Intensified Competition In Singapore’s Billion Dollar Tuition Business

I refer to the article published in The Straits Times on 31 July 2017, “Tuition centres drum up business at schools”. It was reported that besides conventional marketing channels such as newspaper advertisements and advertorials, Facebook sponsored posts and Google AdWords to promote the tuition website, more and more tuition centres have stepped up their efforts in doing targeted marketing at the doorstep of reputable schools.

Among all subjects, the competition in economics tuition is probably the most intense. This is reflected in various aspects.

Highest Bid Price in Google AdWords

Economics tutors are known to bid the highest price per click for their economics tuition in Google AdWords. If other tuition service providers can bid $5 per click for the top 3 ranking in mathematics or English tuition in Google AdWords, the economics tuition providers have to offer five times the price in order to obtain the same ranking. Based on my own observation, the bid has been higher and higher over the past few years, an evidence of the intensified competition in economics tuition market in Singapore.

Paid Publicity in Newspapers, on TV

Many “super tutors” fork out a lavish spending on paid publicity in newspapers and on TV, including some economics tuition providers. By doing this, they sent a misleading message to the parents and students. Not knowing that these are paid publicity that any tutor can get as long as they are willing to pay the price of five-digit or even higher, the majority of parents and students believe that the economics tutor was selected because of their excellence in teaching economics tuition. Students and parents are advised to check carefully the qualification and track record of the economics tutor, not simply relying on media articles, in order to make an informed decision on the best economics tuition to go for.

Flyer and Notepad Distribution Outside Schools and MRT Stations

The above-the-line marketing in Google AdWords, Newspapers and on TV is complemented by below-the-line marketing with the distribution of flyers and notepads. Compared with the above-the-line marketing, below-the-line marketing is more targeted at students of select schools, which are usually reputable schools or those in the vicinity of their tuition centres.

As shared by some economics tuition centre owners interviewed for the article, the effect of this is marginal. However, they would spare no efforts in flyer and notepad distribution still, as the cost is minimal and it is worthwhile even just for brand exposure.

Innovative Marketing Ideas

The competition in the billion dollar tuition business is so intense that players need to constantly come up with innovative marketing ideas in a bid to outshine their competitors and entice their target group of customers. These include complimentary bubble tea and breakfast sets.

However, similar to other below-the-line marketing, these innovative marketing efforts have yet to show visible results. Students may have enjoyed the free gifts offered by the tuition centres. The million dollar question is, How many of them can remember the name of the tuition centre and ultimately enroll at the centre?

The Most Cited Source of Information: Word-of-Mouth

Despite all these efforts to stand out amidst intensified competition, it is believed that parents and students rely mainly on word-of-mouth or referral for information on tuition services like economics tuition. The second most cited source of information is the website. This is no wonder that some economics tuition providers invest tens of thousands of dollar in website development to enhance user experience and boost its google ranking. Most of them invest heavily in SEO too.

To conclude, the right marketing strategy to entice students to enroll at the tuition centre is just the first step. The students will only stay with the same centre if the tutor, for example, an economics tutor, demonstrates impressive knowledge and superior skills in imparting their knowledge to the students.

Lind Geng

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