How Sylvan Learning Sets its Franchisees Up to Win with a Marketing Toolbox
How Sylvan Learning Sets its Franchisees Up to Win with a Marketing Toolbox

The Sylvan corporate team has a “create once, use often” mentality and encourages franchisees to share best practices for systemwide success

For many franchisees, starting a business can be daunting. From finding real estate to hiring staff to building a customer base, there’s a lot to do to get a business off the ground. In the more than 40 years since its inception, Sylvan Learning has been cultivating resources for franchisees to tap into throughout every step of their journey as business owners.

According to Sylvan Learning Chief Marketing Officer Amy Przywara, who has been with Sylvan Learning for 17 of its 40 years, the goal of the corporate marketing team is to do everything they can on behalf of the franchisee to allow them the time to do the things that corporate can’t do for them.

‘We can’t sit in front of a customer and have a conversation, but we can send emails, create local marketing materials and place paid search ads for our franchisees. If we can be more efficient at an enterprise level, that provides the franchisee with the tools and the time to execute the things that we can’t do on their behalf,” said Przywara. “Plus, our franchisees share what marketing programs worked in their local markets with the rest of the system, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Our philosophy is to create once, and use often.”

For franchisees Sarah Miller and Kent Kolbow, who own 11 Sylvan Learning locations in Indiana, that communication within the franchise network as well as access to a local store marketing representative have been key factors in their success and growth with the brand.

“Our local marketing representative listens to any ideas we have, and she helps flesh them out,” 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 in their markets.

Because of this access to other franchisees’ successful programs, Miller and Kolbow have been able to develop an incredibly successful Black Friday promotion.

“We were able to review what other franchisees had done for Black Friday in the past, and tweak it to work for our markets,” said Miller. “From there, we developed a one-day sale, and with the help of the corporate team, honed it over three years. Each year, we’ve seen an increase in revenue of up to 75% each year, and shared how we executed the program with the rest of the system. We are lucky to have a corporate team that is always willing to listen and partner with the franchisees to find the best solution for all of us to be successful.”

Przywara mentioned another example of alignment between franchisees and corporate: the upcoming Golden Token customer appreciation program that will launch in summer 2019 to align with the brand’s 40th birthday. Franchisees will have the freedom to do what they want within the program, such as using Golden Tokens as a behavior reward, or part of a contest, or increasing their value to be ten times that of regular tokens.

“The Golden Token is a national program that we will do every year to encourage engagement during the summer months. With help from our franchisees, we developed the program on the national level, but will provide our franchisees with the guidance and flexibility to execute the grassroots activities in their local markets,” said Przywara. “Sarah was one franchisee who was very helpful in giving feedback about how we could make the program flexible while also providing franchisees with enough direction to make it successful.” 

To share marketing materials and resources, like the Golden Token program, Sylvan Learning has a local marketing portal, Compass, that provides comprehensive resources for every marketing activity that a Sylvan franchisee should be executing.

“We know that our franchisees bring different strengths and skill sets, and some initiatives from a local marketing perspective will push them out of their comfort zones, so we provide everything they need to execute great local marketing programs that are specific to their community,” said Przywara. “If a franchisee has never called a PTA president or reached out to a neighboring business that targets mothers, we have step-by-step guides for them to utilize, including scripts, maps of nearby businesses and a calendar that shows exactly when to do each activity.”

Przywara offered the example of marketing to local schools, noting that Sylvan provides its franchisees with detailed guides of who to contact at each local school, whether that’s guidance counselors helping students with college applications or coaches helping their players stay eligible, each with a separate script.

“Our mindset is that we don’t want our franchisees to consider marketing to be a scary thing, and should feel comfortable doing it,” said Przywara. “Since we are an education company, we have a lot of franchisees that join the system because of their passion to help people, and we help them share that passion with families and businesses in their local communities by arming them with the right tools and resources.”