Social Media is not marketing and what's coming soon...
Our goal at wortheffort has always been to operate a brick and mortar woodworking school that specialized in teaching the local community basic woodworking skills with a focus on reinforcing academia for teens in the process. Everything else from product sales, art sales, demonstrations, farmers/art markets, video production and the like has been to subsidize the brick and mortar school. Our trials and tribulations these past years (almost 2 in planning and development, 1 with our launch in San Marcos, TX, and our current time in Austin, TX) is well documented on Facebook and in various articles that have been written about the school in local media. The school was never designed to be a big money maker. The plan required a large initial capital investment (taken care of by teachers retirement, savings, asset sales, and lots of help from family because we couldn't get a business loan) but the month to month overhead would be exceptionally low so the school could survive even with low enrollment (rent, utilities, materials, income). I myself reduced living expenses to practically nothing by basically camping in a portion of a borrowed RV initially and then moving into the warehouse to save on lot fees. Most of personal assets were liquidated at launch so once those are gone it doesn't take much live (90 sq/ft for bed, shower, fridge, hotplate, armoire, and desk).
Where we stand now thou is a bit scatterbrained. Going in too many directions at once. The majority of our time is spent working around a half dozen or so students a month. Trying to create new lessons that'll be more attractive while having to make stuff to sell, marketing and demonstrating at local markets, and just scrambling for any morsal of cash to stay afloat. For the past few years it really has been 'work hard outside teaching to cover the losses of teaching'. Even thou class costs money to take (generally based upon the $15/class hour formula) if only 1 or 2 people show it's a losing proposition.
I completely recognize this situation is created by a failure of marketing. Demonstrations, flyers, shaking hands, word of mouth, email campaigning, direct mail campaigning are all the types of advertising that are within our budget to reach a local market. Which is the only market that will actually put butts in seats in a service business like this. But it's all my imagination has been able to come up with on a budget of naught.
We've also done online marketing in the form of blogs, social media, content creation and the like. That's how most people know of us. Here's something I know as fact. That type of marketing isn't cost effective for a local service business. This from a guy whose formal degree was in Multimedia Marketing.
Spending 20-60 hours producing an online video that generates a couple 50,000-100,000 views a year sounds wildly successful. But the math just isn't there. If you pay yourself a minimum living wage for said videos production (not including overhead of equipment, space, time in research, and opportunity loss from time usage) you are looking at $400-1200 in labor. So at an average of $15 income per student (maybe) you are looking at needing to attract 25-80 students per video before recovering just the labor portion of it's creation.
Online marketing doesn't make sense for a small local service type of business if the goal is attracting customers. Sadly it's the only thing we've been doing that seems to be communicating that we exist, we're here in the corner waving our hands eager to help if only you'll come visit.
'wortheffort' is about to take a big risk and frankly I'm not sure how its going to go. But when you're in a black hole with no clear idea the way out sometimes it's best to just go towards the only bright spot you see. We're betting the farm on the possibility of turning our online marketing efforts into a product.
When you step back and examine the climate there really are only a handful of woodworking schools in the country, even fewer targeting a local market, fewer still targeting a teen local market. And most of those that are making it really aren't, they're non-profits with all the pluses and minuses that entails.
There appears to be a larger number on individuals online earning an actual living making content than there are schools actually surviving. I'm not talking about the 1000's of individuals making online woodworking videos and earning a few scheckles for their work. I'm talking people who appear to be earning a good portion of their living wages online. And none of them seem to be targeting the niche market I've been working these past years in the real world.
Between now and July, I'm going to attempt to produce individual and serialized educational videos suitable for a public school to present to a classroom, or home-schooler to use as curriculum, or parent to gain insight into better ways to teach their own kids with exercises designed to augment learning. I.E. they will be produced from a teacher not an instructor. July is when I decide if closing the school is inevitable.
I foresee producing 3 types of videos. There will be the silent movie and self contained instructional lessons type that you currently see on my YouTube Channel. And then there will be the serialized ones I'm anxious to see how will be accepted.
These serialized lessons will be the digitized equivalent of a modern day textbook in woodworking. Designed to be progressed thru chapter by chapter. This textbook will not be an instructional how-to style that dominates online but more of a teachers addition with multiple ways of instruction and cross curriculum education. Basically I'm taking the 12 week curriculum I developed for a teen version of our popular "TnT" class, turning it into 12 chapters with sub sections, and putting it online. Lessons that also supports English, Math, Science, and the Social Studies.
My hope is by June some income vehicle will reveal itself if people find value in the effort and that vehicle will subsidize the real school.