Sylvan Learning Inc. looking to expand in Atlanta, additional cities
Sylvan Learning Inc., a supplemental education provider, announced that Atlanta is a priority growth market for its 2010 expansion plans, according to the company
The Baltimore-based company is searching for Atlanta area franchisees to develop more than 10 new centers throughout the metro area. Sylvan has already sold 12 territories within the Atlanta area during the past two years.
Expanding in Atlanta is part of the education provider’s national growth strategy that includes growing in existing markets while entering new cities nationwide. Including Atlanta, Sylvan has identified eight to 10 U.S. cities that it would like to develop in this year.
The company is currently seeking new and existing franchisees to open new centers in these markets.
Sylvan Learning Inc. currently operates more than 900 centers worldwide in 49 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces and 10 countries. During the past two years, the company has sold more than 140 domestic franchise territories.
Founded in 1979, Sylvan provides supplemental education in many areas including SAT/ACT college prep, mathematics, writing, study skills and reading.
In an interview with WinmoEdge, Doug Grindstaff, vice president of growth and services, said that Sylvan Learning Inc.
plans to expand to Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Boston by the end of June, in addition to Atlanta.
“It’s a bit intense, but what is great is it’s a rare opportunity in two respects,” he said. “First it’s very unusual that we have territories in large metropolitan markets. We’ve been around 30 years and we’re just getting into the stage of where we’re seeing territories changing over and we have continuous territories in these markets.”
Our source added that he and other company members involved with franchising will be visiting these cities from now until the end of June to meet with potential franchisees. Sylvan is especially excited about creating multi-territory owners.
“For us it’s about finding the right entrepreneur,” Grindstaff said. “This category of supplemental education is growing as there are changing demands in on our educational system and parents are expecting more of their children.”
Finding the right franchisee is important for many reasons, including the fact that franchises help fund Sylvan’s advertising programs at the local and national levels.
“We have a large ad budget and historically national TV is a driver of contacts with parents, but we also do a lot of local marketing campaigns with franchises,” Grindstaff said. “There are critical times when you want to be contacting consumers.”
One example that our source gave is when parents are receiving report cards.
“We want to reach out to parents who don’t know what to do,” he said. “We’ll analyze the problem and find specific skills gaps that are missing and quickly help the child to address those concerns. The Web is a tremendous source of leads for us."
Grindstaff added that the Internet and social media are also playing a large role in Sylvan’s marketing strategy. The company currently has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
Even with Sylvan’s national television initiatives and Internet presence, Grindstaff said that the relationships that the company forges with parents, students, teachers, school administrators and counselors are the most vital part of its marketing strategy.
“I’ve named it last but really the most important aspect of our marketing is that we really seek to crate raving fans,” he said. “We want to create a success story with every child who comes in our door. This word-of-mouth is the best marketing that we have. With a 99 percent approval rate, that’s a lot of fans.”
Grindstaff said that Sylvan’s core market has an income that is slightly over the national average but the company’s target is more psychographic than demographic.
“It’s more about parents who are concerned about their children and how well they’re doing in school,” he said. “We try to connect with parents on an emotional level to say we emphasize with your sense of urgency, we’re a partner and we’re going to work with you, with your child, teachers and the school counselor to help the child succeed and become educationally independent.”
Our source said that Sylvan is always open to hearing about partnership opportunities. The company is currently involved in a program with several companies where new students receive discounts at their stores.
“We’re always looking for those opportunities,” Grindstaff said. “Strategic partnerships are extremely important to us. We’re open to anyone who is interested in the educational market. We’re always challenging ourselves to provide the latest and greatest to kids, so if somebody out there has great ideas, they’ll always find a willing ear at Sylvan’s.”
He added that the company would be most interested in partnership opportunities that would allow the education provider to “extend (its) reach efficiently.”
“We’re always open to that," Grindstaff said. "Partnerships with other powerful kid brands would be terrific. We work hard to find best practices within our franchise system, and we have the same view when it comes to partners. We look for partners with the best ideas and we’re always open to finding that.”
The same openness also applies to outside agency relationships. Our source said that Sylvan is always interested in “expanding (its) presence on the Web,” and would like to hear from agencies willing to share their Internet expertise.
“It’s an area that is always open to improvement,” Grindstaff said. “Nobody has really figured out the best way to utilize the Internet yet and consumers are getting more sophisticated and confident in how they use it.”
According to The List online, Sylvan Learning Inc. has utilized Washington, D.C.-based Brunner Inc. for its interactive since 2005. The company also has used Plano, Texas based Publicis Mid America for its creative since 2007.
The Nielsen Company reported that Sylvan Learning Inc. spent $24 million on measured media in 2009. About $16.8 million was spent on spot television ads, about $4.6 was spent on cable television ads and about $960,000 was spent on radio television ads.
Sylvan Learning Inc.
1001 Fleet Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Jeffrey H. Cohen
Vice President, Growth & Services