How to market your language or literacy program: Build trust over time

October 30, 2011

If you send prospective students a brochure or answer an e-mail, they are not very likely to register in your program. Here’s why…

Marketers tell us that we need to see an advertisement or hear a message at least seven times before we are likely to buy a product. Sales professionals say that it can take anywhere between five and 27 “touches” or contact with a prospective buyer before they are convinced to make a purchase from you.

What does that mean for language programs and literacy organizations? It means that we can not simply send out a brochure to a student and reasonable expect that suddenly he or she will want to register in our program.

The “drip theory” recommends regular, repeated contact – at least six or seven times – with a prospect to ensure that your name sticks in her mind. This does not mean sending out six or seven copies of the same brochure! There is a difference between “dripping” and “bombarding” or worse yet, “stalking”.

Each “touch” needs to be different — and still relevant. For example, connecting via e-mail, followed by sending a brochure, followed a week later by an invitation to register, followed by a couple of monthly newsletters.

The timing of each contact is also important. Bombarding someone in seven different ways in a very short period of time is more likely to turn them off than to convince them that they want to join your program. There is no one perfect formula for how often you should connect with your prospects… Once a week or a few times a week seems to be an accepted norm in the educational and non-profit sectors. There seems to be a lower tolerance for repeated contact in a short period of time with prospects in the social sectors than there is in the business sectors.

In my PhD research, I found that it can take anywhere from two to five years to get a new language program off the ground. That is the “sales cycle” for English as an Additional Language (ESL / EFL / EAL / ESOL) programs. It can also take up to two years to convert a prospective student into a current student.

In Guerrilla Marketing for NonProfits, authors Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins and Chris Forbes talk about how non-profit organizations often give up too soon. They expect to see results NOW. If they do not get an immediate response (which is highly unlikely) they give up. In fact, they say that most non-profits give up on new programs just before they hit the point of success.

If you get an e-mail address for the prospect and you can send monthly updates about what is going on in your program, you will be using yet another medium to show your prospects that you have not forgotten about them.

Ideally, you want to combine different types of contact: social media, mail, e-mail, phone calls and personal contact. This is not always easy in an international marketplace, but do try for repeated contact in a variety of ways.

If you don’t get any response after several tries, then you can change the prospect from active to inactive in your database. In any case, you are more likely to get more registrants by using the drip effect than by sending an initial brochure and nothing else.

Here are seven ways to help you market your language or literacy program consistently

1) List all of the methods you use to connect with your prospective learners (phone, e-mail, drop-in, brochures, etc.).

2) Set up a spreadsheet with each method of contact across the top.

3) Every time a prospect contacts you, ask for his or her contact information.

4) Note the date that you made contact under the appropriate column.

5) Make an effort to stay in touch with the prospective learner, at least once a week, using a different method each time.

6) If a prospective student shows a preference for a particular type of communication, use that one more often. For example, if a prospective student does not respond to e-mails, but calls or Skypes, then make a note of it. At least once, take the initiative to connect with the prospect in the way that they prefer. It’s about them, after all.

7) Track how many prospective students actually end up enrolling in your program and how long it takes. You may be surprised to find that it take  longer than you think it will, or longer than you would like it to. This does not mean that should try to accelerate that cycle. That can often backfire and turn prospects off. It is useful, however, to show you how long prospective learners may take to make a decision.

It’s not about trying to force them to make a decision faster. It is about cultivating trust and building a relationship with them so that when they are ready to make a decision, they choose your program because they feel that they know you and that you care about them. When the time comes for them to make their decision, trust will often be the factor that sways people one way or another. If you haven’t built the trust with them over time, they may never register. That takes time. In the long run, it is worth it.


This post is adapted from “Idea #17: Be a Drip ” in 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.

How to Use Webinars for Literacy: PD, Programming and Promotion

October 28, 2011

A huge thank you to our participants and speakers today who participated in the online discussion on how to use webinars for professional development, programming and promotion in the literacy field.

Our speakers

Allison Mullin is the manager of communications and marketing at the Ontario Literacy Coalition (OLC), after previously working in the communications departments of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the City of Calgary. As part of it’s strategy to provide professional development opportunities for those working in the literacy field in Ontario, the OLC has been hosting a webinar series for the past year on a wide variety of topics.

 Courtney Hare is a Financial Literacy Facilitator for the non-profit organization in Calgary called Momentum. She is a certified Training Practitioner and holds an MA in Education from the University of Calgary where she got her start moderating and facilitating E-learning and online presentations. She is now looking for ways to further engage learners who may have barriers to accessing face-to-face workshops or learners who prefer to engage online. She is in the process of establishing the first E-learning module for a Momentum’s program called “StartSmart.”

Laura Godfrey is the Manager of Learning Links Resource Centre in Calgary, where she manages the development and operations of the centre. A graduate of the Southern Alberta Institute of Tecnology’s Library and Information Technology program, LearningLinks is the fifth library she has had a hand in setting up and running.

Each of the speakers is at a different point along the “continuum of development” for webinars. Allison heads up a successful webinar series that regularly has sessions filled over capacity. Courtney is beginning to prepare webinars for her organization. Laura is just starting to ask questions about webinars for literacy.

Laura provided a number of questions to guide today’s discussion:

  1. We’re a non-profit. How do we cover the costs of doing a webinar?
  2. Do we have to buy special software?
  3. How do we pick a topic to cover in a webinar?
  4. How long does it need to be?
  5. Can we record it and how can we make it available to others later?
  6. How tech savvy do you need to be in order to do this?
  7. Do you need to hire a speaker or can anyone do the speakers job?
  8. Who else is doing webinars in the literacy and adult education field?
  9. Why should we do this?
  10. Are there chances to collaborate with other groups?

Check out the webinar recording

In addition to our pre-arranged speakers, kudos also go to Dr. Jenny Horsman and Dr. Peggy Albers, both of whom shared insights from their own experiences about doing webinars in the literacy field.

Resources that were shared by participants today

Global Conversations in Literacy Research – A webinar series presented by Dr. Peggy Albers and hosted at Georgia State University

Camtasia – a video-capture software

RGK Foundation – Learning grants (USA only)

MacArthur Foundation Granting agency (USA only)

Techsoup – Technology resources for non-profits

Ontario Literacy Coalition Spotlight on Learning – OLC’s archived webinars

Learning and Violence – This site contains resources and archived webinars

Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) – Clearing house of e-learning, video conferencing and webinars for K-12, educator PD and community education

Stock Exchange – Free stock photography site (requires registration)

Nancy Duarte – Best practices and resources for slide presentations

Twitter handles of some of today’s participants





I enjoyed the resources and information that everyone shared today. It was an open group who was willing to give ideas and share what they knew.

For me, this was one of the most technically challenging webinars I’ve done in a while. For some reason, I couldn’t hear participants while my own mic was turned on, which meant that I ended up “talking over” people without even knowing that they were trying to speak. My apologies for the rudeness! I can assure it that it was not at all intentional.

I am so grateful to everyone for their participation today. YOU made it worthwhile!


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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.

University’s Proposed Social Media Policy Results in Student Protests

October 27, 2011

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released an article about an article about how a university’s proposed social media policy backfired on them. Reporter Alexandra Rice reports in “University’s Proposed Social-Media Policy Draws Cries of Censorship” that students at Sam Houston State University didn’t take kindly to the administration having access — and editing privileges — to their social media accounts.

The university released a new social media portal called Social Universe was deemed to be a one-stop portal for social media users at the university. The original policy draft indicated that any department or organization  that joined with a university e-mail account would be required to surrender their account passwords to the university, thus giving the university the right to oversee and edit activity on all accounts.

Essentially, this meant that any student, staff, faculty, department or student club with a Facebook, Twitter or any number of other online accounts that was registered with a university e-mail address could be monitored, edited, censored or even deleted by the university.

The students cried censorship. They staged a demonstration against the policy that included a “free speech wall”. That resulted in campus police citing students for creating a public disturbance… a situation which rolled itself into a second “free speech wall” later on.

In my humble opinion, if this university truly wanted to craft an effective social media policy, it would involve its users. By this I don’t just mean having reps from the student union sit on a committee, but I mean a large-scale public conversations over a period of time with all social media users at the institution.

Writing social media policies is tricky business. As this university found out, social media belongs to its users, not any one service or organization.

Policy makers are used to having all the authority when it comes to developing procedures, processes, and behaviour guidelines. Social media, social networking, flash mobs convened via Twitter and text and other forms of social interaction using technology have changed all that.

Power to the people has a whole new meaning in the era of social media. Policy-makers need to involve people, not tell them what to do. The old ways aren’t working any more, so find new ones that will.

Related article: Anatomy of a social media policy


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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.

Thanksgiving, gratitude and appreciation: activities with a high-school ESL class

October 26, 2011

Sarah Eaton and Farida Garrett at James Fowler High School: Collaborators on a Lesson in Gratitude

Recently I was invited to speak at James Fowler High School in Calgary to a group of English as a Second Language (ESL) students from the Philippines, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kenya and other countries. The theme was gratitude and appreciation.

My invitation was to visit the class two times. The first time was two weeks ago, during which we incorporated the theme of Canadian Thanksgiving, which had just passed. Today was my second visit to the school. I got to work with the students on their gratitude journals, which they started earlier in the project.

Here’s how we structured the session:


  • Learn about Thanksgiving as a celebration
  • Learn new vocabulary around giving thanks
  • Increase students’ awareness of what it means to give thanks and be grateful
  • Develop an understanding of gratitude as a personal, social and cultural practice.

Artifacts, realia and props

  • A pumpkin
  • A banana bread made by the students’ teacher, Mrs. Farida Garrett (It was her idea to share the cake to symbolize “breaking bread” together)
  • Letter blocks that spelled out “Give Thanks”


  • markers
  • coloured pencils
  • glue sticks
  • glue gun
  • stickers
  • flip chart paper

Session #1: Activities

Saying thanks – Students shared how they say “thank you” in their native languages. Then, they wrote out the word(s) on a flip chart paper.

Vocabulary building – The words “thanksgiving”, “gratitude”, “gratefulness” and “appreciate” were written out on flip chart paper. Mrs. Garrett drilled students on how to pronounce the words. We worked with students to help them use the words in sentences.

Brief on Thanksgiving – We talked about the celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, how it originated and what it means.

Making a thank you card – Students made their own thank you cards and thought about who they’d like to give their card to.

In between my first visit and second visit to the school, the students started a gratitude journal.

Session #2 Activities

Review the new vocabulary.

Review what the celebration of Thanksgiving is about.

Students developed their gratitude journals, contributing writing and drawings about what they were grateful for. We asked them to express their appreciation for their family, teacher, school, community and country. Students generated their own ideas about what they appreciated.

What an amazing group of resilient, bright young students Mrs. Fowler has. At the beginning of the first session, students were hesitant to talk and seemed baffled when they were asked to think about people in their lives that they appreciated and why they were grateful to them. By the end of our second session, the students were talking openly about who makes a difference in their lives and why they are grateful to them. In two weeks, they grew leaps and bounds in their personal development, as they learned that recognizing others  and appreciating them is a significant part of cultivating meaningful relationships.

Who deserves your thanks today?


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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.

How to Do a Screen Capture on Your Mac

October 24, 2011

Last week in the Build Your Own Webinar course that I’m teaching we were talking about the various ways to make your slides and handouts engaging. If you are demonstrating something technical, one of the ways to show people what you mean is to include a screen capture from your computer.

There are a number of Mac users in the course and one of them asked how to do a screen capture (also called a “screen shot”).

So, Jennifer, this one is for you.


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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.

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