Selling with soul
For us here at Hothouse Media, January means the return to work after a well-earned break and many of us are lucky enough to be able to travel during our Christmas holidays.
This year, team members will be travelling to Italy, the Czech Republic, France, Kenya, Martinique, Goa and Cuba. Some of us will be returning home, some of us are going on holiday, and one is planning to learn Spanish in Cuba proving that we do try to keep our fingers on the pulse and find out for ourselves about the language learning experience (while hopefully improving our language skills at the same time).
Such self-evaluation of language schools is very important to agencies as many point out that when it comes to marketing their services, trust is their best selling point; trust and recommendation from clients that their agency can genuinely recommend a good language school.
To garner trust in an agency, personal contact is required, and some agents point out that the Internet is not well used as a tool to attract new business. Nevertheless, agencies acknowledge that students are more and more likely to use the web, at least to look for a school that they have booked through an agency. Therefore, a web presence will become more important in the future in all markets, at least to profile school partners, and this is one factor explored in our Special Report about marketing strategies (pages 24-28).
Trust is an important factor for agencies, particularly for those dealing with the junior market, and parents are reported to be more concerned than ever in assuring their children are well catered for and well supervised during their language programme overseas (pages 20-22). Australia, like Malta, is one country to have picked up on heightened expectations concerning the junior sector and school association, English Australia (EA), reports that it has updated its best practice guidelines for juniors in the hope that parents and agents have "greater confidence" when dealing with an EA member school (page 12).
While nerves may be experienced by students (and parents) about a trip overseas, this is normally replaced by excitement, as students come to discover another culture and meet new friends. One school in Tokyo relates that it helps students meet local Japanese people and they often end up spending weekends with new friends (pages 40-41). Such initiatives lead to satisfied returned students, who are of course the cheapest form of marketing.