Chief Learning Officer: Amy Przywara is Passionate About Helping Children Learn
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Chief Learning Officer: Amy Przywara is Passionate About Helping Children Learn

Chief Learning Officer: Amy Przywara is Passionate About Helping Children Learn

Two things motivate Sylvan Learning CMO Amy Przywara as she steps through the company's office doors each day: being successful at marketing and helping children learn. And she's deeply passionate about both.

As a marketer, Przywara says she is always evaluating the Sylvan brand as it relates to the needs and desires of today's consumers--and she should know. "I am our target audience," she says. "I have twins in 4th grade and a daughter in 5th, so I have lots of focus group opportunities in real life with friends, moms of other kids at the school, teachers, and staff."

Przywara has been with Sylvan, the 40-year old brand that has offered personal learning for K-12 students, since 2006. Over that time she has served as vice president of marketing, senior director of brand and customer acquisition, director of national advertising, and director of co-op advertising. No matter what position she has held, Przywara has made it a habit to listen to customers and franchisees.

"Everything we do in marketing is about the success of both," she says. "With the consumer, we are gathering reviews and consumer research so we know what they are really looking for and how well we delivered," she says. She also keeps her finger on the pulse of the franchisees to help them become successful.

As a part of Sylvan's leadership team, Przywara, along with her 13-person marketing team, has been instrumental in delivering integrated marketing campaigns for its franchisees. This effort includes national components working in conjunction with locally focused strategies to drive business to the brand's more than 750 centers.

"Local marketing is truly a key part of success for a franchisee, so we want to make sure they understand this," she says. That's why Sylvan has a local marketing team that works with franchisees, along with an online portal to guide them through everything they need for their own local marketing plan.

Przywara says she loves being a part of Sylvan because the company helps children and families by offering a variety of programs to fit their educational needs and learning styles--from after-school tutoring and teaching children to read, to STEM classes and college prep assistance.

What could be better for a marketer and mom who loves to see kids learn?

Describe your role as CMO.
I oversee marketing for the franchisor, Sylvan Learning. Our team executes marketing on behalf of a distributed system of learning centers throughout North America. We also provide local marketing materials and local marketing plans for our franchisees and directors.

 

Amy PrzywaraWhat's the most challenging part of being a CMO today?
Keeping up with the fast-paced, ever-changing world. Finding ways to invest and optimize without abandoning tactics that are working. Finding solutions that work locally and at an enterprise level.

What are the 3 most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today?
Trusting your team, especially the younger team members who have lots of great ideas. Listening to consumers--really listening--and then delivering. Testing and testing and testing. Try new things, but don't back off of what works for you.

How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies?
We start with the consumer first. We take reviews and consumer research verbatim and synthesize it so we know what our consumer is really looking for, and then we look at our reviews afterward and see how we delivered. We then test and look at our ROI, but also take into account the "surround sound" effect of multi-channel marketing, which often can't be seen in our numbers on a short-term basis.

How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness?
We look at the short-term metrics of lead volume every single day, and we also look at the longer-term conversions, the nurturing strategies, and the relationship-building. Ours is both a business of fixing immediate pain for a family and a long-term investment for a child's future. We measure our success in marketing similarly to how a family would measure if Sylvan were working for them: both short-term fixes and long-term success.

Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives.
We use a combination of national digital, local digital, local marketing, social/influencer, and email/texting to reach our customer. It all works together and we recognize that. Through all of our communication channels, we are trying to get more people to come into our centers and talk with us. That can also be a phone conversation, but we know that once someone walks into our center, especially with their child with them, they will feel the support and how we can help. We focus on overcoming the barriers of getting a prospective customer to that point. We do try to break it down through a simple web form or a phone call. All of these things play a part in getting to each next step.

How do you go about creating a customer-centric marketing and brand philosophy?
We truly listen to the consumer. We have created ways to hear directly from those who chose us and from those who didn't. Our product is based in doing well for a child--and we do, over and over again. We know that if a family gives us a chance, we work. So we constantly look at why a mom or dad chooses another solution, try to find the similarities in those who go somewhere else, and then try to address them.

How do you identify talent for a marketing team?
We have an excellent internal recruiter who understands our culture and our marketing needs. She does an excellent job of sourcing candidates for open roles. We also believe in bringing in younger team members. It's great to watch people grow and expand over the years. We also look for team members who have worked in a distributed model. That really helps the learning curve of our business.

Describe your marketing team and the role each plays.
We have a 13-person team and we divide up into three key areas: local marketing and franchisee support, digital-centric, and brand/consumer. But there is so much crossover these days. The team works together to make sure the content we create is digital-centric, that local marketing needs are digital as well as offline. There has to be a collaborative, no silos approach.

Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a "personal touch" when it comes to helping the brand connect with prospects?
We recognize that buying a franchise--any franchise--is a life decision for someone. This is a big next step and can be scary. It is often the first time owning a business for prospects. We want them to truly understand what we do for them, and what they need to do for themselves to be successful. Those are personal conversations so prospects can truly understand what Day 1 (and Day 90 and Day 1,072) will be like.

How does this help your franchise sales and development effort?
Being an education brand, we have lots of prospects who want to help others. We feel the same way. We want to help our franchisees and future franchisees be successful and help more kids. Everything we do in marketing is about the success of both.

What ways/tools do you rely on to do this?
Our marketing plan is set up so that prospects understand what we do for them and what they need to do themselves. Local marketing is truly a key part of success for a franchisee, so we want to make sure they understand this. We have a local marketing team that works with franchisees as well as an online portal called MARC that guides them through everything they need for a local marketing plan. We help get our prospective franchisees excited for this business opportunity.

Do today's prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? What, and how do you provide it?
With so much being digital, I think there is more of an expectation that more things can be done centrally than locally. We try to find the balance of what should truly be done locally and have that local touch, and what can be done centrally that also has a local touch, but maybe not quite as much as truly being local.

How is today's consumer and marketing data helping you fine-tune your marketing initiatives?
We are able to look at engagement much more easily. There is more to getting a lead than the lead alone. We are able to see how people have engaged with us and how long it takes them to then give us their information. There is still more to do here, but it helps in making some longer-term decisions on where to invest. We have a brand engagement platform called Sylvan Nation and have had great success with it over the 18 months since launch. We can see in the data what more we need to engage prospective customers further down the funnel.

Describe the evolving role of social media in your brand's marketing efforts.
I think that, as with all brands, social media causes us to be more transparent. This can be tough. If someone has a bad experience they have a channel to let a lot more people know about it easily. We make sure we are giving educational tips, success stories, and addressing consumer feedback in our social efforts. We want to partner with families for long-term educational success, and our social efforts reflect that.

How do you work with other internal departments, and does technology help?
We have an integrated approach with other departments and are in constant communication. We continue to refine how we all work together, balancing in-person, email, messaging, online tools, etc. We regularly try new things and new ways of working. And we always try to asses if a meeting is really necessary.

How do you manage costs and budgets for the marketing department?
We budget on an annual basis and refine quarterly. We are big on under-promising and over-delivering with our budget process.

Do you see vendors as business partners? Why/why not?
We definitely have vendors who are our partners. You have to. We rely on other companies to provide services that make our business tick. I think some are stronger business partners than others. I think a mutual and truly open conversation about how do we both win makes for stronger partnerships versus a vendor/client relationship only.

How have marketing strategies and tools changed over the past decade?
How have you adapted? Again, digital obviously plays a greater and greater role, where everything is digital these days. We evaluate new tools that come out and make sure to test and test and test before we roll out and undertake something for the entire system. I think where we've had to adapt is to understand that nothing is a big campaign any more. Instead, everything is a series of smaller messages that build up to the greater plan.

How is your marketing/branding strategy developed, and how does it flow through the system?
We are quite proud of our brand. We've been around for 40 years and we know the Sylvan name carries excellence with it. We always evaluate our brand image and make sure it's resonating with today's consumer. Luckily for me, I am our target audience: I have twins in 4th grade and another daughter in 5th grade, so I have lots of focus group opportunities in real life with friends, moms of other kids at the school, teachers, and staff. And, as I mentioned, you can try some things in the digital world that don't live on forever and see if they work for you. There is a lot more appetite for testing. That said, I do think everything we do remains in the brand foundation we have, and that the brand work we do resonates with today's consumer.

What advice would you offer to aspiring CMO executives?
Listen to the ideas coming from your team. They are closer to what is really going on and will take you to the next level.

Published: February 20th, 2020

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