I was asked recently regards my thoughts on Find An Instructor Sites, (FIA’s), by the editor of Intelligent Instructor magazine, Paul Caddick.
Below are the questions I was asked and below them are my responses.
- What do ‘Find an Instructor’ (FAI) sites offer to the pupil and the instructor?
- Do they work?
- Considering most driving instructors are found through personal recommendations, do FAIs add anything of value to the market place?
- What would make such sites more effective for instructors and potential customers?
- Is it a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ problem – you need lots of instructors on your books, but they only bother if there are lots of potential customers using the system, and vice versa? In the end you have too few of both to make them work effectively?
- Is there anything to lose if instructors sign up to all FAI platforms they can find?
- What are your top tips when writing your entry on such sites?
- Do you recommend any and why?
Boy did this take some thought, how to get across all I’ve learnt from running a FAI site, as this is what ADI Network was founded and very nearly floundered on.
Taking each question in turn, here’s my 2 pence worth.
I stumbled upon the idea of setting up a FAI site after leaving my BSM franchise. Like many ADIs setting out on one’s own, I had the fear of not having enough pupils and the realisation that this was all down to me to source now, not being able to call the “support team” for a new pupil.
At the time I was approached by Groupon who persuaded me to run a campaign through them to attract new students.
I agreed on the offer of 2, 2hr lessons for £12. (don’t sigh, I know, I know). Given that any student that stayed the course would be worth around £1200, I considered it to be a good ROI.
It worked, very well, in fact so well I had far more students than I could take on, so through my colleagues across Nottingham I farmed the overload of students out. Instructors were happy because at the time, there was a shortage of student in the market, I was happy as I made 50% of the deals sold, and this was how the idea of ADI Network was born.
I saw a business model in what I had done, so I ran additional campaigns, with equal success, in Leicester, Derby, then Birmingham and so on and so on.
Each time placing students with eager instructors who had diaries to fill.
Things grew too well, too fast, as at the time I was doing all the processing and placing of pupils manually and one Xmas, I found myself with serpent I could not tame. The promotion in the run in to Xmas had yielded over 1200 students, all wanting lessons booking.
Simply I could not cope, so there were a lot of disgruntled customers who had paid for lessons that I could not place, the resulting rush of refunds meant Groupon did not want to run any further campaigns.
It was at this time I met Dan Hill and Dan and I partnered up to autonomies the system.
Dan and Michelle built a system that would upon a student registering their details, would then automatically match a student with instructors based on postcode, transmission type, and on the students and ADis availability.
The system would inform the instructors found of the student available via sms and the first ADI to respond would get the students full details. Job done, no more work for me matching students, I could get on with growing the number of instructors within the database.
I then contacted Wowcher, who were new to the “Daily Deals” market and we struck up a very strong relationship, one that still stands to this day.
As the previous deals has sold so very well, the price was raised to £24 and it still sold in huge volume. At one-point ADI Network was ‘the’ largest revenue generator for Wowcher for the whole of the London area alone.
So, it seemed my leaving BSM and identifying this gap in the market was a stroke of genius.
Well it was, until the winds changed. The ADI industry goes in cycles.
Great when there’s a shortfall of students and as such ADIs lap up the idea of FIA companies as they seem to solve their problem.
Once the market changes and there is a glut of students wanting lessons, as things are now, then FIAs are redundant, the service is simply not needed.
This happened to ADI Network, none of the 12,000 ADI we had on our system needed any students from us. We were back to not being able to place students.
This is why ADI Network got out of this side of the industry and now concentrates of delivering the Benefits Package, this is something that is not affected by cycles, as ADIs all need to save money and offer something unique to students, all the time.
The cycle is coming around again, with us facing another shortfall of students. The number of instructors contacting me for student supply is growing and as the system is still there, just mothballed, it maybe something we look at re-opening up, but on the understanding that it is just a short-term thing, until the cycle goes the other way.
So that is how ADI Network came to be, and came to be doing something else.
What do FIA have to offer the student? I’d say very little. If the offering is not backed by a major brand such as Wowcher / Groupon who can promote the site.
I would not type in to google for FIA sites. If I want an instructor for my daughter in Nottingham, then Id type in “driving instructor Nottingham”.
Back in the day every ADI had an ad in the Yellow Pages, but since the net was born, we have seen the end of the big yellow book and Thompson local. Everything I want to find I ask google. So FIA sites have to do a lot of very hard work to get students to use them.
So do FIA sites offering anything for ADIs?
Yes the more places you advertise your services the better your chances of getting noticed. If an ADI has no marketing background, then yes FIAs can be an avenue to explore.
Do FIAs work ?
Ultimately, NO. The reason they do not work is not the fault of the student, nor the fault of the site, although some sites are far better than others. The reason they do not work is down to the ADIs using them.
Why do ADIs use them? Because they do not know how to market themselves. If they could then they would not need to use a FIA. Students and parents of students want instant results, so if an ADI fails to respond to a student, then the student complains to the FIA site and the mud sticks that FIAs don’t work and are at fault, when it’s the ADI who has to take the blame.
Over time the bad falsely labelled bad reputation of the FIA causes it to fail.
So most FIA companies are only short lived.
Who is in control has to be looked at.
The sole difference with ADI Network compared to any other FIA site was the control.
Most FIA sites are only an additional place for an ADI to offer their services. The student get to find and view the details of a number of instructors who happen to advertise on the site. This then puts the student in control of what happens next. You guessed it, the student then goes and call the ADI who put the lowest price on their for lessons. Students then play each ADI off against each other and a bidding price war ensues.
Over time the ADIs realise the FIA site is not working for them, so they withdraw their profile, less ADIs on the site, then students don’t use the site. Chicken and the egg.
Hence why most FIA sites are short lived.
The model ADI Network ran with kept the control on the side of the ADI, as details of the student were passed on to the ADI who text back the quickest. The other thing ADI Network did was to add in the terms and conditions that ongoing lessons were to be at a minimum price of £25ph. (This was back in 2017), therefore ADI Network were helping to keep the hourly rate higher for ADIs.
As ADI Networks system was fully automated, I feel that was a true Find An Instructor service.
The service was there for students to tap in some details and for ADIs it meant the had to just wait for a text.
Most ‘FIA’ only offer a platform to advertise on and if these sites are populated with hundreds of ADIs, then the only way for them to stand out to get a call, is to offer a lower price.
Would I recommend FIA sites?
Yes to those ADIs who are already offering low hourly rates and are not marketing savvy.
To those charging a high hourly rate, then no. Better to invest time in learning some marketing knowledge and to go after a different market.
Let me leave you with this thought ?
Imagine the average person who shops in a Pound Shop ?
Now Imagine the type of person who shop in Sainsburys ?
Which would you prefer to take for lessons ?