Important: From 1st March 2011 online marketing communicatons on websites in the UK will now be regulated by the Advertising standards Agency. For more information click here
Winter is upon us driving instructors, and for many it is the most dreaded time of the year because business slows down as many learner drivers either take breaks to travel visiting family or divert money usually spent on driving lessons to the festive christmas gifts and this year will be no exception, but with the current credit crunch some might feel the effect more or even earlier than normally. Well this is time you can use to step up your driving school marketing efforts not only to get more learner drivers during the less busy christmas period, but more importantly for that new year rush when people renew their resolutions of getting that highly desired full British licence.
Even national organisations like AA, BSM, LDC and Red driving school recognise this trend and normally offer their franchise holders either a week or two of fee free benefits to boost earnings and help lighten the financial burden at this time of the year.
Now if you don't hold a franchise that has these benefits, or are an independent operation that still has to pay for the driving school car lease and other running costs what marketing efforts can one do to make good use of the extra time we might have on our hands while hopefully finding a few more clients that might want our services. I'll share a few tips that might help.
Marketing is one of the most ignored aspects of a business for many instructors, we spend time on administration (you keep records for the tax man I hope), accounts, checking with current pupils on lessons for the days or week ahead, clean the tuition vehicle, but not enough on advertising our services to generate more learner driver clients.
Being a good instructor is good, and will get you recommendations (some of which you have to turn away due to distance, I live and operate from Mill Hill and while I'd be willing to give driving lessons in hampstead which is slightly out of my normal coverage area, I can not give tuition to someone in Hackney E5 even if an ex-pupil recommended me), but you need to consistently market yourself to generate regular enquiries.
You need to learn from Red driving school and how they are agressively advertising to take advantage of the current economic climate, while I don't condone their business model, if you ask anyone in the UK about becoming a driving instructor, RED is probably the name they will mention, because their presence is everywhere, TV, newspapers, online. You don't have the budget of LGV, but there are still things you can do to make people aware of your services and increase your visibility to potential learner driver clients. I will list a few below:
1. Get a driving school website, or work actively at promoting the one you already have or see if there are any improvements that need to be done on it.
A website can be one of the most effective driving school marketing tools available to the instructor to promote his/her business and if setup and promoted properly could be the only means of pupil generation required to keep those enquiries coming in and one's diary booked with adequate work, and contrary to what you might believe, setting up and maintaining an online presence need not cost a fortune. You can have an effective driving school marketing website for as little as £10 a year.
2. Make use of your present pupils as advertising and marketing resources. Most instructors might mention on a new learner driver's first lesson that they can be rewarded for introducing a friend, and that is the last time you mention it to them. While you don't want to hound them every week, think of times when it is worth mentioning to them again. If you have any special offers going for new learners, let them know to inform their friends, also remember that it might be for things like mock tests (you can sell the fact that doing it with a different instructor will more closely simulate the dsa test, as the friend will be assessed by a stranger thus more realistically let them know how prepared they are).
If your learner has had a particularly good lesson or session, that would be an appropriate time to remind them to blog about it (if they have a blog and include a link to your website), or post a comment on their facebook profile, they might be more willing to do it, and this could be a re-occuring referal for you.
3. Follow up on previous enquiries. If someone has given you a call in the past about learning to drive, call them up and find out if they are still interested in getting their full British licence (note I said 'getting their full licence') they might have rejected your services in the past because they wanted cheap driving lessons, but having gone down that route of £15 an hour (yep people expect me to offer them tuition at that rate in London) and failed due to improper instruction, or found out that a lot of information had been held back from them, they might wise up and consider paying for high quality services from honest fully qualified instructors like you. I prefer to call rather than text, as it is more effective in converting enquiries to sales.
4. Be of help to learner drivers on online forums. If you show yourself to be knowledgeable and consistently helpful to provisional licence holders who are either being taught by another instructor or family and friends, then you might start seeing people wanting to use you either to pass the test after a failed attempt or transfer to you from family in order to increase their chances of passing. Make sure you include a link to your website in your profile and signature that is appended to every post you make if allowed (see why you need a school website?). If you need more learners to take driving lessons with you, then you have the time to do this, and while the results might not be immediate, it will come if you persist and are consistent in being helpful to others.
5. Check up on lost pupils. Some of your old learner drivers might be thinking of returning to driving, and a call from you might be all they require to kick them into gear.
6. 6th form career advice. If you have a college near you, then you might try and see if you can give a talk on topics such as 'Being self employed and running a your own business'. This might generate some enquiries in addition to the opportunity of giving out cards to 17 and 18 year olds.
7. Put graphics on your driving school car. While having a roof sign is good, it doesn't advertise your services when you are not giving a lesson and don't have it on your vehicle. If you lease your car, then you could opt for magnetic marketing signs which can easily be peeled off.
There are many other ways of marketing your instructor services, be creative and hopefully you will start to see the rewards. Remember which ever advertising methods work for you, should be continued, the most successfull brands keep advertising to keep their number one position (you will probably be seeing a Coke advert on the TV shortly this christmas season!).
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