Huge amounts of time and money are spent on sales and marketing to get new students to your language courses. But what about the former ones? Here is our latest article with some ideas on what to do to with your ex-learners once the course is over.
Buying a television
It’s 1983. A door-to-door salesman comes to your door and gives you a great pitch about his wonderful new colour television set. You invite him in to your house, he sets up the TV with the antenna on top and you are impressed by the quality of the colour image you see for the first time in the comfort of your living room. You buy the TV without hesitation and buy another one 8 years later yourself because you can’t get hold of the salesman, who is nowhere to be seen.
It’s 2015, you go to buy a brand-new HD television at the local electronics store. You have peruse a few, and then you’re mind is made up on one that has all the latest features: Wi-fi, HDMI, 3D, … the whole shebang. You ask the assistant to help you with the order. “Certainly sir”, he replies “But first of all, let me take you through the options and guarantees…”. An hour later, you’ve got an extra 3 year guarantee on top of the original 2 year one, you’ve paid an upfront annual subscription to the TV online app store to buy games, movies and music and you’ve also just bought a nice coffee machine with a discount that the store gave you. You feel happy and yet bemused at the same time that you’ve nearly spent double what you had set out to this morning. What is sure is that you’re now tied to this store for the foreseeable future.
Products v Services
In language training, we’re starting to look at courses as products a lot more than as a service. Offers are being packaged better, upsells (adding things on to the initial offer) are becoming more frequent.
However, students still come and go. Some do come back. If you work with companies, then the renewal rate is far higher than if the student is paying himself. Getting them back again can be hard work and quite a hit-and-miss process. The overwhelming positive thing is that there is trust now between you and the student. They know and trust your school. Yet that is not enough to get them signing up again, especially in such a crowded market place, and so here are some simple techniques designed to keep your school attractive and hopefully interested in coming back again for a second helping.
8 tips to follow-up with your language students
Offer distance training classes
In 2002, I helped created an elearning product in English. It was called the Englishizer and was based on a concept of translating and retranslating pieces of text and then comparing them with the proper versions. It was mainly aimed at professionals. It was sold at around 75 euros per module. It was very difficult to sell as a stand alone product. However, what was interesting was that it was much more successful as an upsell, as a complementary product to the main language course. Students naturally accepted it as part and parcel of the course, and most carried out the exercise once their main course was finished.
If you have a good distance learning offer, then it might be worth considering creating a blended offer that includes the main language course integrated with preparatory and/or follow-up classes / exercises. That’s the first step. The second step would be to gradually make the blended offer as your default, go-to product offer. If students don’t want the remote module, that’s fine, you can always take it off. But the follow-up classes, whether they be telephone, Skype, elearning or mobile will be an excellent way to maintain a relationship with the student with lots of opportunities to entice him back to the school another time.
Get a testimonial through social networking
It would be great if all your students are hooked up on one of the social media platforms you use before the course. Perhaps they first heard about you through Facebook or Twitter. Great! But for me, it’s even more important to keep in contact with them this way after the course is over. For example, if they have a Google account, then they more than likely now have a default Google Plus account, which means that if your school has a Google Plus page or is on Google Places for Business, then they can write a review of their time there with you, including a number of stars out of 5. This will then show up in Google when people look for your school, and even through keywords if your SEO is done well.
Keep sharing through social media
The student is gone but you must not be forgotten. All the things about sharing content to entice people you don’t know stand true for people you do know. In fact, it is even more important. Do you know why? Because those students that know and like you are going to be your salesmen, sharing your great content with people they know but you don’t. So all the videos, articles, quizzes, white papers, modules, tests you send out should be shared by your students and this will not only bring in potential leads to your school, but also will help your SEO through what’s called your trust rank (the new “page rank”).
Do a follow-up quality control training evaluation
This is covered in my last article on questionnaires. Look at point 9. The benefits are enormous, both for your school and for the learner himself.
Send out regular newsletters
There are some very good marketing departments in language schools that send out campaigns for their courses based on the how they’ve segmented their newsletter list. Let’s say you’ve taught a student who is 23 and who came for an English course and left with a level A2 on the CEFR. Well, all follow-up newsletter campaigns will be targeted for his age-range, geographical location and level. This is called marketing using demographics, and one day all advertising online and offline will be using it. It is obviously a lot easier to use demographics when the student has actually been with you and you know all about him rather than as a prospect, the idea being how to get him back for another course.
Offer different learning packages
Product development is a key part of business growth. Aside from distance learning (see point 1), there are lots of different types of course you can offer to your students who might be in search of something else, for example:
- A different method (perhaps different types of classes, with a different intensity)
- Different social activities
- Different cultural activities
- Different learning environment
- Bring the family next time
- Different language
- Different location
If you work with partner schools or if you work in a network, then there are probably some ways to promote other courses elsewhere and get a commission on the sale.
Make sure you wish them happy birthday
One of the tips that Dale Carnegie recommended in his seminal book “How to Make Friends and Influence People” is always taking a note of the birthdays of people you meet, and getting yourself organised so that on their birthday they receive a little message from you. MailChimp, the emailing platform I use, even has a built-in feature to make it easy for you. You can set it up and forget about it. You can even offer a birthday discount (if you are so inclined).
Run an online group for your ex-students
It is now very easy to set up invite-only groups and communities with Facebook and Google Plus. You can do so for all of your ex-students (and have them follow your Facebook or Google Plus page automatically at the same time). However, you must of course provide value in this group. You could run free, regular virtual classes where people can join for a quick brush up, access to free videos, help with translations and specific questions. Of course you need to animate the community too, and hopefully over time people will participate with each other rather than just with you.
It’s difficult to put a specific objective on the percentage of students that should be coming back. It really depends on the type of school or language training business you provide. If you are running private, online or business language classes, then it should be a lot easier for students to renew than if they’ve taken a plane and are coming to you from another country. Following up with your former students takes time, organisation and a lot of motivation, but it is also an opportunity for generating more leads. A vibrant online community (where you can prove your quality and get prospects to trust you) is now becoming an essential step in your marketing strategy. Your former students must be part of this.
As ever, I’d love to hear some comments. It would be good to get your feedback. It would be great for you to share this article to with your networks by clicking on one of the buttons below. Thank you!
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