Market “to” your clients, not “at” them

October 26, 2010

When I answered the phone the other day, the person on the other end was calling from a company I buy from. The conversation went something like this:

Telemarketer: “Dr. Eaton we have a very special offer for you!”

Me: “Oh?”

Telemarketer: (Insert scripted sales pitch here.)

Me: “That sounds pretty interesting. Can you send me some information in the mail?”

Telemarketer: “No, I’m sorry, we don’t send information in the mail. It will only take a few minutes to sign you up over the phone.”

In that precise moment, the sale was lost.

Me: “I prefer to take the time to read over the material first. I don’t sign up for things over the phone. Can you send me information that I can thoughtfully look over and consider in more detail, rather than having to make a snap decision right now?”

(I knew the answer, but I just wanted to clarify.)

Telemarketer: “Really, it will only take a moment to sign you up over the phone, and I can tell you everything about the offer.”

The point? Missed.

The call? Ended.

The sale? Lost.

The upshot? I was a sale, ready and waiting to happen, and they lost it.  I am already a customer. I was interested in the offer. I was very close to saying yes, but didn’t appreciate the “hard sales” pressure tactic, so I declined.

Realize what works with your target audience and what doesn’t. What a sales or marketing company may tell you will work, may not. Find out for yourself. Avoid tactics that are likely to lose you sales because you’ve ticked off your prospective buyer, client or student.

The moral of the story? Market to your clients, not at them.


“Spotlight on Learning” conference

October 24, 2010

Last week I had the privilege of presenting a session on marketing of literacy programs at the Ontario Literacy Coalition’s Spotlight on Learning conference in Toronto. What an amazing event! Not only did the conference bring together practitioners and administrators from a variety of provinces, it was a high-tech, 21st century event. Speakers and participants alike were invited to participate in the conference’s Facebook page. They had their own Twitter hash tag (#spotlight2010).

Best of all, this was one of the few conferences I’ve ever been to where marketing was identified as a key topic or “stream” in the presentations. These folks are cutting edge.

They videotaped all the presentations, so with any luck you’ll be able to watch a replay of the presentation. I’ll post the info on the recording when it’s available.


If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Who You Gonna Call? Marketing Isn’t a Solo Sport

October 12, 2010

So many educators seem to think that they have to market and promote their programs all by themselves. Not only is this ineffective and exhausting, it is impossible. Marketing isn’t a solo sport.

Get yourself out of the mindset that you have to do it all yourself. Ask people for help. Ask them to attend your events or give a guest lecture in your class. And if that makes you uncomfortable, ask for their advice, as for suggestions, or even get their opinion.

There’s no shame in asking other teachers, administrators, parents, colleagues, or members of the community for help. Call up a teacher at another school and ask if you can have an inter-school event like a talent competition or speech contest. Partner with the dance teacher in your school to do a lunch time program on Latin dance to promote Spanish language and Hispanic culture.

Even asking, “Could you give me some ideas…?” is a powerful question to start with.

Ask with a smile. Be genuine. People will help.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Bad decisions cause followers to lose faith in their leaders

October 11, 2010

There’s one in every organization. A person who believes that things should be done a certain way because they’ve always been done that way. Because that person knows best, no matter what.

These traditionalists squash the non-conformists and exert their Alpha personalities (often sugar coated in “do-gooder-ness” and sweet smiles) to ensure that new ways of thinking, new ideas and new ways of being and living are kept out of organizations.

As a youth, the church I belonged to once dismissed an organist because he came out of the closet. It came as a surprise to no one that he was gay, though some where surprised that he made the decision not to hide it any longer.

The organist had been a lifelong member of the parish, since his baptism. He was well-known, well-liked and brought the services alive with his music. But when he came out of the closest, the priest decided he had to go. And so, he was fired and hastily replaced in time for the next service.

The congregation asked questions. The priest stood firm. The sinner, who in his eyes, refused to repent, had no place in his church.

The congregation rallied and went above the priest who dismissed the gifted musician, seeking audience with the Bishop. There were quiet threats made about  going to the media.

The result? The priest was required by his superiors to re-instate the organist. The congregation was relieved and happy to have their favorite musician back. The priest was left seething that this authority had been questioned and his decision was overthrown. He never admitted that his original decision to throw out the musician was wrong. In his mind, he was the authority, he knew how things should be done and the entire congregation, as well as his superiors were in the wrong.

What does it take for the bad decision of an authoritative leader to be overturned? To be outnumbered from below and outranked from above. For these forces from above and below to stand together in their position that the situation must be scrutinized, reconsidered and ultimately, corrected.  This combination happens less often than it could. It requires tremendous will, organization and persistence to fight the good fight.

People make decisions they feel are justified, even when those decisions are wrong.

Leaders make decisions based on what will benefit their followers the most, for both the short and long term. Who decides what counts as a benefit? Well, the leader of course. Sometimes that means putting aside one’s own personal opinions or beliefs to look at the bigger picture. Weighing possible outcomes of the decision isn’t a bad skill for a leader to have either.

Just because someone has experience or thinks they know the way, doesn’t necessarily make them a leader.

Without followers, an authority figure isn’t a leader, just a tyrant dressed in leader’s clothing.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Sample Host Family Application

October 9, 2010

Choosing host families for your international education or language program takes significant time and effort. Matching prospective students with families willing to open their hearts and home to a foreign student who is studying English as a Second Language (or any other language or subject, for that matter) requires skill, patience, background checks and a fine balance between working with the people that you have in your pool of students and families and ensuring that some basic requirements are met.

The first step in setting up your host family selection process is to develop your host family application. The application needs to include more than just the name and address of the family. You also want to ask questions about lifestyle, such us: do they allow smoking in the home?

The local police service in many communities will perform security checks for a small fee. Adult members of the household should include a police security check, as you will want to know if anyone in the household has had criminal charges brought against them, or if there have been incidents of domestic violence in the home.

The more questions you ask up front, the better chance you’ll have of selecting excellent families to host your students.

Here’s a sample host or billet family application that you can download and adapt to your own needs. Remember to include a statement about privacy if your area requires you to do so when you collect personal information.

Related posts:


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Free, online resources on how to take notes in university

October 4, 2010

Know someone in university or college who struggles with note taking? Here are a few excellent free, online resources that offer practical tips, strategies and advice.

Taking Class and Lecture notes
Dartmouth College site on note taking. Scroll to the bottom of the page for even more resources.

Note Taking Skills from Lectures and Readings
Exeter University (U.K.) page on taking good notes. There are other links directly under the main title of the article to related pages. Good stuff here.

Taking and making notes
Page from St. Andrew’s University (UK). I like this page because it takes a strength-based approach to note-taking.

Taking notes from Textbooks
University of Athabasca page on how to take notes from textbook. Very practical advice on how to get the most out of your textbooks.

Note taking at University
This page is a little text-heavy and definitely worth the time. It’s jam-packed full of useful strategies for note taking.


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Interview with Felix Wöhler: Leading by Example Series

October 4, 2010

This series is dedicated to highlighting the impact made by exemplary literacy and language professionals who lead by example. They share their inspirational tips and stories. In this article I’m pleased to showcase the work of Felix Wöhler, owner and manager of an English as a Second Language (ESL) school in Ontario, Canada.

What is your name, affiliation, and connection to language learning?

The school name is English Encounters (formerly Bronte Language Centre) and we have been in business since 1986.  We are fully accredited by Languages Canada for our ESL Program.

In your opinion, what’s the most important aspect of managing a language school?

The most important thing is to provide students with an enjoyable and useful language learning experience.

There are very few people who have bought a pre-existing language school. That makes you a pioneer of sorts. I think readers would be very interested to hear about your experience. What were the best and worst aspects of this experience for you?

The best part was not having to build everything from scratch.  I “inherited” an existing database of agents, students, and staff as well as an existing online and physical location.  This made the takeover relatively seamless in the sense that, in contrast to starting a school from zero, I was fully operational from day one.  On the other hand, the fact that all these aspects had already been established meant that there was a long period of adjustment – for both myself and staff, and to a lesser extent, for students – to each others’ way of doing things.

It took me a long time to truly “identify” with the school. At the beginning, it always felt like I was managing someone else’s business.  However, over the past year, I have worked closely together with my team and helped recreate and improve the school in a way I really feel I can identify with and am, in fact, very proud of.  This includes renaming the school, relocating to a brand new facility in a neighbouring city – a location we feel is far better-suited for student needs, decorating the new premises, redoing the website, getting accredited by Languages Canada, and creating new and improved programs and curricula.

What is it that you like best about owning your own language school?

The most rewarding aspect of owning my own language school is meeting students from all over the world and seeing their English improve as they enjoy their time in Canada with us.  Many of our students have become very close and it is wonderful to see how they keep in touch and refer their friends and family members.

What do you see for the future of language learning?

Language learning in the future will become increasing important as the world continues to globalize. To that end,  more and more people will need a second language, particularly English, which seems well-placed to become a global lingua franca. For language schools, the challenge is to provide language training that is both attainable and enjoyable.  At the same time, the high demand for English training means that large amounts of students can become concentrated in popular areas or language schools.  The problem with that, is the strong tendency for these students to break off into ethnic groups and revert to their 1st language in all out-of-class activities.  The strategy at English Encounters, therefore, is to provide a small, student-centred learning environment in a smaller city where the likelihood of finding many speakers of languages other than English is much lower.  This makes our school the ideal place for true immersion and language training.

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