Over the last 40 years, Sylvan Learning has continued to broaden its services, innovate engaging technology and perfect personalized learning to deliver real results for students. Sylvan’s long track record of success is a result of the hundreds of franchisees who market their centers locally. After all, the first step to watching a child’s confidence grow is getting them into a Sylvan Learning Center.
Sylvan Learning offers franchisees a flat all-in royalty rate of 16% of monthly gross revenue that covers all fees and costs associated with running their business, including national marketing expenses. While Sylvan routinely runs national marketing campaigns, a key piece of the company’s strategy is to allocate plenty of support and helpful resources for local grassroots marketing.
“Sylvan supports franchisees in so many ways, especially when it comes to local marketing,” said Sylvan Learning franchisee Sarah Miller, who co-owns 11 centers in Indiana with Kent Kolbow. “Having a local marketing representative that we can contact at any time has been one of the biggest benefits for us.”
Sylvan’s marketing representatives give individual franchisees individual attention—Sylvan is in the personalized tutoring business, after all. These representatives give owners all the tools they need to run their own local campaigns.
“She listens to ideas we have for local campaigns, and she helps us work out the details,” said Miller, explaining that her representative lets her know what resources are available from the corporate team, as well as what other franchisees in the system are doing locally. “We are grateful to have such a supportive corporate team behind us, and they feel like true partners.
For its 40th anniversary this year, Sylvan has encouraged franchisees to celebrate in a way that works for them, from hanging up posters to running promotions to hosting events. “We are getting ready to have a big 40th-anniversary birthday bash, and our local marketing person is helping me coordinate that,” said Carolyn Staats, Center Director in Brantford, Ontario. “She will send out emails on my behalf to promote it, and she also offers great insights when it comes to the timeline of organizing an event. I really appreciate that help.”
Sylvan Learning franchisees are empowered to create local marketing campaigns best suited for their own communities. This builds a sense of trust and lends credibility to centers while raising awareness about what services they offer students and their families.
“We do a lot. A lot a lot,” said Emily Smith, Executive Director of four Sylvan Learning centers in Iowa, of her grassroots marketing efforts. Smith’s centers regularly set up a presence at small-town festivals, such as a local Sweet Corn Festival, and forge small business partnerships, such as with a pumpkin patch owned by a parent of a Sylvan student. Smith’s team offers small goodies to draw people over to their booths, gift certificates for STEM classes, fun games and robotics sets to spark imaginations and conversations.
“Each center participates in one to three parades each year,” she said. “We put on big balloon backpacks that are in bright Sylvan colors, and we get our students to walk in the parades with us. We give rulers away to the crowd with flyers taped to them.”
Smith’s centers also participate in an annual event called “Trunk or Treat,” which is put on by community-based organizations for Halloween. “We drive to the designated parking lot, decorate our trunk and give out treats to kids. Last year, we gave away candy with a promotional flyer attached.”
Smith’s team creates a discount code for each event, such as money off or buy-one-get-one-free classes. This allows them to monitor the effectiveness of the programs—and this personalized, grassroots approach to marketing is effective.
“By noon the day after one Trunk or Treat event—which was from 6 to 8 p.m.—we had four or five new enrollments using that code,” she said. “That was really cool, and it didn’t cost us much to accomplish.”
Smith says that regardless of enrollment numbers, this type of engagement is exceptionally worthwhile. “I approach local marketing with the knowledge that we were in front of 400 people we wouldn’t otherwise have exposure to,” she said. “If I can get one enrollment—that is an over-the-moon success. If I can expose Sylvan and the opportunities we provide to multiple people, then that’s also a win.”
Staats said her center targets local private schools to host STEM and robotics demonstrations. Her team uses templates provided by Sylvan to create customized flyers, sending them home with 150 kids advertising upcoming after-school programs.
“Those school programs always max out,” she said. “When one capped out the next day, a few parents enrolled their kids in the STEM program at the center since they didn’t get in.”
In addition to getting kids enrolled, a big benefit of grassroots marketing is to get the word out about the wide variety of programs Sylvan offers.
“Parents should know we have lots of different programs here, not only tutoring,” said Staats. “One of the taglines in our available assets is ‘Think you know Sylvan? Think again.’ We don’t just help kids who are behind; we help kids in all different areas. I use that tagline as one of my email signatures.”
“A lot of people we meet don't understand the breadth and the depth of the programming we can offer kids,” added Smith. “I love opening the door to new customers who didn’t know what Sylvan is really about and what we can do.”
As a globally recognized name with 750 points of presence around the world, Sylvan Learning prioritizes supporting individual franchisees’ marketing efforts at the corporate level. Through a comprehensive network of support and communication across the system, Sylvan Learning franchisees benefit from internal knowledge and strategies for tackling local initiatives.
“We make sure franchisees don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” explained Amy Przywara, Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning. “If a franchisee wants to advertise a referral program, they don’t have to come up with all the resources on their own. We give franchisees marketing materials that they can adjust for their local markets.”
Sylvan Learning understands that different owners have different strengths, and some of the duties that come along with local marketing can be new to franchisees. That’s why Sylvan offers a digital hub filled with customizable marketing materials, graphics for social media and scripts for starting conversations with local influencers like PTA presidents and small businesses geared toward parents. The Sylvan team is also happy to roleplay with franchisees to help them feel confident in their outreach.
At the end of the day, local marketing all works toward one goal: Helping more area students find academic success.
“Local marketing is the key,” said Staats. “Your community needs to know you’re involved in your community—that you're here, because if they don't know you're here, they’re never going to call you.”
“Sylvan franchisees listen to what their community’s needs are, and figure out how they can meet those needs,” said Przywara. “Our owners are amazing people with a passion to help kids, and that passion is what will drive their success. Sylvan gives them all the other tools they need to do it."