This week, regular contributor Susan Hayes, a financial training and business consultant www.thepositive based in Ireland, provides an excerpt of her latest book, a passage inspired by the language study industry on reaching hidden target markets.


Encouraging people to realize that they value what you have to offer

In 2013 I talked at the EAQUALS & EFL Conference and delivered some strategic advice to language schools. Their experience gave me the perfect example of how to find your target market, so I included it in my new book, The Savvy Guide to Making More Money. This is an excerpt from chapter 8:

When all is said and done, you’ll have a target market only if the people or companies within it actually identify themselves as such. You may actually have to tell your target market that they are your target market.

This is what I told the managers and owners of language schools at an industry conference earlier this year. I started with ‘I won’t tell you how to attract your target market, as you know how to do that already. Instead, I want to tell you about your hidden market.’ They all wanted to know who I knew that they didn’t.

Very often there is a group of people who have a problem that your offering can solve – only they don’t know it. So you need to tell them. In the case of language schools, people who are lonely, looking for new interests or have just moved to a new area may not specifically be looking for an eight-week intermediate course in French. But if they saw an advertisement in the local paper that said, ‘Looking to meet new people who share in your love of language? Check out our…’, they may very well identify themselves as such.

Similarly, there are thousands of people who may be interested in changing direction in their career, seeking promotion opportunities or ways to strengthen their CV. They could tackle this in many different ways: studying a course, gaining experience in a different role, getting professional career advice, speaking to a recruitment company about CV optimization techniques. They might also be interested in learning a language. If they were to read an advertisement that said, ‘Looking to boost your employability or to expand you career opportunities? Click here to find out how to turn your language skills into a larger paycheque’, they would be much more able to identify the school’s offering as a solution to their problem.

Language schools could also solve the problems of parents looking for summer activities for their children, and of companies working on expanding into another country. In each case, the customer has a need that could be filled by several service providers, but they are open to different solutions and a language school may be it.

In the example of the language school’s target market, you might have noticed that different clients have different characteristics: people who want to learn a language for leisure versus for business, children, etc. One common characteristic would be that these people all need to be in the same area as the school, unless the tuition was delivered online. It’s important to spell out those characteristics by drawing a ‘robot portrait’ of your ideal customer, in order to know who is likely to be a customer, and who is not. Let me start you off with a series of questions:

• Is your customer male or female?

• What age is your customer?

• What problems are they experiencing (which you may or may not be able to fix)?

• What are their personality traits?

• Where do they live?

• Where do they work?

• Where do they socialize?

• To whom do they outsource responsibility?

These defining traits fall into three broad categories: demographics, geography and psychographics. Let’s tackle each one in order, while you keep in mind the following questions: ‘How does my product or service fit within these scenarios? Where does my offering fit in the life of my customer?’

Now, let’s figure out to attract more of them and service their specific needs to the betterment of your bottom line and their contentment with your services.”

Susan Hayes is managing director of international financial training company Hayes Culleton. Her latest book, The Savvy Guide to Making More Money, published by Penguin is out now and available in all good bookshops and online at

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