Marketing 0.101--targeting a small population
February 16, 2013 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Finance guy failing horribly at marketing. I'm trying to figure out the best way to market a service to a small, geographically diverse population and would love your recommendations for: 1. books on targeted marketing in general; 2. ideas on how to reach AP Spanish Juniors and Senior and 3. ways to evaluate whether this is too targeted a population and we need to broaden out.

Ok, Mrs. Limgringo (who provides the Lima not the gringo) has successfully tutored several kids of family friends for the AP Spanish exam. We've got a pretty good system for tutoring and a decent track record so we decided to take it online and scale up. We've got a pretty good idea of our product (listening comprehension and verbal expression for college prep), our demographic (upper middle income families with college bound juniors and seniors) and our differentiator (guaranteed performance, native speakers who are trained teachers) but I have zero idea how to link all this stuff up. The target population is about 80k spread out across the US--zero overseas. Marketing efforts so far consist of adwords and local newspaper press releases. Conversion is less of a problem than traffic. Once we get a dialogue with potential customers going, they tend to sign up (around 70% rate).

We're not looking for this to be a major money maker for us so much as an interesting sideline to make some pocket money and help out some good teachers in Latin America, so I'm not really looking to expand into generic high school teaching although we could do so.

Sorry for the details--not sure how many are necessary and thanks for the help.
posted by limagringo to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you're already thinking this, but don't you really want to target the parents of AP Spanish students, not the students themselves? When I had a tutor as a kid (math, French), it was always someone my parents found and paid.

If you wanted to expand, you could expand up instead of down and add some kind of tutoring for high level (and high income) college students and offer additional instruction for students at expensive universities and liberal arts colleges, perhaps by contacting them through Spanish Honor Societies.
posted by Jahaza at 5:53 AM on February 16, 2013

Response by poster: Jahaza, Thanks and we are currently targeting the parents and not the students--my fault for not making that clear. Thanks for the Honor Society and upstream expansion idea!
posted by limagringo at 6:15 AM on February 16, 2013

If I was struggling in any class I would think the teacher would be the first source of referrals for outside help. Is there a forum online where AP Spanish teachers hang out?
posted by COD at 6:51 AM on February 16, 2013

Done anything on Facebook, yet? In theory your target audience (parents and teachers of AP Spanish students) is fairly easily isolatable on FB. I wouldn't buy an ad - I'd set up a page like "AP Spanish Tip/Task of the Day", maybe one for teachers and one for students, and promote it to those demos.

Then here's what I'd do. I'd structure most of the exercises that you push through that channel - at least half - to be partner exercises. Not sure exactly how you'd do it, but you'd make it so the partner doesn't have to speak Spanish. The scenario is, kids are sitting at home, doing their homework/extra study for Spanish, they run into a partner exercise, who do they call? Their parents, who are then exposed to your pedagogical method.

I'd get a lot stronger on your differentiators too. The current ones don't sound very differentiated to me. My AP Spanish teacher in high school was from Mexico and the tutor she'd refer students to was from Peru, and I didn't exactly grow up in the most diverse area. Get some solid points of differentiation, rather, out of the pedagogical method - you're the only tutoring service that teaches kids like this, etc. etc.

I'm normally pretty skeptical of social marketing, particularly for huge consumer brands, but this is one of those situations (diffuse market, multiple decision agents, information-based product) where it makes perfect sense. Good luck!!
posted by downing street memo at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you mention adwords, it sounds like you've done some keyword analysis and are confident that you know what terms your market is searching for. So the first, cheapest thing to do is to make sure you use those keywords enough in the content of your site to come out high in organic results and not just adwords.

Also, I strongly suggest setting up affiliate relationships. It seems like your service would be a good partner for sites that offer free Spanish instruction, online Spanish dictionaries, and other stuff like that, and there are a ton of those. Find the ones that seem to have a decent amount of traffic and a respectable enough brand, and offer to pay them a percentage or set fee for every person who comes to your site from their site and buys. There are several ways to set this up; my shopping cart, E-Junkie, has a simple cookie-based approach that has worked well for me.

Your affiliates could display an ad that you've designed, or, much better, write their own blurb about you and recommend you. Either way, the result is both more links to your site (which pushes you higher in search results) and a small army of sales people.

I also agree with COD & downing street memo. Set up a Facebook page that offers a fun daily or weekly mini-lesson and that often enough (but not too often) reminds people of the service you provide, and make it strongly branded, as in "It's those fun guys with the teachers in Peru and the llama" and not "Which Spanish site was that again?"

A 70% conversion rate is fantastic, so if you can just get more traffic, you might not need to expand your market.

Good luck!
posted by ceiba at 7:12 AM on February 16, 2013

In conjunction with what downing street memo suggested, you could post a free lesson or some kind of study tool on youtube and link it to both your facebook page and your website.
posted by rakaidan at 10:09 AM on February 16, 2013

Response by poster: Those are all great suggestions. Thank you all very much
posted by limagringo at 2:33 PM on February 16, 2013

Has the Mrs. already tried doing this online? It sounds like you have two separate things you're changing - moving it online AND scaling it up.

I'd first try working with the students you're already connected to and seeing how that works online. Ask them to compare the in-person experience with the online experience. Perhaps you can ask those students or those parents to participate in a focus group. Pay each of them with a gift card ($10 or $25 or whatever). Find out from them what would work for the content and the marketing. You're lucky to have your own focus group.

I'd also try to reach out to local AP Spanish teachers and ask them for ideas as well.

I am a middle-class parent of a two who have or will take the AP Spanish exam. It's unlikely that I'd spend money for an online experience. The benefit of a tutor, for me, is the accountability that comes from the personalized relationship. You'll have to think about how to differentiate your product to include something like this. Otherwise parents will go with the big name brands for online help.
posted by frizz at 7:22 AM on February 17, 2013

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