more saturated every day.

Outside of those coming in with a wall of money and Web teams for marketing and SEO or targeting a distinct and yet penetrated markets such as in Spain, Brazil, France, or even China, other countries where there is yet to be country/language specific online tutoring leader emerge.   A recent example of this is the first Arab tutoring service that launched this week.  These are markets that still have room for small players trying to have a global reach.  Those markets, though, are another story waiting to be told.


  1. We are building a portal to help Grade 1-12 students with Math - gauging their strengths & weaknesses on each topic in their grade by an online assessment and then teaching them using various videos/pedagogy. This is followed by practice questions from basic concepts to critical thinking (in both online and offline mode) supplemented with one-one online tutoring (4 sessions a month). This entire package would be at $ 75-90 a month (including practice, tutoring)

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