Many schools received a lot of new language students with the help of language school agents. Decades have passed, the Internet has evolved rapidly and the new generation of students barely walk into a travel agency anymore. Travel agencies suffering business problems for many years translates into bad news for language school: are language school agents an outdated marketing strategy?
It is an obvious choice for language schools: language school agents – travel agents and their networks that earn commissions for referring eager travelers to your language schools. It is a strategy that worked well for a long time. Parents that might prefer going to an offline – “real” – travel agency as opposed to doing their own research online and looking into options to plan a holiday that would enable their children to advance language skills while still enjoying an exciting holiday for example.
However, the new generation of language students is those who spend less and less time in “real businesses” and doing their own research online. There is actually most often no need for a travel agency – unless the travel agency itself positions them online being a specialist that will save potential customers a big deal of research time.
Most Internet users believe that they are quite capable to do their own research. Take the search for a cheap flight or hotels with great discount offers. These days it seems that most of the competition is all about price and who can get you somewhere for the best deal. Obviously, comparison styled websites are high in fashion – and if you look at TV commercials they compete like crazy claiming that they are the only ones being able to get you the best deal.
But then many Internet users will find out that most often going to an airline website themselves will give them even a BETTER deal. Surprisingly those “comparison websites” are as much on the decline as travel agency offices (after all those websites need to earn commissions and a cut so they can’t really be the “cheapest” as they often claim).
What does this mean when it comes to language school agents? If you have been working with travel agents in the past you still want to keep them as the successful ones know how to advertise themselves. Their true value lies in their know-how that they have accumulated over the years and decades that a quick “online research” done by individuals can’t be replaced. Many of those agents have search tools and access to networks the regular customer does not have. The question is to work with agents that KNOW how to communicate that fact to their customers online. That is their job, not your language school job. So if you have one of those rare language school agents, by all means, keep them and keep them secret from your competition.
A very important strategy for your language school is to see yourself as a travel agent and position yourself as an authority for language travel yourself. If you do this right (see also our other articles about how to become an authority website) then you can attract students that would like to book their travel with you right away.
Many language schools already do this now and created compelling content online showcasing why you should book with them – because they provide a culturally rich travel experience such as offering Flamenco dancing classes or having access to city guide tours that are not publicly available otherwise.
If you can highlight the benefits of the location of your school and what students can gain by booking with your language school – you might be able to win the race against the few language school agents, that might survive on this harsh language school business environment.
Disclaimer: There are actually indeed exceptions in this Language School Agents market. In some countries like Brazil, for example, they still thrive and provide outstanding value if their customers need someone they can trust. Sometimes a single language school website alone has a lot challenges to solve the “trust and authority” issues. You even might find some listings on www.mylanguagebreak.com of such Language School Agents that have been proven to be a reliable partner.