From the DailyBull: Marketing a Small Business Against a Big, Annoying One

Hi Jen! I thought I’d ask for your wisdom since Get Bullish has been a huge source of inspiration in setting up my business. I have an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) business here in Brazil, where I teach adults in one-to-one classes. My competitors are large language schools with empty promises and bad teaching, and private teachers that specialize in in-company classes. I’m neither. I focus on content-rich courses, in my own classroom. How can I get the word out, and convince people that smaller is better?

Hi! Did you know that I teach an Advanced ESL class here in New York? I’ve been quietly launching a business in beta. Also, explaining phrases like “erudite tizzy” and “her total caricature of a former colleague, whose entire feeble person she chucks mercilessly under the next bus to Boca” (both from this article, which I recently used in class) is kind of my life mission. My other life mission. Anyway…

Here’s what I think your potential customers want:

1) A teacher who is amazing and who cares about them

2) Something that’s big and professional enough that it’s not weird or sketchy

3) To meet other people like them and to fit in and feel comfortable

The big schools often have the disadvantage that you don’t know who your teacher will be until you get there. You, on the other hand, could offer personal consultations for people who want to join.

Offer a free placement test. People LOVE to take placement tests, even if your recommendation is pretty much always “You should take my class.” Give them a little detail about themselves — your verb conjugation is good but you need to work on vocabulary and pronunciation — and people are very happy. Last time I got my body fat tested at the gym I was pretty excited, even though it was neither particularly high nor particularly low. I guess I just wanted my number. People are weird.

Make introductory videos so students can get to know you (and like you!) Here is a video I made.

Show people that the school is personal in the sense that you teach all the classes and get to know the students, but it’s in a classroom (not your living room) and is perfectly professional. People want to see where they’re going to sit and what kinds of other people are going to be there (size of group, average age, etc.) Seriously, when people attend a trial class (and trial classes are also a great idea), a lot of what they want to know is “Will I be miserable? Will I be able to look forward to going?” Whether a person loves or loathes class isn’t just about the teacher and the curriculum — it’s also about the commute and the chairs and the time of day and whether there’s coffee.

Also, get some testimonials from people who will let you use their name and photo next to the testimonial. Social proof is very important! You might consider letting some people study with you for free or at a steep discount in exchange for agreeing to appear in your videos and to leave public recommendations. (I wouldn’t advertise this as an option, exactly, but if you put yourself out there you will sometimes get emails from big fans of yours who want to study with you but can’t afford it — people who already LOVE your videos. Those are the people you might make this sort of arrangement with.)

Those are some ideas! Enjoy!

Originally published on DailyBull, Get Bullish’s official Tumblr.

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