Top teacher tips: Using group classes as a marketing strategy

Are you struggling to find students willing to pay good rates for classes and refer friends? Maybe you’re just getting your independent online ESL teaching business started and find it difficult to convert leads into actual paying customers?

In this video, I’m going to discuss why group classes are NOT just for those teachers with a full schedule and want to earn more per hour, but also an excellent marketing and negotiation strategy for you even as a brand new online ESL teacher!

Who is this strategy for?

This strategy is for ALL online teachers, including those who literally only have a single student enquiring about classes. You do not need a full schedule of existing students, nor do you need a viral social media profile with thousands of followers to advertise to.

What is my strategy?

This strategy sounds simple and is easy to implement, but can be an incredibly powerful approach for converting leads who are unwilling or unable to pay the full class price.

Quite simply, if a parent asks me about classes but then starts negotiating on price, I instead invite them to find a friend to split the class cost with. By finding just one friend to join them in a small group class, they can half their per-class fee! If they find two or three friends, their costs are even lower.

That parent then takes responsibility for organising all the class logistics and payments going forward.

Important: I do NOT take any responsibility for finding them this friend to share the class with. It must be the parent’s responsibility. This is really key to the success of this strategy. If you get at all involved in trying to match them with a student, you risk returning back to your stalemate at the negotiation table if you fail. Realistically, the parent is in a much stronger position to find a suitable friend to split the class cost with, and if they know the other parent they are also going to be more willing to agree to other essential conditions (outlined later) such as collating payments.

Why does this work?

This strategy empowers your lead to significantly reduce their per-class cost. You are giving them a choice – pay my full one-on-one rate, or find a friend and get 50% off. Psychologically, this can be a really powerful negotiation strategy.

They are now the ones in control of the price they pay and have full ownership of this decision, and so no longer try to negotiate with you to reduce the price. Instead, the responsibility is now on them to actually get this 50% discount.

What are the advantages to parents?

For parents, this approach has several advantages. Firstly, they can significantly reduce their per-class cost and so have much more affordable classes. Additionally, they still retain full control over who else is in the class – unlike a traditional group class approach, where they might find their child dumped in a huge group with students they do not get on well with.

What are the advantages to teachers?

For you as a teacher, this approach does not require a significant amount of extra work compared to normal one-on-one classes. You are not taking any responsibility for organising or promoting the group class, and it will be a small group so easier to manage.

Secondly, you are able to more easily convert leads who are unwilling to pay your full price into happy customers, without having to reduce your hourly income. It’s a win-win financially for both you and your students!

Another key advantage is that it helps expand your network. I have always focused a lot on referral marketing, and having more parent contacts will help you grow your business more quickly going forward using referral marketing techniques. Additionally, even if the group class ends up not working out, this extra parent might still sign up to one-on-one classes with you, so you’ve essentially got a free referral.

An extra, and really important, advantage is that this approach (compared to standard group classes) ensures you still received a fixed hourly income – you are charging per group, not per student. If a student drops out of the group, the rest of the parents need to discuss between themselves to cover the cost or find a replacement student. This is different to a traditional group class, where each parent pays separately a fixed hourly price per student and you can lose out on significant income if one or students drop out of the class.

Finally, this strategy usually ensures that your students already know each other and are classmates or friends in real life too. Therefore, they are likely to be at a similar level, have similar goals and similar interests. This makes it much easier to teach classes suitable for them. Personally, I love group classes as they can be a lot more engaging due to the potential for discussions, sharing ideas, debates, etc – but one of the challenges can be finding students who actually learn well together. This group class strategy really helps facilitate this.

Important considerations

Before you jump into launching this strategy, please first consider these important considerations!

Firstly, make sure you have clear T&C’s in place, particularly covering your refund or rescheduling policy. Any issues could affect the whole group of students and be challenging to manage the logistics. Personally, I recommend having fixed weekly times for your classes. I allow rescheduling up to 24 hours in advance as long as all students have already discussed among themselves and unanimously agreed to the new time. If a student cannot make the class that week but the remaining students still want to go ahead, then that student still has to may for their place in the class or discuss with the other parents to cover their class cost.

Linked to this, I also recommend asking one parent to take responsibility for organising the logistics and collating payments. If each parent pays you separately, it becomes difficult to enforce your T&C’s/ refund policy if one student unexpectedly stops paying you – you’d need to liaise with the other parents to try and get the extra fees off them. Whereas if a specific parent is responsible, they will have more motivation and ability to chase up the non-paying parent, negotiate with the other parents on your behalf or find a replacement student. Parents tend to negotiate more kindly with other parents, particularly if they are real-life friends, so you avoid a lot of arguments or awkward situations.

Additionally, do not offer group classes as your first option or in your list of available packages parents can pick. Wait until the parent has asked to negotiate on your one-on-one rate. Also, keep your group price rate the same or very similar to your one-on-one rate. This ensures that they see your group class suggestion as a way of helping them out and empowering them to reduce their fees, rather than you trying to perhaps earn more money by offering group classes. This mindset helps them see why it is their responsibility for finding the other student(s) to join the class.

Finally, I’m going to emphasise this again – never offer to help find a friend to join the class. If you are unable to find another student to join them, they’ll still want to only pay your half price fee, because you were the one who took responsibility for getting this discount for them. Additionally, it results in issues further down the line if the students do not get on, the parents don’t trust each other enough to collate payments, etc. Parents are in a much stronger position than you to find a suitable friend to join, and it is really critical to the success of this strategy that they are the ones to do so.


I hope you found this helpful! Do feel free to comment below with your own group class ideas or negotiation strategies – always great to learn from each other 🙂

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