How to Market Your Language Program – Idea #3 – Set reasonable goals

Use the SMART approach to reach marketing goals for your language or literacy program:

Specific – For many language and literacy programs increasing enrollments is a general goal. Make it specific by knowing how many students you have had in the past 3-5 years. If you do not know how many students you had enrolled in your courses over the past year (or 2 or 5), now is the time to find out. This is the kind of information you want at your fingertips so that when you are conversing with colleagues and business associates, you can mention both your current enrollment and your plans to increase it. From there you can set a specific target for increasing your enrollments.

Measurable – A Generally a 10% to 20% growth rate per year is an attainable goal for increasing student enrollments, providing there are no market crashes or other circumstances outside your control that could affect this growth. So, if you currently had 200 students, you could set your goal to 220 or 240 students.

Attainable – If you set the bar too high, you won’t be able to reach your goal. I have found that many “higher ups” in educational institutions insist on goals that are not easily attainable. One university language program director told me that the institution’s V.P. had imposed a goal of 300% increase in ESL enrollments in one academic year, or the program would shut down. Setting this kind of goal sends people (especially program staff) off into a panic. You can set goals, high and still keep them attainable. They key is motivation. In order for goals to be reached, people must believe they can be reached. Your staff have to be motivated to reach the bar you set for them. Ask yourself if the goals you have set motivate your staff to try and reach them. If the answer is yes, your goal is attainable.

Realistic – A realistic goal is one you can reach within a given time frame. If there were currently 10 students registered in your program, it would be unlikely that you could raise that to 1000 students in one year. Generally, the smaller your program, the more capacity for growth you have. It would not be unreasonable to expect a 100% increase in enrollment in one year if your program had only 10 students. However, if you are already at 200+ students per year, you will need to set a realistic goal for growth through your marketing program.

Imagine saying to your colleague, “Last year, we had 150 students. Our strategic marketing plan includes a 10% growth rate. We are expecting to reach 165 students enrolled before the end of the year.” Doesn’t that sound good? Well, that could be you talking in your next business encounter, providing you have your figures straight. That 10-second elevator speech is powerful, clear and conveys strong leadership.

Timely – Set a time frame for figuring out your goals. This can be by calendar year, academic year, semester or month. The time frame itself is less important than your consistency in using it as a measuring tool. For educational programs, yearly goals are common.

For the first year, set modest goals for your marketing program. Let your entire administrative team and teaching staff know what the program’s goals are. An example might be, “Did you know that last year we had 200 students enrolled in our program? It is our goal to increase that number by 20% this year. We’re going for a total enrollment of 240 students and two extra classes. Ask us how you can help!”

This post is adapted from an excerpt from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


2 Responses to How to Market Your Language Program – Idea #3 – Set reasonable goals

  1. Lindsay Winter says:

    I love this goal setting framework! I first learned it in a Kinesiology class in regards to fitness and lifestyle goals, but feel that it can be applicable to many areas of life.

  2. Hm hm.. that’s very interessting but actually i have a hard time determining it… wonder how others think about this..

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