I practically ignore my competition. It probably is my arrogance, but they are simply not selling quite the same service as myself. Easily illustrated by the students that stick around.
This is actually not a good idea. The hagwon industry is a niche strategy, always. Mostly it comes from the perception of parents that English can be subdivided in different disciplines, and all these disciplines can be trained individually. Total bollocks of course, but important to keep in mind when differentiating yourself from your competition.
Given that you “have” to follow a niche strategy, you have to adapt your advertising accordingly. Generic advertising WILL NOT work. You have to tell people, or at least make them understand, what the deal is. My advertising strategy was mostly aimed at “the next best thing from living in England” kind of deal. It worked for a while, but it seems I need to stress other factors as well.
When you understand your skills, your curriculum and your way of teaching, try to find out how Koreans perceive this, and if it is received as positive. If it is received as positive, you need to push it through as much and as hard as possible. This will be your “strategic advantage”. When it is perceived badly, you need to change perception ASAP, and how you market yourself. Already when I designed my school, I asked people what they thought of my school. The first notions were “Expensive”, which still till today persists, even though my price point is comparable to other hagwons. Some also perceive it as “unfocused”, since I use a more holistic approach to language learning, rather then a skill focused approach. This is very confusing to the Koreans, they ask often, “What does my son/daughter learn in your school?”. It seems “English” is not the right answer ……
Now the competition itself. A price strategy will have a more negative effect. Quality and price in Korea are assumed to be very closely correlated, therefore dropping prices might not be the best of ideas, although I do challenge you to test it out and rapport back to me if my findings are wrong ..
I’ve had some petty experiences dealing with competitors. From people claiming I was closing my hagwon, to people putting nails in my bus. Yes, people are putting nails in my tires. The count is five up to today. You need to keep your ears on the rumor mill and defuse bad rumors as soon as possible.
I do know who my competitors are, and I do know what they are offering, that is the least you should do. If you have a Korean partner who is willing to partake in the school’s operation, it might be wise to let your Korean partner intensively look into neighborhood websites and such to catch the chatter of what is going on.
Don’t forget that you are ultimately sharing a limited pie in your neighborhood, and it is difficult to increase the pie, leave alone increase the size of your part of the pie. Try your best at finding out what people in your neighborhood want, and adapt accordingly, but don’t stray to far from your “concept”.