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How to Market Your Language Courses (B2B) | LearnCube Blog

Below you'll find Herbert & I discussing how to market your language courses.

Think of this as your guide to networking and pitching your courses to other businesses. 

How to Market Your Corporate Language Courses

Alex: Hey! Welcome to another episode of the 'Get More Students' Podcast. I'm your co-host Alex Asher and I'm joined by Herbert Gitzer today. We're focused on how to market B2B. This is really focusing on the language learning market, and Herbert and I are talking about this topic because we've seen organizations struggle with this very problem: How to successfully market and sell B2B.

B2B is so different from B2C, and I’m exposed to this because I run LearnCube. We specialize in helping online language schools and tutoring businesses to scale their business with our virtual classroom and online school solutions. LearnCube is so exposed because we work a lot with these corporate language companies, including Kern Training and Babble B2B, so we really have a lot of exposure to what works and what doesn't.

Herbert, you've also got a lot of exposure to this and see it from both sides.

Herbert: Through my advertising agency, we help a lot of language schools and education businesses get more leads and enrol more students in their courses with paid ads. We're always trying to find solutions for schools that target B2B, selling language courses to companies. I love this segment, so I'm excited to talk about it today!

Alex: That's how I feel about it too. Let's start off with the first idea, right? Let's make sure that we've got the right people listening in the room here, so let's differentiate between B2B and B2C. Tell me your quick definition Herbert.

Herbert: B2C is basically selling directly to the student who is going to take the language course or take tutoring lessons. B2B is selling those services to a company. Usually, it is the HR department or maybe the learning and development department that organizes these training sessions for their employees.

Alex: That's it! Usually the student or the parents pay for B2C and otherwise it's usually the company that is paying for B2B. So the buyer is incredibly different, and they require different things in so many different areas and that's what we're really going to unpick today. 

But one thing just to provide some context to this, and this will change depending on when you hear this, but certainly, B2B was a market that everyone had picked to be devastated by COVID 19. A lot of people look back at the 2008 crisis. What was kind of surprising is actually, at least at this point in time, we're not seeing that sort of mass devastation to budgets, and actually a lot of those porous budgets are now being reactivated. What's the most important is that one of the biggest changes to this market is the fact that people haven't gone back to the office, by and large, almost across most countries. Even the ones that are going back, most of them are only going back a couple of days. That has huge repercussions to corporate language training, because the idea of going into an office, for one, may be unwelcomed, and two, may be massively disrupted by when different employees are actually in.

When you're not too sure if the student's are going to be in the office or not, it's very hard to arrange an appointment to be there. That's where online language training can make a big difference, and it's an area that Herbert and I hopefully have some valuable information for you on.

One of the things that I think is clear is that this is an opportunity for now and for the future. It's an opportunity for small businesses and it's an opportunity for large businesses, but it does depend on how you want to target it. 

So let's look at this first part of the process. We're going to focus particularly in this section on how B2B impacts how you market and how you attract people to your service or your company. That buyer is typically an HR person, maybe not the entire buyer, but in the end, there's going to be a decision-maker. In a smaller business, it might be the CEO or somebody in the executive table, anyone that has the ability to have a budget that they can get signed off on. For a larger business, the larger you go the more likely it's going to be ticked off by HR as part of their compliance. They want to ensure that employees are progressing in the skills that they need for their roles.

The first big question is how do we find these buyers and where do they hang out?

Herbert: You want to know where these HR managers and training and development managers are hanging out so you can connect with them. A really great platform is of course LinkedIn, which was made for job-finding and recruitment. Social media platforms and online platforms should be an area that you should be focusing a lot of your time on if you want to market your courses to your segment of the market.

Alex: One of the questions I had for you, Herbert, was what are some of the other places that they might be aside from LinkedIn?

Herbert: There are also professional training and development conferences and events. It's different for every market for every country, so you want to look out for that and try and attend them as a service provider. Companies are always looking out for new and improved ways of servicing their employees, to get better employee retention or satisfaction. You definitely want to be present where these HR managers are congregating through networking, through your local organizations, and getting the word out there through traditional means as well. That might be newspapers and brochures, but Google as well.

If an HR manager is looking for a very specific course, let's say a legal English course for their legal department. If you spend enough time improving your SEO and your website content, or if you run Google Ads then you will also pop up into their search results. That’s why being able to hang out where they are is a key factor. 

Afterwards, what can we do to signal that we're the company for them? How can we signal to them that we're the one that's going to deliver the best language course or service for their needs? Let’s take LinkedIn as an example since this is a great platform and a free way to connect with those decision-makers. 

I recommend, at the start, to do it organically without paid ads, and that requires you to optimize your LinkedIn profile. Make a landing page, like an in-between between your real website and a business card. You want to have a clear and friendly profile photo. Have a banner that clearly defines what you do and what you offer. Your summary should be about your customers' pain points, their needs, and how your company offers a solution to them. Usually, a lot of people write in that little blurb everything about their university life and what they've accomplished. No one's interested in that. They want to know how you can help them.

Alex: That's totally right. I think it’s an easy trap for people to fall into. To be fair, that's what LinkedIn encourages you to do, which is to treat it like a CV of your life. Actually, if you're using it from a business perspective and you want to see a long-term future, and you’re doing B2B, you need to change from being “this is my CV” to being “this is the experience that is relevant to you.” You want your connections to say “yes this person would totally get me, look at all these interesting things that they're doing. I haven't had to go to their website at all. it's all on their LinkedIn page.”

You could put articles that really articulate the way that you deliver your education. All of those things give a quick indicator of whether you’re the right person for their business. Especially in this segment of the market, you really need to build trust as quickly as possible by posting often, regularly about topics that are related to their companies’ employees. Maybe the problems that they have in terms of acquiring a language affects productivity at the company. You should be writing about that and making yourself the authority figure in that B2B space.

One other way I kind of think about it, Herbert, is just as when you meet somebody in person, we start echoing each other. You're trying to get on the same wavelength. And how do we do that? We start talking about things that we're both interested in. We start talking in the same language for example. Herbert, if you were very formal, I would try to match that formality. Or you might notice my informality and change yours, but eventually, we'd find an equilibrium. Everyone's looking for that in an in-person experience. 

It's the same online. Your LinkedIn should help you get on the same wavelength with the viewer as fast as possible. So are you using the same lingo that they're using? Do you say human resources manager, or just say HR managers? simple clues like that give, like a cookie crumb between you and them, that allows you to feel that sense of trust. The whole point is if you're looking at your profile, it's like, "yep, this is a profile I should be on." it's not like "Ah damn, called out again, another thing that's completely irrelevant to me."  

That seems a good segue to go onto the next part. Herbert, How do you use LinkedIn? Not just as a "hopefully they'll come and find me," but how do we use that to reach out to people?

Herbert: You can use LinkedIn very effectively to reach out to these decision-makers, simply by searching for them. Search for hr managers in your city or in your area, and identifying the companies that you'd like to target, whether that be small to medium-sized businesses or larger corporations.

Then comes connecting with them, and what I mean by connecting is not sending them a message or an InMail saying “oh, we are a B2B language school, we offer this and this and this. Would you like to buy our language courses?” No. You need to build an authentic relationship by connecting with them and building rapport. 

Alex: That's totally right because on that link, you wouldn't do that to somebody that was sitting across from you on the table. You wouldn't just suddenly interrupt and say “Hey, here's my business card this is what I do, see ya.” You would hopefully go over to that person and say “Hey, there's obviously something here that's really interesting for us to talk about, it might not be the right time now but there will be a time where we should connect.”

The second thing is, I've personally found using LinkedIn InMails dubiously effective. Unless there's something really present there I haven't found them that useful, but connections are absolutely the starting point. It gives you ongoing visibility to them and them getting ongoing visibility to you, so even when you're not directly talking to them you're building that trust and that connection. So when you do send that eventual sale message in LinkedIn, there's now trust. You're no longer such a stranger and there's an ability to even consider what you might be offering.

Herbert: You've got some great tips here. So we've searched, we've now found a whole bunch of different clientele. I don't think we mentioned it specifically but there are paid features in LinkedIn, including sales navigator, where you pay for it. I actually think it's quite well worth it, particularly if this is the space you want to operate in. 

Alex: Yeah good investment. Totally, because then you can really target the kinds of customers that you want to. You then reach out to them with a connection message. 

What does that connection message look like and then what happens afterwards? Herbert?

Herbert: The connection message needs to be very non-threatening. Just "Hi you know I saw that you were in the city that you're both in," or "oh you're also in this space, you're also working here, I hear great things about the company, it'd be great to connect." You're not asking for anything, you're not pushing anything you just want to connect, and then once they accept your connection request then it's time to engage in conflict conversation with them. 

Usually, asking a question is a very good way to spark up a conversation. "Oh, I saw that a B2C company is doing this in this industry. I was wondering, are your employees faced with challenges when speaking in English, German, Spanish, etc,” whatever that is. It's still non-threatening but you are qualifying them and extracting some information from them so you can continue that conversation.

Alex: Do you have any good examples of hook questions that are both effective and authentic? 

Herbert: Usually it would have to be about the training of their employees: What kind of pain points their employees have in terms of productivity, or are they struggling with something. Again, we're not trying to sell in the first message. We're extracting information that will allow us to infer the messages, offer them something that they would be interested in.

Alex: One question that I’ve used before and I think it could be relevant too is also with those events and those conferences. It's just a simple one like "Hey are you going to this conference?"

It has been great to me because it gives you a venue. The great thing about it is they're either going to it, fantastic, in which case maybe you can meet in person or online. Or if they're not they might even tell you as well. Finally, you've got a two-way dialogue and then you can continue that conversation. It's just one example of how you can create curiosity and some kind of interchange between you.

We've talked about this idea of connecting and then a hook message. Herbert, tell us about what happens next, let's assume that we get crickets, nothing happens. We send that first hook message. What's your next advice on either timing or messages that happen beyond that?

Herbert: Just because they don't respond to the first message doesn't mean you've lost them. You should definitely follow up. Be persistent but don't be spammy or annoying, space out your messages. People are busy, they might not even get your first message. So space your messages out over several weeks. Again, making them hyper-personalized, looking through their profile, making sure you're pointing to things that are in their profile, commonalities. 

Alex: I really love that point, but the essence of this as well is that with B2B, you are really at that stage of account-based marketing. That means that you have a bunch of targeted accounts that you're looking for, and you almost have a strategy for each one of those, or at least a process. 

There'll be a high-level kind of strategy, which might be: these are the things that I'm posting. It's about showing them on the same wavelength. It's about showing that I'm present in their markets and I'm engaged, and it could include content that's just relevant to them in general. So not necessarily to language learning, but actually to the particular industry that those accounts are in. 

Then the next level down is particularly on their same role and same industry, and then the next tier down is even more personalized: I'm looking at their profile, I'm seeing what they're posting, and I'm engaging right back with them. They might also be posting, which is a great way for you to hit the tennis ball back and say “Hey, I'm here too!”. A simple like and a comment can be all the difference between effective and very effective. It could just be echoing what they're saying, not being smarmy or, you know, unrealistic or spammy. 

Alex: Authentic 

Herbert: Yeah, in a way that is like “I'm also here and I'm listening to you too,” and that gives that sense of reciprocity.

Afterwards, you really need to have the next part. This then moves from marketing, which is how people know about you, to the sales process, which is how the people actually go from knowing about you to going down a process that might lead to your company delivering that experience. Account-based marketing, that means you need to know what market you're going for, which means not every business. If you haven't heard our episode on how to choose a niche, definitely listen to it, and it's just as relevant for the B2B space. 

Alex:  Before we go into our next section, which is going to look at how B2B impacts the sales process and the delivery process. What are the different ways you can break down that B2B space, in your view Herbert?

Herbert: Obviously by geography. Focus on businesses in your region or city. you could also focus on businesses or industries that you have an affinity to. For example, if you were a sales manager in a previous life, then it might make sense to focus on sales teams at companies or sales-based companies. The limits are endless. 

Alex: That's right. Geography is one major segment, and we sort of talked about this in our previous conversation about niches. If our geography goes up in terms of broadness, then our speciality needs to narrow. We need to get much clearer, and it just opens up all these wonderful opportunities. You could literally just piggyback niches you’re already familiar with. Every job training has a language segment. They're really great opportunities. 

With that in mind, let's talk about what that sales process looks like when you're focused on B2B and how it impacts the way we market. Marketing and sales can work very closely in this B2B market. Tell me about that Herbert!

Herbert: It's a different beast, B2B. The lead times and the sales cycles in B2B are long, they can be anywhere from a month, two months, to years. From the first contact to that customer actually starting a course, so you've got to keep that in mind. If you're looking for a quick win then it's probably not on for you, but that affects a lot of things as well.

Alex: That's right, the sales cycle is going to be much longer, and so you need to have different expectations about how long things are going to take, and marketing spending. You're going to need to think about budgets of course, obviously. Big companies may not actually have a bigger budget necessarily per employee, but they have very different ways that you're going to have to approach them.

There are some key things that are really important to remember. Your image and brand is going to have to echo fairly closely to the organization that you're wanting to go for. If your brand is super casual, and actually has lots of kids, and it's very family-oriented and sort of upbeat, it's not going to gel with somebody that's highly corporate. You might need to go for the smaller, medium-sized businesses rather than those large businesses.

Actually, the size of the business can have one of the biggest impacts on the B2B sale and delivery process, because it massively magnifies a number of areas. One is your lead time, two is the level of security and compliance, and three is probably also online school reporting. There may be some other areas there.

Did you have anything else in mind Herbert?

Herbert: Yeah, obviously communication structure. These larger companies assume that you have a CRM and an LMS, so the bigger you go, the more developed your online classroom and online school systems need to be. It might be, in the first instance, good to target small to medium-sized businesses that can make a quick decision and then at least you can get started and then grow from there.

Alex: I think that's a really important tip, is to know which part of the market you're going for, what size of the company, who are the buyers. The smaller you go, the more likely you're going to have the decision-makers likely to be the CEO or the general manager, they may not even have an HR manager at all. It's only once you get to a certain scale that you're talking to an HR manager. All of these things should fit into your marketing matrix, and all your messaging and all your branding need to hit that home run each time. 

Any last comment for the listeners here today, Herbert, before we finish up?

Herbert: I love the B2B segment, so I'm all for it. I think once you've established these relationships, you've nurtured them, and you've signed on a few clients, then those relationships can last for years, and turn over a lot more than just one single student. There is a big-time investment involved, but it pays off in the long run. 

On my side, my big tip would just be to really focus on whatever your niche is because it means that it's much much stronger and easier for other target customers to see why it would totally make sense to be working with you. If you've got a real pick and mix of different organizations with all sorts of different reasons to work with you, it makes it much harder for somebody to go "oh yeah I can see the dots there."

Alex: Thank you all for listening in. Herbert and I always actually love these conversations, so thanks very much for making this a success. We also have a bit of fun doing it at the same time.

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