Language testing is a fundamental part of language training, wherever the student comes from. But it can also be an important sales tool. When and how should the test be given to ensure you have the best chance of getting the enrolment?
Every Saturday morning I get up really early and go fishing for squid with my friend Frank on his boat. Around these parts the season starts in September, and by December they can have grown to over a metre long. They’re pretty harmless; their only defence is to squirt water or ink at you when you put them in the bucket.
We fish for them with rods. We put 3 jigs (tackle) and a sinker (weight) on the line and then just let it fall to the sea bed and wait. When we feel a sharp tug we just reel it in. Sometimes two and even three of them are stuck to the jigs.
But sometimes we can wait for hours and not get anything. We can try different places to fish, at different depths, with different colour and size jigs, at different times of the day… and just wait for that elusive tug. Frank always checks what colour jig caught the squid, and it’s true that sometimes there seem to be days where one colour is more prevalent than others. Some days we feel like we’re chasing our tails.
We fish like about 99% of the other fishermen out there. And then there is John and Dave. They fish another way. Their boat has a little electric motor that pushes it gently along, and so the jigs are always moving (to mirror how little fish swim). As they are constantly on the move, they cover a much larger surface area. One of them is at the wheel steering, the other is fishing. They also use sonar fish finding equipment.
And boy do they do well. Each and every time. They’ve worked out exactly what they need to do to get maximum results.
Language testing is the same thing. You need to use your test well and at the right time to ensure it can bring in as many potential students as possible. Otherwise you are just wandering aimlessly. To help you get a firm grip on what to do, here are the things that your test should be doing for you to help you with your language school recruitment and prospecting.
What your language test should be doing
First of all, you need the right sort of test. It must reflect the offer of your school and it must be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Lists of crummy multiple-choice quizzes are a thing of the past. Tests should evaluate different language skills, include images and audio (even video) and really make the user go “Wow, these guys are good.”
Second, the test should of course be accurate. Should you give them the results? Yes, unquestionably. Frustration of not having the results can lead to negativity around their experience with you. They need to be reassured by the result and want to know what comes next in potentially coming to your school.
Third, the test can also include some non-language related questions that will help you get important information about their needs. For example, you can ask them about their budget, when they want to come / learn, if they have any specific needs, whether they need accommodation, whether they want to have any extra-curricular activities, etc.
Fourth, the test must force them to give you their email and telephone number, as this is leverage for you to contact them (when the time is right) later to follow-up and get them signed up. You can also add the email address automatically into your newsletter list and send out regular emails with offers, blogs, other gifts etc. to keep your brand in their thoughts (good for referrals or decisions to come later if they drop out).
So let’s say you have a great test, it’s accurate, it’s beautiful, and it does what it’s supposed to do. When do you test them?
It’s not such an easy question. You could say that in order to have a constructive conversation, the person must take a test before they speak to you. You could say that they must take the test once they’ve agreed to sign up for a course. Or once they’ve actually paid their deposit. Or once they arrive to assign them to the proper group.
If you’ve got a more sophisticated sales procedure, then it could be between email 1 (e.g. “Thanks for reaching out to us, we’re excited about the possibility of you come here. First of all, in order to help us, please can you take our test? …) and email 2. And so on.
This is where you need to be like John and Dave in their boat. You need to give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed, and this comes by analysing what works best. You could spend a month trying to make everyone take the test before having any real communication with you. Then next month you could test them a little later into the sales cycle and then for the third month you could leave it quite flexible without any obligation at all.
Once you analyse and compare the months (your indicator being the percentage of successful inscriptions), you might find out that each month makes little difference. Alternatively, you might find something very interesting and adjust your sales process accordingly.
Great test content
If you’re not happy with your test, or if you don’t have an online one, then I strongly advise you to develop one. It can become an essential part of your brand and your offer rather than just an educational tool. You can be as creative as you want. Here are some ideas to make it that little bit different:
- Make it dynamic (the questions change according to the response of the last question)
- Test as many linguistic competencies as you can and not just reading comprehension (grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, etc.). Some of them will obviously require a lot more I.T. skills than others (even speech recognition software) so this depends on your budget and the technology available.
- Use different forms of questions (fill in the blanks, change order, multiple choice, word linking, etc.)
- Use images, audio and video, not just words
- Even if the test is in English, make the instructions as multilingual as possible. This will reassure the user that you are thinking of them and considerate to their needs, wherever they are from
- If the area in which your school works is an important part of your offer, why not make cultural references to it as well.
- Add in other types of questions to glean as much information as possible
So I hope that you’ve seen some new and interesting ways to think about your test as it really can become a very powerful tool in your web marketing strategy.
As ever, I’d love to hear some comments. It would be good to get your feedback. It would be great for you to share this article to with your networks by clicking on one of the buttons below. Thank you!