Marketing tip: Ask your students where they heard about you

August 20, 2011

This is a simple way of determining which method of marketing works for your language or literacy program: Ask your students how they heard about you. Do most of your students find out about you through the Internet? …word of mouth? …your brochure? … trade fairs? Once you figure out what has proven most successful, you will know where to focus more of your marketing dollars.

I suggest getting this valuable information in writing. Whether it is through an evaluation form or an exit interview where the results are recorded, get the information in concrete written form. Compare it from year to year. See if your most successful marketing strategy changes over time.

Of course, we know that word of mouth is the most powerful way to market your program. If the majority of your students come to you through word of mouth, then you are very lucky. Most language schools need to combine word of mouth with other marketing efforts.

But what other marketing efforts are successful for you? You may be surprised. You may be pouring thousands of dollars into a fancy brochure and find out that 85% of your students used the Internet to find you. If that is the case, you would want to drive more of your marketing dollars into the Internet (maybe pay for a higher ranking on a search engine or get a banner ad onto other people’s sites). Once you know what has proven successful, you can use that information to generate even more interest and registrations.
Marketing materials: tools and tips to do the job better

This post is adapted from “Idea #18” in 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program

________________

Share or Tweet this post: Marketing tip: Ask your students where they heard about you http://wp.me/pNAh3-wA

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) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Advertisements

The economic impact of language programs on communities

September 3, 2010

When cities and communities talk about the industries that contribute to their economy, rarely is education mentioned. That’s because traditionally, education and business have been seen as two distinct sectors. But we know that like it or not, the model is changing. Private language schools, business colleges and technical training institutes – just to name a few types of educational institutions — receive little to no money from government. They must operate like a business in order to keep their doors open. At the same time, they are always under the microscope when it comes to the quality of their programs, as often they are harshly scrutinized by their peers in more traditional programs that are funded, at least in part, by the government.

Nowadays those traditional programs are prodded to recover costs, or even to generate revenue. The traditional schools can learn a lot from the private schools when it comes to operating, budgeting and forecasting.

What both types of schools have in common, I believe, is that generally they are disregarded, however unintentionally, by business and even political or governing bodies when it comes to being seen as a force that contributes significant money to the community of which they are a part. In some cases, language programs housed at large post-secondary institutions are sometimes shunned by the same senior administrators or administrative committees that challenge them to be financially self-sufficient, while the business and science faculties never worry about such matters. I believe that part of the reason is that we ourselves do not view what we do as business, and as a result, we don’t always recognize the value that we contribute to our own communities.

I would suggest that language schools and programs today are in a unique position. The reality is that we are being asked to recruit more students, generate revenue and be self-sustaining. At the same time, they must maintain the highest of academic standards. Those who run them are both educators and business people. And sometimes it seems the rest of the world simply has not caught up when it comes to respecting the work that we do and the reality of our business. Before we can ask others to do this, we must do it for ourselves.

In August, 2003 I was interviewed on the local TV news about the effect that the war in Iraq, SARS, mad cow disease and West Nile Virus had on language school enrollments in Calgary, the city where I live. Before the interview, I did some basic research about language schools in my community and I was surprised by the results. I found out that the decrease in student enrollment due to these events could have a significant economic impact.

Let me say now that these estimates were my own calculations, based on my knowledge of the local market and experience working in the industry in this city at the time. Here are what my estimates showed:

Information and research about language schools in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (2003)

* There are about 50 language schools and programs in and around Calgary. This includes private schools, programs at post-secondary institutions and other programs. It does not include private tutors or home-based language classes

*  Most foreign students who came here to study English are from Japan, Korea, Mexico and Taiwan. Many came in groups and are recruited by agents.

* In summer, about 1500 foreign students were in Calgary each month to study English. Schools are not required to release enrollment data and I based this number on my knowledge of the language study industry in Calgary. But if you take 50 language schools and divide it by 1500 students, you can easily see that this is a conservative estimate of 30 students per school, per month. Most schools may have had many more than that number and others would have  had just a few.

* In the remaining months, that drops to about 750 students per month. This is also a very conservative average of 15 students per school, per month.

I used conservative numbers on purpose, so as not to artificially inflate the numbers generated in the next portion of the research – the economic impact of language students studying in our city:

* Each student will spend approximately $2500 per month during their stay, calculated as follows:

$1000 tuition and books for a full-time program of 25 hours per week (includes examinations and other supplies.)

$750 homestay / accommodation and food

$750 travel, entertainment and shopping (about $187.50 per week, including transit fares, excursions to local attractions, dinners out, visits to local bars, movies, museums, activities, summer festivals, souvenirs, day trips out of town, etc.)

Using these numbers, I estimated that foreign students added $3,750,000 to Calgary’s economy each month during the summer (July and August) and another $1,875,000 during each of the other ten months of the year. That’s an estimated grand total of $26,250,000 that foreign students add to Calgary’s economy each year when they come here to study full time in a language school.

To add some perspective to those numbers, you’ll want to remember that at the time that informal study was conducted Calgary’s population was expected to reach 1 million people. It has since surpassed that number. Ours is a fairly wealthy whose economy is driven by oil and gas and ranching, as well as tourism and sports, among other industries.

There are larger cities in Canada like Vancouver and Toronto. I wonder how much money that language schools generate for their economies? What does your language school or program contribute to your city’s economy? What do all the language schools in your city or province contribute to its economy? I have long wanted to conduct a study on the economic impact of ESL programs across Canada. My hypothesis is that it education professionals, government representatives and business people alike would be astounded at the results.

By educating ourselves on how much we contribute to our local economy, we become aware that we are inter-connected with the greater community and it benefits from our “business”. In a city like Calgary where the main industry is oil and gas, $26 million may not be much, but I can assure you that if I asked 100 people in our city how much they thought foreign language students contribute to our economy, they wouldn’t even come close to guessing that much.

Who is financially affected when language school enrollment drops?

* language schools  (ESL programs, in particular)

* language teachers (Most work on contract and when there are no students, there are no jobs)

* local families who act as host families and get paid to billet students

* restaurants, bars, movie theatres

* the tourist industry

* the transit systems (bus, subway, etc.)

The next time you need to make a pitch to senior administration for more space; the next time you try to negotiate a special deal on bus passes for students at your school or the next time you have trouble arranging a group rate for your students to go to a museum, have your own estimates in hand. If you don’t have those estimates, hire someone to help you calculate them.

Share your research with others in your community. Make a presentation at your local Chamber of Commerce, community meeting or faculty council. This will benefit you in three ways. First, you will gain publicity for your own school. Second, you will help to educate others in the community about exactly how much the language school “business” contributes to your local economy. Finally, you may start a dialogue between different stakeholders of your community about this very topic, which is even more important than simply giving them facts.

If we are going to be asked to operate and think like businesses, then we deserve the respect that is due to an industry that can contribute significant amounts of money to our local economy. Not only do we educate students, we contribute positively to the economy of our own community in the process. In fact, I would say that it is our responsibility as language school administrators and marketers to be aware of the impact we have beyond the doors of our own schools and into the greater community.

What is your language school worth? I challenge you to figure it out. I think you’ll be surprised.

(This article was adapted from a previously published article that appeared in “Language School Marketing and Recruitment e-newsletter, March 15/04”, Vol. 2, Issue 6. © 2004. This research was later presented at a forum at the University of Calgary in 2006. Download a copy of the research paper from ERIC.)

Related posts:

Research: ESL programs boost Calgary’s economy by $26M+ per year 

New Report: The Economic ROI of Adult Education Programs

______________________________

Share this post: The economic impact of language programs on communities http://wp.me/pNAh3-2x


Research: ESL programs boost Calgary’s economy by $26M+ per year

September 2, 2010

How much money do ESL students bring into our city every year? That’s a question I asked myself a few years ago. I undertook an informal study to answer the question. I presented the results at an educational research forum at the University of Calgary. Then I dove right back into my PhD studies and examination preparations, leaving the study to gather dust.

I found the paper a little while ago and wanted to share it with you. I’ll be honest and say that the study was very informal, conducted out of a burning desire to have the research question answered, nothing more. I’d love to develop the work more fully at some point. If you know of others researching the economic impact of second and foreign language programs – particularly English as a Second Language, please leave a comment!

You can download the full paper from ERIC here:

Business with words: Language programs that generate revenue and impact communities

URL: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED511632

Sarah Elaine Eaton, Ph.D. candidate
Presentation given at the Educational Research Forum
Faculty of Education, University of Calgary
July 18, 2006

Abstract
This paper examines the examines the  “business” of language programs. In particular, it focuses on the economic impact of English as a Second language programs physically located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada which draw and serve foreign students.  The impact such programs have on the wider community will also be explored. The results show that foreign students who study ESL in Calgary contribute a grand total of $26,250,000 to the city’s economy each year.

Read the whole paper (9 pages) on Scribd:

Business With Words

View this document on Scribd

Related posts:

__________________

Share this post: Research: ESL programs boost Calgary’s economy by $26M+ per year http://wp.me/pNAh3-iv

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) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Is your language program under the threat of closure? Strategies to rebuild program health

September 1, 2010

Are enrollments in your language program dropping? Is your program under the threat of closure due to low registrations? Here are some strategies that may help.

Saving a language program from closure takes a dedication and strategic planning. The best thing you can do for any educational program that gets a failing grade when it comes to its own sustainability is create positive buzz about it. Get people excited about the impact that learning a language can have! Or at the very least, catch their attention. Here are a few ideas:

1. Every semester plan second or foreign language events.

Events are important. Think about it. School sports tournaments generate interest in physical activity. Science fairs generate interest in science and math. Performances and recitals highlight the importance of dance and music. Events generate buzz and may even get media coverage.

Events can include:

Native Speakers’ Day – Bring in native speakers who are successful and could be considered role models to come into the school to give presentations on their work, their life, their travels, their culture or whatever inspires them. Get bios for each speaker and have students prepare questions to ask them.

Second Language Speech Competition – Bring in “celebrity” judges from your local community who speak the target language (politicians eat this stuff up and we’ve had good success getting both local,  provincial support and even embassy support for speech competitions).

Cultural celebration day – Have students showcase their work through videos, poster presentations and demonstrations. They can prepare food, perform a dance (or better yet, give a short dance class) or have a sing-along. Make the students who are currently enrolled in the program the focus of the entire day. Invite parents and community stake-holders to observe, drop by and share in the celebration. Having a local “celebrity” native speaker to offer opening and closing remarks or emcee the day is a huge boost.

The idea behind all of these is to get involvement from people in the community. This not only generates interest, when we get outsiders involved, it also builds credibility and legitimacy. These events take a huge amount of organization and they are absolutely worth it.

2. Communicate the importance of languages with passion. For all of the above, work with your school secretary, principles and district communications office to send out press releases. I guarantee you that if your events get media coverage, you will generate interest. There is an art to writing press releases, and often school districts have strict protocols around communications, so working with your admin team and district is not only helpful, it is essential.

3. Have a contest – any kind of contest – with the students enrolled in your program. My favorite is a video contest on centered around a key question. My favorite is “How does learning a language change your world?” You can get more details on this particular activity in my downloadable ebook – “Want to Change the World? Learn Another Language: Leadership Inspired by Language Learning ebook” at http://wp.me/PNAh3-5H

If your school allows it, students can post their videos on YouTube. Their friends see it… they get talking, and interest in your program goes up.

Come up with your own ideas for contests. Start small and let the idea take hold and then grow over time.

There is no short-term solution to the issue of dropping enrollments in any educational program. Events that engage the community are critical in generating interest, creating buzz and boosting program morale. The trick is to invite people from a broad audience who have an interest in what you’re doing. Go beyond the idea of  “round up the usual suspects”. Even if you invite new people and they don’t come, they’ll at least have you on their radar, which is a good thing.

Doing events consistently, such as once a semester, builds credibility over time. You can’t do one event and expect that to save a failing program. Think of it as re-building your program’s health. Go for long-term health and vibrancy, not just a band-aid solution. Nourish your program’s health on a regular basis, so it can grow strong and shine.

Consistently celebrating students work, adding in the element of community, getting a local celebrity native speaker or two to champion your program and getting some positive media coverage will all contribute significantly to bolstering the program’s image and generating interest. Do that for several months and you’ll see some positive buzz about your program start to generate more interest. More interest means more investment. Sometimes, emotional, pedagogical and community investment in programs is the best thing to rebuild your program’s health.

If you found this article useful, check out my other site full of free, downloadable resources: MarketYourLanguageProgram.com

_____________

Share or Tweet this post: Is your language program under the threat of closure? Strategies to rebuild program health http://wp.me/pNAh3-hx

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) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Strategies to increase enrollments in language programs

August 18, 2010

It breaks my heart when I hear about programs that have decreasing enrollment or worse, under threat of closure due to low enrollment. From my experience of working with schools and programs over the past decade I can honestly say that there is no “magic bullet” in a situation like this. It will take time for the program to rebuild. If you teach for or manage a program that needs a boost in enrollment, here are some strategies that may help:

1. Every semester plan an event around the language. Events can include:

Native Speakers’ Day – Bring in native speakers who are successful and could be considered role models to come into the school to give presentations on their work, their life, their travels, their culture or whatever inspires them. Get bios for each speaker and have students prepare questions to ask them.

Second Language Speech Competition – Bring in “celebrity” judges from your local community who speak the target language (politicians eat this stuff up and we’ve had good success getting both local,  provincial support and even embassy support for speech competitions).

Cultural celebration day – Have students showcase their work through videos, poster presentations and demonstrations. They can prepare food, perform a dance (or better yet, give a short dance class) or have a sing-along. Make the students who are currently enrolled in the program the focus of the entire day. Invite parents and community stake-holders to observe, drop by and share in the celebration. Having a local “celebrity” native speaker to offer opening and closing remarks or emcee the day is a huge boost.

The idea behind all of these is to get involvement from people in the community. This not only generates interest, when we get outsiders involved, it also builds credibility and legitimacy. These events take a huge amount of organization and I can tell you for sure, they are absolutely worth it.

2. Get media coverage. It breaks my heart when I hear about programs that have decreasing enrollment or worse, under threat of closure due to low enrollment. From my experience of working with schools and programs over the past decade I can honestly say that there is no “magic bullet” in a situation like this. It will take time for the program to rebuild. Here are some strategies that may help:

3. Have a contest – any kind of contest – with the students enrolled in your program. My favorite is a video contest on centered around a key question. My favorite is “How does learning a language change your world?” You can get more details on this particular activity in my downloadable ebook – “Want to Change the World? Learn Another Language: Leadership Inspired by Language Learning ebook” at http://wp.me/PNAh3-5H

If your school allows it, students can post their videos on YouTube. Their friends see it… they get talking, and interest in your program goes up.

There is no short-term solution for a language program that is in need of “program rescue”, but consistently celebrating students work, adding in the element of community, getting a local celebrity native speaker or two to champion your program and getting some positive media coverage will all contribute significantly to bolstering the program’s image and generating interest. Do that for several months and you’ll see your enrollments go up bit by bit. all of the above, work with your school secretary, principles and district communications office to send out press releases. I guarantee you that if your events get media coverage, you will generate interest. There is an art to writing press releases, and often school districts have strict protocols around communications, so working with your admin team and district is not only helpful, it is essential.

There is no short-term solution to your question, but consistently celebrating students work, adding in the element of community, getting a local celebrity native speaker or two to champion your program and getting some positive media coverage will all contribute significantly to bolstering the program’s image and generating interest. Do that for several months and you’ll see your enrollments go up bit by bit.

______________

Share or Tweet this post: Strategies to increase enrollments in language programs http://wp.me/pNAh3-gR

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) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


University’s English Language Program accreditation revoked

May 10, 2010

Inside Higher Ed has just released a news article entitled “Entangling Alliance” that reports that the English Language Institute at the University of South Florida has its accreditation revoked by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), an international standards and accreditation organization for English language programs. The function of the CEA is similar to that of Languages Canada, which grants accreditation to language schools in Canada.

The CEA reportedly revoked USF’s accreditation after it entered into a partnership with a company called “INTO University Partnerships” a private firm which handles the marketing, recruitment and student services for international students, including English as a Second Language Programming. Inside Higher Ed quoted Theresa O’Donnell, Executive Director of the CEA, saying “We did not accredit the partnership, we accredited the University of South Florida’s English Language Institute”.

This is hot news for English Language Programs considering entering into public-private partnerships for international student recruitment and marketing or English language programming. This will no doubt have implications for the University of Southern Florida as an institution, and more importantly for its current and prospective students.


Revenue-Generating Language Programs at Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions: Emerging Themes from a Documentation Analysis

April 24, 2010

I wanted to share a research paper with you that has been published in the ERIC database. It’s from a conference I did a couple of years ago. It talks about my thesis research that was in progress at the time of the conference. My research focussed on the marketing of revenue-generating ESL programs at a Canadian post-secondary institution. It started out as a documentation analysis and then evolved to include powerful interviews with program directors. This paper, done at about the halfway point of my program, shows some of the major themes that were emerging in the research. Here’s a quick overview:

Title: “Revenue-Generating Language Programs at Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions: Emerging Themes from a Documentation Analysis”

Presented at: Canadian Society for the Study of Education, annual conference, Vancouver, Canada, 2008

Abstract: This presentation identifies emerging themes in a study combining documentation analysis (Atkinson & Coffey, 2004) and interviews that examine policy statements, promotional materials and various institutional documents from selected English as a Second Language (ESL) programs at one Canadian University. It looks at how and why ESL programs are perceived to be tools for revenue generation and some of the implications this has, both at the program and institutional levels. The philosophical, ethical and practical challenges of international marketing of educational programs that generate revenue are explored.

Full paper is available in .pdf format from ERIC: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.portal?_nfpb=true&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=Eaton%2C+Sarah&searchtype=basic&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=au&_pageLabel=RecordDetails&objectId=0900019b804095aa&accno=ED508999&_nfls=false


%d bloggers like this: