Funnel is a horrible word for us language experts. There’s surely nothing nice to be associated with a word that conjures up forcing liquid down into a hole somewhere.
But it is a word that should be an important part of your webmarketing strategy. Without a funnel, you essentially have no process of pushing students through to be clients.
A funnel is a top down process whereby you attract people to you and send them down a specific pathway until they hopefully become students. There are 3 essential rules that you must abide by to make sure a funnel is successful:
- The market from which you draw your students must be sufficiently large and continuous. At each step of the way your pool of people becomes smaller – not all people who you have successfully been in contact with become students.
- The funnel must be as automated as possible – people must be contacting you due to work you started to put into place weeks if not months before
- Every step of the funnel must be carefully implemented and tracked as improvements can constantly be made.
Over the recent years, as the individual purchaser becomes more empowered and harder to please, people assumed that having a simple website was enough to get lots of lovely people to visit them and so the ordinary funnel would simply be:
- Search “English classes in Milan” and they’d find the website of your school,
- Visit your website,
- Contact your school.
It was that simple back in the good old days because websites needed to be credible and that was enough for the interested student to fill in a contact form. Now, it’s a lot more complicated. Buy why? Why is it so hard?
The answer, dear reader, is increased competition. Your enemies are everywhere.
I’m not sure if you realise it but the language training industry is a multi-billion dollar one. Ambient Insight estimates that in 2016 the ELT industry alone will be worth over $35 billion. The British Council says that the number of English speakers will rise from 1.75 billion in 2014 to 2 billion in 2020. So that’s a lot of English lessons.
So whether you realize it consciously (because you’ve actively researched your market) or unconsciously (because you’ve noticed more competition recently but don’t know why), this means more schools, independent teachers and of course online solutions (platforms, schools, methods, etc) all vying for the interested student’s heart.
And dear reader, this means you have to fight a heck of a lot harder to capture that heart. A wilting bouquet of roses and a crumpled box of chocolates will not do it this time. We’re talking weekend trips to Paris in a luxury hotel overlooking the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of champagne waiting for you.
“Oh that’s all right Joss”, I hear you answer with amusement, “I’ll just write a few blogs and that will make sure our website looks nice and people will think we’re great. That’ll do, won’t it?” Sadly no, this is where the megafunnel comes is. It is not only where you define the source of where your students come from, but what attracts them to you, how you retain their interest and then how you can convince them to become a student. And writing a blog about irregular verbs just won’t cut it.
So ,to educate you until you’re brimming with knowledge positively bursting from your pores, I give to you the megafunnel. I have chosen the word “megafunnel” because
- it sounds cool,
- I need to show you how important it is,
- To be honest I don’t need 3) because the first 2 are so great but I can’t help having 3 bullet points each time to prove my point.
The megafunnel is the whole shebang, the whole step-by-step process that leads you to success and ROI and it is based around something I call event marketing. Yes, that’s right, more terminology.
You see, dear reader, if I may perchance remind you of the now defunct funnel from above (starting 1. Search English classes in Milan) there is no reason for the interested party to contact you except for your existence. And if I may be even bolder, I told you that you have to spend more time seducing your student than ever before, and this is done by an event. Yes, in fact, in order to get the gal, you’re going to have to “organise the party and the limousine home”.
More on events later (assuming you’re still with me. In fact, are you still there now? You are? Good. Well, hold on and strap your seatbelt in, it’s going to get bumpy).
Let’s have a look at the sequence of events, shall we? Here is the main megafunnel, and after that I will describe in detail what to do with each part. For starts, you will see that there are 5 stages:
- Market (the pool from which your potential students come)
- Inform (the are aware of who you are)
- Interest (they have shown interest in what you do)
- Lead (they have actively asked for information on your courses)
- Customer (hopefully self-explanatory. If you don’t know what this means then kindly leave. Go back to Candy Crush).
Now I have painstakingly put the first letter of each stage in bold and if you are feeling adventurous, you will notice that by putting them together, it forms an acronym called MIILC, which when said out loud pronounces MILK, of the cow variety (not soya. I hate soya milk. I tried almond milk the other day which was ok but I started thinking about how do you convert a nut into milk? And how many almonds would be needed just for once glass? Possibly thousands? And if so, I hope they have a union, it sounds awfully painful. Anyway, I digress).
Simply, you need to MIILC your audience. Geddit?
Now, so far so good, but if you’ve got any marketing experience then you’re probably mildly bemused and asking where the really good stuff is. Well, it’s coming. I told you it would be bumpy. Here is the rest of the megafunnel:
MARKET – RED
Here are 5 ways you get people to your web site – how you generate traffic. Now, I’m assuming you’re probably thinking that at least 3 if not 4) of those terms look like Greek, and I could tell you to look them up in Wikipedia, but I’m not that nasty. I like you a lot and I want to you to keep reading, so, deep breath, we’re about to go over a sleeping policeman (yes, you might have to look that one up)
White hat SEO: above-the-board ways of getting your website on to the first page of Google. I have talked about this extensively in previous posts,
Local SEO: making sure that if anybody is looking for a local supplier (based on your geographical location) then you are also on the first page (other than White Hat SEO),
Viral marketing: creating hot stuff that gets shared on social media,
Paid emailings: you buy lists of email addresses and send stuff to them,
Pay-per-click: promoting content (mainly through Google Ads and Facebook Ads).
These things are NOT mutually exclusive, and sometimes need to be done all at the same time.
INFORM – GREEN
This involves two main parts – the aforementioned “event” and having them on your website.
Basically, people want everything for free. That’s the disappointing part of the Internet. Apart from paying for how you access the Internet, people nowadays assume that they get can everything for nothing. And it’s up to you to give them something, not for nothing, but in exchange for something of value – at least their email address.
An event doesn’t have to be a one-off extravaganza (yes, I put that word in there, I’m feeling musical), it can be something as basic as a free English test, but it is something that you can promote on your web site, or even before in the red section. Other events can be webinars, e-books, free courses, free lessons, anything that is relevant and deemed worthy for the visitor to think “I’m in” and give up his or her email address.
PURPLE – INTEREST
The level of how interested they are in what you have to offer depends on how urgent their need is. Let’s say someone is looking for “English classes in Milan” (yes I know I used this example before but I only had 3 hours sleep last night) and sees an advert for your school in Google Adwords. He clicks on the ad and sees that you offer a free test. He takes the test, and boy, is it a good test: accurate, looks great, works a treat, and at the end you say “click here to get in touch with an advisor to see how we can help you go from an A2 to B1 in one month” or something to that effect. Well, because his need is urgent, and because he’s impressed with your test, and because you put into place a good “call to action”, then he contacts you. However, imagine if he’s just researching but not ready yet to make a decision – perhaps he’s looking at your competitors too. He takes the test but doesn’t want to go any further. That’s ok because he’s given you his email address, and it’s now your job to follow-up with further e-mailings and more events. When he’s ready, he’ll contact you.
BLUE – CONTACT
He contacts you and says he’s interested. He becomes a lead. Then it’s up to you to convert him into a customer (orange) but I won’t go there today.
Remember, by no means will all people who arrive at your site sign up for an event, and by no means will all people who participate in an event contact you, and by no means will all people who contact you become students. That’s why I said it’s important to have a continuous pool of people to contact from a large enough market. For example, if you target people living in Alaska to learn Dutch, then I reckon that’s a pretty small target market (though I haven’t checked. Maybe there is a HUGE market for Alaskans desperate to learn Dutch and my instincts have gone to the dogs. In which case, I’m in serious trouble).
In the megafunnel you can implement lots of smaller, more direct funnels, and you can try to optimise them as best as possible, making them more effective, discarding those that don’t give you good ROI. However, I warn you that it’s painstaking work and takes time and dedication. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the megafunnel.
This megafunnel is the step-by-step overall process behind your webmarketing. It lays down the foundations for taking concrete steps to getting people to find you, get interested in what you do, and contact you. The road is long, it is bumpy (you can unstrap the seatbelt now, journey’s over folks), but ultimately it’s worth it. And if you need any more convincing, here’s is a great presentation that shows you some statistics you should find interesting.
Call for coaching students: As of writing, I’m currently accepting new students for coaching from October onwards. If you have need for help with your branding, web site, getting students, getting started, getting to market, converting leads into students or anything else to do with sales or marketing of your language activity, then check out this page.
Joss Frimond is a sales and marketing expert for the ELT industry. He runs Linguaid, a consultancy to help language schools and independent teachers to get more students. You can find more articles and access to 2 free eBooks at www.linguaid.net/blog.
PS. The blog is off on holiday for a while. Back beginning of September!
PSS. If you have any questions about this article, I’d be happy to answer – just leave it in the comment section below.