ESL Marketing Tip: Identify your target market

Identifying your target market is a key piece of the marketing puzzle. If you don’t know who you’re promoting to, how can you promote your language or literacy program effectively? How do you, as educational leaders and program directors, identify your target market?

Start by asking yourself, who do you want to register in your program? For example, if your program caters to students 18 years of age or older who have completed high school, then that’s your target audience. You need to appeal to both them and their parents, depending on who is footing the bill. In such a case the actual “target market” would include both the prospective students and their parents, since both may be involved in the decision-making process. You’ll want to gear your marketing materials to both groups.

If your programs are filled with workers sponsored through workplace learning programs, your target market would include both the workers (your prospective students) and the companies who sponsor them.

Most language school owners or managers intuitively know who they’d like to have in their programs. The trick is to let everyone on your team in on your vision – especially the people who create your marketing materials. By clearly articulating – even in writing – who your target market is, you’ll make it easier for everyone at your school to promote your programs. The act of writing it down will also help you stay on track when tempting, but ultimately unproductive opportunities come your way.

When it comes to marketing materials, rarely does one size (or shape or colour or format) fit all. Once you have identified your target market, the next step is to create marketing materials designed for each group.  For example, if you have a program designed for seniors, it is unlikely that your web marketing will be the most effective tool for them, unless they are a particularly techno-savvy group of elders. A good, old-fashioned brochure, printed on good quality paper and placed in libraries and seniors’ centres, may be an excellent marketing tool for that group.  But for students and young professionals, web marketing is essential.

Also, you may want to consider the language you are using for different groups. A group of high-achieving professionals may be more interested in the end result of registering in the program, so using words like “results”, “benefits” and “achievement” may be appropriate. On the other hand, students looking for a holiday tour with a language study component may be more interested in the “experience”, the “immersion” and the “fun”.

Once you identify your market, you can tailor your marketing materials to that target group watch how it impacts your registration.

This post is adapted from Idea #4 in Dr. Eaton’s book 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

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


2 Responses to ESL Marketing Tip: Identify your target market

  1. Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

  2. Elina says:


    First of all , I want to thank you for all this informations , and I’d like it so much .
    Thanks for this sharing!

    Good work ! 😉

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