How Smaller Test Prep Companies Can Stand up to the Giants

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Getting into the test prep game can be intimidating for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is the rise of large, retail tutoring outfits that have the capital, marketing, retail space, staff, and supplies to gobble up the local market.

Does this mean there’s no hope for the little guy? Quite the contrary! With a few purposeful business decisions, smaller test prep and tutoring operations can go toe to toe with (and even surpass) the biggest competitors in town.

Make Your Test Prep Personal

There is a reason that even in today’s world of online shopping and global retailers, there are mom and pop businesses still finding ways to thrive. While it’s not easy to compete with lower prices and brand name recognition, there’s something to be said for a store that finds ways to connect with its clientele in genuine ways.

Large tutoring companies lean on marketing tactics when courting clients. They tout “proven methods” of success and guaranteed score improvements that play well on a banner or brochure. While they may be effective, they can’t hold a candle to the personal and relationship-focused approaches a smaller local business can offer.

Rather than applying a corporate formula, create a test prep business dedicated to giving each student a unique, personalized experience tailored to his or her needs. Flexibility in scheduling, course offerings, and teaching methods can help your smaller business stand out in comparison to the regimented world of corporate test prep.

The tools available from Clear Choice Prep can help empower your staff with the ability to offer a dynamic, differentiated approach to test prep that aligns with the needs of your students rather than a rigid adherence to corporate policies.

Schedule a FREE software demo to see how our system puts students and their growth first.

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Don't Promote the Competition

Speaking of test prep materials, perhaps the biggest mistake test prep tutors make is selecting curricula that promote the competition. Opting for off the shelf materials like ACT workbooks or SAT worksheets can lead clients to other test prep options – in particular, options that don’t include you.

The problem is that the same companies that offer these materials tend to also offer their own test prep services. Some, like Princeton Review and Kaplan, provide online test prep courses as well as their own retail outlets across the country.

Even worse, if you are asking your clients to go out and purchase their own test prep materials, you run the risk that they simply crack a book and choose to prepare on their own.

Part of making your small test prep business work is to differentiate from the corporate alternatives. Simply re-purposing their tools won’t do it! Instead, opt for your own, custom-branded test prep materials like those provided by Clear Choice Prep. This helps ensure your clients won’t be scanning the store shelves for your competitors’ materials or be tempted to jump ship and sign up with the larger firms; instead, you will be able to provide clients with dynamic and engaging content emblazoned with no other logos but your own.

For more advice on avoiding these kinds of pitfalls, download our totally free e-book, Seven Marketing Mistakes Tutoring Companies Make — and How to Avoid Them.

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Build authentic community connections

Marketing matters, but how can smaller tutoring businesses compete with the advertising budgets of national chains? In most cases, they can’t.

Instead of trying to go dollar for dollar in advertising and promotion, invest your time in energy in more meaningful grass-roots efforts: speak to parents in the community, present to schools, offer free practice test sessions, get active on social media, take on some clients in need with discounted or free support.

Marketing a small business is more about creativity and passion than it is about spending money. A balance of smart, targeted promotional spending and outreach efforts can go a long way in standing out from the pack (no matter how big and entrenched they may be).

What advice do you have for smaller tutoring businesses trying to contend with the chains? Share your suggestions in the comments below and on social media!

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Matt McCorkle