January 19, 2017
Driving schools can be quite profitable when you use the right tools to save both time and money.
Especially when utilizing a solid driving school software suite.
Let’s look at some of the software programs that I used on a daily basis. They have saved me tons (and I mean TONS) of money, countless hours, and aggravation.
Through my own long and arduous road of trial and error, here are the tools that I recommend all driving schools should use right now.
“To make money, you have to spend money” is a time-tested adage that remains true to this day. But how much money do you have to spend? Wouldn’t it be nice to maximize your small marketing budget to earn the most profit?
Email marketing is one of the cheapest ways to reach your customers and potential customers. Plus, an email campaign can be turned around on a dime, meaning you can think of a new marketing idea in the morning and launch your new campaign by noon. It’s just that easy, unlike expensive and time-consuming direct mailers. Plus, email marketing is very targeted.
Small businesses simply can’t afford to run a TV, radio or print ad because there’s no way to control who sees it. The smartest way to spend your limited marketing budget is to reach out to your closest customer, also known as your lowest hanging fruit.
When you advertise in print or on TV or radio, you might reach your target customer, but you’ll also reach everyone that sees, hears or reads your ad. Yes, the cable companies have made it cheaper to reach a target TV audience, but it’s still too expensive for most driving schools. The cost of customer acquisition is WAY too high. It’s like fishing in a huge pond with a tiny net and no bait.
On the other hand, email marketing is like fishing in a small pond with a big net. Your driving school can increase brand awareness, regularly communicate with your customers, offer weekly or monthly sales promotions, and so much more. The biggest benefit to a driving school owner is that there are no postage, printing or production costs.
Email marketing is the cheapest marketing option available that targets your current and potential customer base. If you’re not taking advantage of this cheap marketing platform, you’re missing sales and leaving money on the table. Trust me. I know because I have seen our sales grow by leaps and bounds once I started sending out emails.
I started using Constant Contact in 2011 and have great success with this easy-to-use, money-saving marketing hero. In 2014, Constant Contact launched an easy-to-use Toolkit, an all-in-one marketing platform that integrates multi-channel options, including email, social, mobile and web to drive customer campaigns of all types.
If you’re still not sold on this awesome marketing tool, let me tell you a bit about our own success story. We sent out emails every week. They were highly targeted and had incredible open rates of 20-80%. Did I say 80%? Yep! Our “Starting Drivers Ed” email went out every week for the upcoming Saturday class. Plus, we sent out monthly newsletters, Finished Drivers Ed, Starting Driving Lessons, and Passed Road Test emails every week.
Our customers loved the constant communication from us. Since we started using Constant Contact, our email distribution list has grew from 3,000 to 12,000+. If you’re not using email marketing yet, please consider using Constant Contact. It’s definitely worth the monthly cost! Click here to get started with Constant Contact.
Custom Driving School Software
By utilizing some kind of customized driving school software, you can save valuable time and tons of money. Period.
Before we started using a custom software solution made for driving schools, at least 50% of our incoming phone calls were related to scheduling issues. This meant that our office personnel spend the majority of their time putting out fires and rescheduling drives.
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be more profitable if they were busy making outbound calls to increase sales?” Yes, it would. Once we implemented our first custom driving school software solution, the scheduling issue calls dropped from 5 out of ten calls to about 2-3.
After utilizing our generic scheduling software for a few years, I began to see quite a few chinks in the armor. Yes, it saved us time and money, but the program had issues. Plus, we were ready to open more locations, so I needed customized software solution that could scale with our growth.
I looked and looked for a customized option, but couldn’t find one.
That’s when I decided to “build a better mousetrap.” I partnered with a brilliant software engineer and we began our long journey to build Drive Scout.
It took SO much testing and fine-tuning, but our plan worked. We created an amazing software product for scheduling that’s geared specifically towards driving schools. Drive Scout not only saves valuable time, but it definitely lowers costs and drives profits. So, why is Drive Scout better than other available options?
One of the biggest ways we help driving schools save money is with our Zoning System. Without zones, disgruntled instructors drive all over the place, which results in excessive gas bills and wear and tear on the vehicles. Plus, unhappy employees result in a high turnover rate.
Drive Scout automatically puts every student into a particular drive zone. Instructors only drive in their designated zone that day, meaning they can spend more time in the car with their students and less time getting from one appointment to another. Yes, Drive Scout is the ONLY custom driving school software on the market to incorporate an Automated Zoning System.
Another big advantage of Drive Scout is Payroll Automation. Simply click on one button to instantly show all of your payroll hours for that pay period. Most driving schools manually count the hours for their staff every pay period, so this feature will definitely save you tons of time.
The biggest and most popular feature of Drive Scout is directed towards parents. They LOVE how easy and quickly they can schedule drives, plus cancel and reschedule from ANY device, including desktops, laptops and smartphones.
Plus, they receive an easy to understand student report card after each lessons. Through the use of green, yellow and red lights, they can see what skills their child mastered, which ones need a bit more work, and which ones they have not yet mastered.
Since launching Drive Scout, parent feedback has been 100% positive! A happy parent will then refer your driving school to all of their friends!
Google Ad Words
Do you remember the days when you turned to the phone book to find a business or phone number?
Well, those days are long gone! If you’re a small business owner, it’s critically important that people can find you online. There are two ways to have an online presence: organic and paid ads.
When a potential customer searches for a driving school in their area, a search engine returns two types of results: organic and paid. Organic is a natural result that displays listings that most closely match the user’s search query based on relevance.
Paid results are basically advertisements that business owners have paid to have their website display for certain keywords.
So, should driving schools with a limited marketing budget spend their precious dollars on a paid Google Ad Words campaign (also known as PPC for pay-per-click)? If you’re lucky, your nosiness may turn up on the first page in an organic search, but don’t count on it.
There are many advantages of Google PPC campaigns including it’s 100% measurable. Unlike other forms of advertising, an every aspect of an Ad Words campaign is measurable, right down to the number of clicks, cost per acquisition, click-through rate , conversion rate, and number of conversions.
It’s super easy to measure your return on investment (ROI). Another advantage is that it’s cost effective and flexible for almost every marketing budget.
You can set your budget from $10-$500 per day and pay only for clicks or conversions. Because Google Ad Words can be a bit confusing to a newbie, you might want to hire a professional to maximize your campaigns. There is also an online Google Ad Words Certification program and test, but be prepared to spend quite a bit of time learning about PPC.
Over the years, we’ve had great success with our Google Ad Words campaigns. Through trial and error, we have learned what works for us and what doesn’t. If you are on the fence or worried about the cost of Google Ad Words, let me tell you that it works!
In 2016, we focused on our brand campaign only and received $27 in revenue for every $1 that we spent.
Very few advertising vehicles will give you that rate of return.
We are currently launching a new website to improve our on-page SEO. Google gives a Relevance Score to every website. So, if you follow their rules, you will see an even higher rate of return on your investment.
For more benefits of Google Ad Words, check out this article by Spark Marketing. Despite its complexity and learning curve, make your decision to invest in PPC advertising and you won’t be sorry.
Speaking of websites and your online presence, Google Analytics is highly powerful tool that should be in all driving school’s software toolkit!
It’s a web-based platform that lets you collect data about your website and its visitors. The best news is that it’s completely free of charge.
When you login, this valuable tool lets you track information about the way visitors find your website and how they interact with it. You can also see how your keywords are performing in a PPC campaign, which pages and links your visitors click the most, plus valuable demographic information.
Because the best decisions are based on facts and figures, not on assumptions, Google Analytics gives you a tool to compile an arsenal of valuable business data.
You may assume that your target customer comes from a certain area of town. However, Google Analytics may show that people from certain zip codes are also signing up for services offered by your driving school. This is a marketing opportunity because you can spend more money to attract those particular potential customers.
Google Analytics can also identify a potential bottleneck on your website. Are people adding your services to their cart, but not making a purchase? By simply making simple website adjustments, you could see sales begin to soar as customers begin to convert. Yes, Google Analytics is like your online marketing manager.
From marketing campaign optimization to budget allocation, Google Analytics will definitely benefit your driving school. The first step is to add a code to your website.
As soon as you do, you’ll have access to timely and valuable information that you can use in all of your marketing and goal setting decisions. Click here to learn how to add Google Analytics to your own driving school’s website.
Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy
Your driving school might already use Microsoft Office, but you’re not getting its maximum benefit unless you get it through GoDaddy. You’ll pay the same price, but GoDaddy offers 24/7 expert support, domain-based email addresses, and upgrades to the latest versions of Excel, Word, Outlook and Powerpoint.
The main reason we use GoDaddy for Microsoft Office 365 is the branded email.
Many driving schools use a non-domain address like email@example.com. This is a red flag for customers because it shows that the school isn’t very professional.
However, when an email comes from a domain-based email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, it not only looks professional, but it also promotes your website and driving school.
Plus, you can build distribution lists in Outlook very easily. Do you need to send an email to your driving instructors? One click is all it takes. It’s just that easy.
Another great feature of GoDaddy’s Office 365 is the free updates. Your driving school will automatically receive the latest upgrades at no additional charge. That means you’ll always be using the latest and current version of Office.
Do you still need more reasons to switch to GoDaddy’s Office 365? Well throw in real-time meetings, shared calendars, a 99.9% guaranteed uptime and reliability, data security and spam filtering and Sharepoint. This is a feature that I use all the time for online digital storage.
Since switching to GoDaddy, my office staff has become more productive and efficient, freeing up more time to sell our services and increase our bottom line.
I recommend this GoDaddy’s product to all driving school owners and managers. It really works great!
Monthly plans are affordable and range from $6.99-$14.99, depending on your needs and the size of your school. Head to GoDaddy’s Microsoft Office 365 website for more information.
Quickbooks Online Plus
If you’re using ADP for your payroll, would you thank me if I said that you could save $4,000? You’re welcome!
When we switched from ADP ($6,000 per year) to Quickbooks Online Plus ($2,000 per year), we saved $4,000 instantly. Now, imagine spending that $4,000 savings on marketing to see your sales rise!
This extremely helpful tool combines bookkeeping and payroll programs into one.
In addition to saving money, it’s allowed me to free up hours that I used to spend on accounting. Now, I can focus on growing my driving school business.
Quickbooks Online Plus is super easy to use and tracks income and expenses so you can see exactly how much money your driving school is making. It saves valuable time by automatically organizing bank and credit card transactions.
It’s SO good that it’s currently the number one player in the market and I personally endorse it and use it daily to save time and money.
It puts all of your school’s payroll and accounting files in one place. Plus, it pulls all of your expenses and automatically codes them based on transaction history.
Do you want to see how much you’ve spent on marketing so far this year? No problem! Just one click is all it takes to see the running total.
Quickbooks Online Plus even sends out W2s and 1099s to all of my employees at year’s end. Plus, I can access all my data on my smartphone, meaning I can track my business even when out of the office.
If you’re unhappy with your payroll/accounting program or think it’s too costly, give Quickbooks Online Plus a try. It’s intuitive. It’s easy to learn and use.
What more could you want? After all, if your books aren’t correct and up-to-date, you have no way of knowing your driving school’s profit, right?
Are you still using sticky notes to remind yourself of meetings or deadlines?
Is your office a mess with stacks of file folders for pending projects? This was me seven years ago.
Then, I discovered the pure magic of Trello! This amazing task management software product keeps track of all my details – from the big picture to the smallest of details – and everything in between.
It may sound corny, but Trello changed my life for the better. Managing my driving schools is now so much easier.
It all starts with a Trello Board, which is a list of lists filled with cards for individual projects. Simply open a card to add comments, upload file attachments, create checklists, plus add priority labels and deadlines.
I then decide whom to share a particular card. That way, I always know what projects my driving school employees are working on, if they’re meeting deadlines, and whatever trouble spots or problems arise.
My Trello board is the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing I look at the end of a day.
When I leave the office, I can still track everyone’s boards because Trello offers apps for smartphones, tablets and even watches.
I’m not kidding, Trello completely changed the way my team and I accomplish tasks. Give it a try. It could change your life, too.
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