Technavio last year valued the global corporate cloud-based English language learning market at over $1 billion and growing fast. This B2B segment is extremely attractive to online language schools because customers tend to stick longer, pay more and are easier to approach than individuals.
As a virtual classroom software company, we’ve noticed that interest has been rapidly increasing. We want to pass on what we’ve learned so your online language school can profit from the opportunity.
Let’s break up this article into 8 essential sections so you can pull together your marketing plan:
- Who is your ideal corporate customer?
- What are your ideal customer’s problems?
- What makes these problems so painful?
- What are the common requirements for a company language course?
- How does your solution solve these problems?
- What makes your solution standout?
- What online school software is right for you?
- What is your irresistible offer?
Your ideal corporate customer
The online world is a big place and it’s easy to get lost in the mix if your language school doesn’t have a strong understanding of your ideal customer. It’s not enough to say that you’re targeting any company wanting to learn English, French or German. That’s too broad. When your focus is too wide, your message is too wide, you’re competing with every other virtual school and when your ideal customer is searching for you (generally on Google) you’ll be on the 10th page and not see a single view.
So who is your customer really?
There are 4 easy focus-finding categories:
- Location of head office
- Native language
- Goal language
These are important to spend some time on because the right combination of keywords will give you a unique advantage. Search keywords are what Google is optimised for. For example, which search term do you think you’ll have a better chance at competing on Google?
Example A: Corporate language training
Example B: Corporate German language training
One has more traffic but the other has less traffic (but you’ve got a shot at being the number 1 organic result in Google.
You might even focus on translating key website pages into the native language of the common Google searcher (i.e. have landing pages en Español).
You can think of a bunch of what marketing experts call ‘long tail’ keywords and either create landing pages for or reference in your website. Even using one of these focus-finding terms will improve your chances of competing and winning online.
One cheap way of finding where enough demand/traffic is for a search term is through the free Google Keyword Planner tool. For example, these are the more popular keywords if you’re wanting to provide a B2B service for teaching English:
- Business English training
- Corporate language training
- Language training for business
- Corporate English language training
- Corporate language courses
It’s not just about keywords. The language you use on your landing pages is more compelling for prospects to choose your business and can make it cheaper for you to advertise (for example, your ‘quality score’ affects both the cost and likelihood of conversion of your ad.
So spend some time thinking of the focus-finder categories that will help you penetrate the market you believe you can serve the best and most profitably.
Your ideal propect’s problems?
Most online language schools focus their text and marketing messages to the solution rather than understanding and speaking to the customer’s pain-points.
It’s easy to gloss over this by saying that the problem is ‘employers want their employees to speak a particular language’. It’s more nuanced than that.
Example of problems for companies:
- International company: I have a global business with employees in multiple locations, speaking multiple languages. I want the team to be able to communicate across geography and cultural borders.
- Sales: My sales team are not as effective at winning new business because they do not have the language skills required.
- Customer support: We’re losing customers to international competitors because our team doesn’t speak the languages of our customers fluently enough.
- Marketing: My marketing team are great in their native language French but this is not translating into marketing for our English prospects.
- Finance: I’m getting complaints from customers about my finance team coming across as abrasive in English even though our German customers find the team friendly. I need to fix this problem.
When the problem translates to a business losing or making money, you can be sure they will want to do something about it.
You can still find a niche by blending your advantages of offering a professional online school solution for business customers and being physically based in your native market (e.g. corporate language training for international companies based in Malta).
This is a question to dig deeper. People react more strongly to pain than pleasure so as marketers like to put it, you have to ‘twist the knife’ a little to make the problem painful enough to do something about.
The way to do this is to not only understand the problem but communicate in a compelling way on your website that you know and know how to solve your customer’s problem. That means thinking about the copy on your website or landing page.
For example, Speex shows that it understand the problems and requirements of their ideal corporate customers:
The problems are that corporate language solutions are often impersonal, generic and ineffective.
So the solutions are:
- “...personalized language learning...Private trainers...Tailor-made content”
- “Ubiquitous access to learning resources...Available on any Internet device.”
Or for London School the solutions are:
- “...truly focused on the particular needs of business...in London and Canterbury...flexible enough to reflect the needs of participants”
- “...intensive, dynamic, practical and skills-based”
However, what’s really painful for corporate customers is deciding the curriculum, having to manage staff attendance, setting up staff to succeed and having report progress to the company decision makers.
- “...platform is designed... end users can navigate and use the system quickly and easily. Our progress reporting tools make it easy ... It's easy to set up and ready within minutes…Bespoke design...your portal in your own colours and logo to create a premium branded platform that will delight your users”
So now that you’ve worked through this, you need to include this at least on a page devoted to communicating your B2B offering.
You’ll need to address both the necessary requirements (see below) and the part that makes you standout.
Common requirements for a company language course
Corporate customers are not the same as individual customers and have different needs. These have be alluded to above but it’s worth considering and communicating:
Security: One problem for companies is data protection is important and vulnerable to misuse. Companies are very sensitive about their employee data, especially staff names and emails, so they need to trust both the company and the online school software the corporate language training provider is using. The HR manager or contact person will want to see that you have robust processes to protect this kind of data. That might be in the form of staff data permissions, internal messaging systems to avoid the use of direct email between teachers and students, password protections and certainly a proper student management system/CRM.
Branding: Companies want recognition that they are investing in their staff. If the language tuition is free, they want some way of staff knowing that the company has paid for it. One way, if you have the right virtual classroom software, is to show the company’s logo inside the platform.
Reporting: Some established language schools that already work with enterprise customers will be aware of the need for reporting, especially attendance. Companies don’t like paying for services their employees don’t use but without a good system and regular reporting, it’s very hard for companies and their partners to know what’s happening.
Now that we know these problems exist for corporate customers, it’s our job as online marketers or language school owners to satisfy their problems with our solution.
London School did a good job of this by almost systematically picking off the problems and proposing attractive answers. Their “…platform is designed... end users can navigate and use the system quickly and easily. Our progress reporting tools make it easy ... It's easy to set up and ready within minutes… Bespoke design...your portal in your own colours and logo to create a premium branded platform that will delight your users”
Companies want convenience (online), cost-effectiveness (online and/or off-line options), company recognition (company branding), ease of use (simplicity) and fast setup (onboarding).
Go through your own list of general problems but also aim to identify and solve problems that a particular niche has and that your company can solve better than any other. So if you think that you can offer the best blended solution in Berlin or Barcelona, then mention that in your marketing copy. If your company has a leading virtual classroom software then mention how much more professional and effective your classes are compared to Skype or Google Hangouts. If your solution has native speaking, qualified teachers then explain how your teachers are different and what their specialties are.
What makes you different
You know that your company isn’t the only possible option. A company can choose to subscribe staff members to an app or hire a professional to come on-site or do nothing and procrastinate.
Your job is to show why they should address the issue and choose you.
The first thing to focus on is to explain why they should address the issue now.
So play to your strengths. Write a list of what you do differently and better. Circle the ones that create a combination that only you can deliver. Work these in a few sentences to integrate with your website and marketing campaigns.
If you’re struggling to come up with attributes that make you standout, then maybe look at your geography and city to focus on customers that want to work with a local or niche specialties you can deliver on (e.g. English for hotel workers or German for flight attendants).
The most important qualities for businesses that are often touted and often lacking are: reliability, simplicity and quality.
Online school software
The online school software you choose will depend on your niche (language training, business skills or other corporate training), your stage of business (small or large enterprise) and needs for customization.
There are two main options with online school software: End to End online school Virtual classroom API to integrate with your own system
END TO END ONLINE SCHOOL
Now firstly, I’m not going pull the wool over your eyes...I lead LearnCube customer success so of course I’m going to be a little bias when it comes to our niche of helping large scale language corporate training providers to deliver live online classes but we’re not the right fit for everyone…
And end to end solution is just that, a virtual school software that brings all aspects you need into one platform.
What could an online school software include:
- CRM - records of students
- Role permissions to protect school database and class materials
- Virtual classrooms for live teaching or tutoring
- Scheduling software for students to book classes
- System for allocating/assigning teachers to students and vice versa
- Reports for attendance tracking and managing class credits
- Learning Management System
- Ecommerce / Payment gateway
- You might even want qualified teachers to teach on your behalf (something some of our customers ask of us)
Many large scale online schools or corporate training providers have their own LMS/CRM platform and may just be looking for a virtual classroom to upgrade their teaching/learning experience.
The way to do this is either through a standalone virtual classroom software with a static link that you redirect your students to. You could use for example, Skype, Adobe Connect, LearnCube, Zoom or a number of other web conferencing tools.
Again, this is a big topic so I’ll leave it for another post on virtual classroom APIs.
Your irresistible offer Once you’ve got your message and operations in order, you’ll want to craft your hook...what’s going to make someone take the next action?
Many of the large corporate training solutions offer a ‘Free demo’ or ‘Free Trial’ as their next step. The goal of these is to avoid “analysis paralysis” which affects many buyers.
The effectiveness of this approach really depends on the visitors stage in the purchasing cycle.
If the prospect is just contemplating your company, they may not be willing to identify themselves or book a spot to talk with one of your expert sales people. A free demo, without a salesperson, would be more attractive…but don’t miss out on the chance to educate this prospect over the months ahead with a smart, helpful email drip campaign. Remember most prospects may take between 6 - 18 months to make a final decision, allocate budget and start with you.
A free trial is another useful tool because it gives customers a taste of what you offer without upfront payment. This can be more effective as every company is different and they may walk away from your product by misunderstanding your offer and range of solutions if they don’t speak to one of your team.
Interestingly, in doing some research for this article I noticed a surprising lack of imagination with the “irresistible offer”... I’m not a mastermind but it seems fairly limited to free demo, free trial or contact us. Here are some alternative ideas:
- A free 3 week English training course for 3 employees to give a practical experience with your company?
- A free self-study second language course if you want to promote your app or software?
- Offer a free live lesson with a native English speaker in exchange for a business email address?
- A free webinar on how to conduct a language audit for your company?
- A free guide on how to setup a progressive language training program for mid sized companies?
What are you able to offer that has real value to the decision maker, gives you permission to interact longer term with your prospect and educates prospects to favour your offer?
- Focus on your ideal prospect
- Understand your prospects problems (deeply)
- Know what makes these problems particularly painful
- Understand company requirements
- Speak to the above points with your website
- Define your point of difference and highlight it
- Know what online school software would be right for you and your industry
- Find an offer irresistible to your ideal prospect