External marketing: attracting new students

Jennifer Hudson
January 10, 2020
Marketing for teacherpreneurs

Internal marketing is the art of motivating your existing students to come to class, to buy your packages and memberships, to transform from "once in a while" into devoted "superstar" students. It's the most effective, and the easiest way to grow a teaching business.

But what if you don't have so many students? Or you're just starting out, without any students at all? Or maybe you're already on top of the internal marketing stuff, but you could really accommodate some new students in your list?

Well, then you need to focus your marketing efforts on the external world.

Be aware though that connecting with strangers, reaching people who have never heard of you before... and then turning these people into clients... that's a lot harder than the internal stuff.

Finding new clients is called "customer acquisition" in business lingo, and there are many different kinds of strategies that a teacherpreneur can pursue.

Everyone is different, teaching different things to different people in different locations and in different ways... so some marketing strategies will work really well for you. Others would be a big waste of time.

On top of that, your own personality will make some marketing tactics be fun and enjoyable for you, while some others would make you feel like an annoying spammy hustler who's trying to sell something to people who don't want it. To be avoided!

So rather than getting into specific marketing recipes, we'll discuss general concepts that you can use to devise your own personal marketing plan. You can then do things that not only work, but that you're comfortable with, too.

The teacherpreneur's marketing funnel

Broadly, the challenge of getting new students can be split into two main parts. First: reaching people, and then secondly, convincing the people you've reached to act in some way (usually, getting them to buy or try something).

For independent teachers, we can break things down even further into four basic stages in a funnel. You will need to:

  1. Get people to know you exist
  2. Get people interested in your offerings
  3. Get people to try a class with you
  4. Get first timers to become regulars

But that last one is actually in the realm of internal marketing already. Let's start at the beginning:

1) How to get people to know you exist  

When it comes to getting attention, two very simple rules will help you tremendously:

  1. Don't be shy
  2. Be creative 

If you have the entrepreneurial mindset, you'll follow these rules automatically. There are infinite opportunities out there for you to do your marketing. Many of them require virtually no effort, and they can actually be fun.

Make sure that the people you come into contact with know that you teach something.

Make sure everyone you know knows what you do

The first opportunity is to simply make sure that the people you come into contact with know that you teach something.

For example: imagine you teach conversational French. But in your personal life, you like to go hiking! So you join a local hiking group. There are 40 people in the group already... and now it's time to introduce yourself.

You could introduce yourself with "I'm Jenny, I really enjoy hiking". But that's kind of obvious since you're in a hiking group! You might as well just say "I'm Jenny".

But how about this one: "I'm Jenny, I like hiking and I teach French". Or even better: "I'm Jenny and I teach French". Pretty easy, right?

There are so many people you meet in various places and situations in your life. Thousands, probably. Make sure they all know what you do!

It doesn't mean you have to be annoying and bring up your teaching incessantly... just once is enough. But over time, this little behavior of yours will have a big impact on your business. Because the people you interact with will remember you at an appropriate time.

For example, one of these people might have a friend who one day mentions their interest in learning French. Now, there's a very good chance your acquaintance will reply with "oh, really? I know someone who teaches French".

So it's not that you're trying to sell anything to the people in your hiking group. You just want them to know what you do.

Target your marketing

Telling everyone you know that you teach yoga (or whatever you teach) is smart because they might bring you new clients in the future, and it takes very little effort.

But other ways of getting people to notice you will be more effective if they're more targeted.

You don't want to waste energy by trying to get your offering in front of every person on the planet, just in case someone random might be interested. The chances of that are very low! You'll just get demoralized if you try to direct your marketing at everyone.  

You want to reach very specific people. The ones who are your ideal clients. If you teach yoga for backpain, you want to reach people who suffer from back pain. If you teach cooking classes, you just want people who are really into food to hear about your classes.

So as you think about ideas for getting attention, ask yourself: where do my ideal clients hang out?

That could be in the real world or online somewhere. Take a moment and brainstorm to come up with a list of locations. Most likely, you'll see that you already visit some of those places.

For example: let's say you're a chef and you run cooking classes. So you probably go to a fancy cutlery shop to buy your knives and other equipment, right? Well, all the other people who shop there are probably really into food and cooking, too. Since you're there anyway, why not ask the shop owner if you can hang a flyer somewhere, advertising your cooking classes?

Or maybe you run an obedience school for puppies... you won't want to waste your time talking to people who  don't even have a dog... so that cutlery shop isn't the right place for your flyers. But new puppy owners definitely go to pet stores. Or there might be a public dog run in your town where you take your own dog to socialize and play. Those would be good places to put up some flyers.

Again, everyone is different. It's the overall approach that matters.

Measure results before putting in the effort

There's another basic rule to help you to get the most out of your marketing (this one might even be a good rule for life in general): before spending a lot of time and effort, first get a sense of what works and what doesn't.

Only when you find something that works, double down and put in extra time and effort. And when you find that something doesn't work, stop doing that something.

Now to find out what works and what doesn't, you'll have to measure the results of your marketing experiments somehow.

So here's yet another rule for you:

<span class="special tip"><span class="materialicon tip">lightbulb</span>Always, always ask every new person who shows up for class how they found out about you or your class. </span>

Did a friend tell them? Did they see a flyer in a cutlery shop? Knowing how people found you is the ultimate validation that something worked. This is the only measurement that matters, because it tells you if something is actually growing your business.

It doesn't matter how many followers you got on Instagram. Or how many clicks your ad got on Facebook. What matters is how an actual client came to learn about your classes and sign up with you.

Once you start to get confirmation that something works, you can then put in more effort, and maybe even spend some money on that particular customer acquisition channel.

For example: if you know you have two clients who came to you because they saw your flyer in that one pet shop where you buy food for your own dog... well, that's confirmation! Then it's time to pull up a Google map of all the pet shops in the area. Plan to spend an afternoon visiting them all, and try to get your flyer in their window. Or ask if they'll allow you to put a stack of your business cards on their checkout counter.

Of course you shouldn't just show up and demand things, best to become a customer first. So on that afternoon, you might have to buy a fair number of dog toys or treats or whatever... but you already know that this is a good investment! Because you had new clients coming to you from the one pet shop, you can be pretty confident that your flyers in the other pet shops will work too.

Now on the flip side, if you tried something for a while but you don't have any evidence that it's worked at all, then stop trying that thing.

For example, if you have a Facebook business page and you faithfully post inspirational or funny things three times a day, that is taking up a good chunk of your time. But you kind of like Facebook, so why not?

But after a month of that, if you're not sure that anyone even sees any of your posts or does anything other than click the "like" button... well then stop. You're wasting your time if none of the people in your class have told you they found you on Facebook.

When you ask the "how did you find me" question, you might even write the answers down to help you be objective and properly track what works and what doesn't.


2) How to get people interested

Once people know that you exist and are teaching classes, the next challenge is to get them interested in what you are offering. Part of this puzzle is already solved by targeting the right people with your marketing.

Foodies in the cutlery store are much more likely to get interested in your cooking classes, as opposed to the folks that hang out in pet stores. So getting people interested is also a matter of them being "interest-able".

But assuming you've reached someone "interest-able", now getting them to become actually interested in you is all about the "why" in your messaging. We'll call it your "why", but we want to avoid confusion... we're not talking about your "why", but their "why".

Make it about them, not you

Don't take this the wrong way, but nobody cares about the story of how you got into cooking as a teenager, or what got you started teaching yoga, or how your vision to make the world a better place is so awesome.

Sure, that stuff is interesting... but it won't get people interested in taking a class with you. When creating your marketing content in flyers, on social media, in blog articles, wherever and however you communicate, you have to be aware that it's really not about you. It's about them.

the "why" you should think about is: why would a person want to take classes with me?

People care about themselves. When they hear about a new product or service they always ask themselves "what's in it for me?" It's just human nature!

So the "why" you should think about is: why would a person want to take classes with me? What will they get out of it? What problem will it solve for them? What desire will it satisfy for them? When you're able to clearly articulate this in your marketing, you will have good success.

Again let's take an example: say you run yoga classes specifically for people with back pain. You might want to call your classes "yoga for back pain", not something esoteric like "Vamata Yoga Method". Just imagine how someone with back pain will read and react to these two titles.

When you describe your services or classes, you should speak to the people who have back pain. Tell them that your classes can reduce their pain, and they will help to strengthen their back to prevent future pain. Put yourself in their shoes. If you yourself had back pain, you would be reading this with great interest, don't you think?

So when you're making those flyers for your puppy obedience school, think about text and imagery that describes out of control dogs who are driving their human companions crazy. Dogs who are destroying the furniture, or who pose a danger to themselves and others. And of course do say something about how your school will fix that!

To address the "why", you don't have to go negative and present your offerings as a pain killer or problem solver. You can also go positive. So when you create a flyer or Facebook post for your cooking classes, you could consider how your target audience dreams of impressing their dinner guests with the most amazing salads. Or how healthy food for the family can be a delicious thing.

Keep your existing students in mind. You probably have a good sense of what they want... so make your marketing for new prospective students about that.

When addressing the "what's in it for me" question, you can be creative and try a few different things. Over time, you will learn what works better, and what doesn't work so well. When you have good evidence that one theme or idea really seems to get people interested, then put all your messaging into that same general basket, and play with variations around that one.


3) How to get people to try your class

You've gotten some people to have a look at your offerings, and you've actually piqued their interest. Nearly there! Now you need your prospects to take a relatively big step: sign up for a class with you.

You might simply provide info in your marketing that shows people your class schedule and leads them to your booking system, where they can register for a class. But many teachers (and business owners of all types) find that they have much better success reeling in the clients by making that first step really small or easy.

Offer the first class free

A very common strategy is to offer the first class to new students for free. This really works wonders, people love free trials.

Sure, you might get in some freeloaders who are always looking for free anything, they'll never want to pay for anything and perhaps they'll never become regulars. But that's OK! You're teaching the class anyway, and if you have room for new people, it's really no skin off your back.

On the other hand, you don't really want to offer free first classes without getting at least the new student's email address. That way you can add them to your email list and do some more marketing with them in the future.

And of course you want to be careful in your marketing about making your offerings seem cheap, you don't want people to get the idea that what you offer has little value.

But for introductory classes, it's fine to go ridiculously low in terms of what the prospective client has to pay or do. They will feel like they're getting a great deal, that there's no risk, and that they would almost be foolish not to give it a try.

Make people feel like they're getting a great deal, and that it would be almost foolish not to try.

Offer some other small freebies

Sometimes, a free 1st class isn't really an option. If you organize courses that run over multiple weeks or even months, you will have a hard time getting complete strangers to sign up for the full course. That's quite a big commitment!

But you can come up with some other baby steps to get people to take a small action without any big commitment. Something where they can get to know you and convince themselves that your full program is a good idea.  

By being creative, you can still offer something.  

For example, if your puppy training course consists of a 12 session program, it could be a nice idea for you to create a pdf guide about "how to teach your puppy to sit", a tiny e-book that people can download on your website.

Or as a cooking instructor, you could offer your special recipe for Beef Wellington.

This way, your prospects can get a little closer to your offerings, and you can get a little closer to them by collecting their email address before letting people download your freebie. From there, you can send them your newsletters or email announcements once in a while.  

In a nutshell

Getting new students and clients is the domain of external marketing. It's all about getting complete strangers to notice you, getting them to become interested, and then convincing them to try a class with you.

The main points in a nutshell:

  • Don't be shy and be creative
  • Target your efforts in places where your ideal clients congregate
  • Always measure results with "how did you find me"
  • Only spend time and money on strategies that you already know will work
  • Make your messaging all about them, not you
  • Make it really easy for people to try a class

Hope this helps you — now go out there and make it happen!

If you're interested in more tips and business insights for your teaching business, check out Ubindi's basic business course for teachers. If you'd like free access to that, just jump on the chat and we'll share a free access code with you.


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