How To Market your Summer Student Programmes

Below you'll find Herbert & I discussing How To Market your Summer student programmes.

It's summer! And that means summer language programs are running in full swing. In this week's episode, learn how to market your summer course this year and navigate all the challenges of travel restrictions. 



How To Market your Summer Student Programmes

Alex: Hey! Welcome to another episode of the Get More Students podcast. I'm your host Alex Asher, CEO of LearnCube.


Herbert: And I'm Herbert Gerzer, founder of herbertgerzer.com.


Alex: Wow, today we're a lot more topical because it's getting warmer over here in Europe. I'm based here in London, and Herbert, you are in Austria. 32 degrees here today. 

One of the reasons we bring that up is because we're going to talk about summer. Particularly this topic is going to be on how to market your summer student program. This is not my specialty, so also a heads up that Herbert's going to lead this a little bit more. 

Really over here in Europe at least, and I think it's very popular elsewhere as well, it's popular for students to travel to a destination location for some kind of course. Now in our case, we're probably more familiar with language courses for summers, but I know in Germany, for example, summer courses for tutoring are also incredibly popular. Actually, you'd think they'd be even more popular this year with so much disruption happening with a lot of schools and a lot of parents feeling particularly underwhelmed or actually incredibly frustrated with their own local schools' ability to either get through the curriculum or even help their kids stay on track. 

So there's a lot of catch-up going on, and it's heading home. What these courses would look like if you're unfamiliar is that there might be two weeks or five weeks where you go and live in Oxford and learn English, or spend two weeks in Barcelona to learn Spanish.

Herbert, you can tell me a lot more about the clientele here. What kind of ages are we talking about in particular?


Herbert: Right, I mean it's a pretty broad group, but just from the clients that we work with, the leading target group are children between nine and sixteen, seventeen years of age. As you already mentioned, sending them for summer language camps in English, Spanish, and German, whatever that might be. There are also lots of other subjects that are being offered, such as programming, arts, whatever that is.


Alex: Totally true, and so this creates real opportunities. That's one of the fundamental reasons we wanted to talk about it. This is an opportunity for now, and because it's summer and also because you're selling so many of these summer courses and you have that that exposure to it, you know that this is a product that a lot of people want. 


Herbert: Absolutely, demand is there for travel. People want to get out, and I'm sure parents also want their children to leave the house for a little bit. Not only these in-person courses but also online summer courses are seeing a bit of a boom. 


Alex: We're seeing this as well on the LearnCube side. We're often getting approached by language schools or tutoring companies, like "hey we want to facilitate these online summer programmes; how do we go about it?" This is something we're definitely exposed to as a mechanism for delivery. We thought this would be a fun conversation, but equally, as I say, I'm going to be the junior partner by far. It's not something I have quite as much expertise in because it's newer for me. Whereas Herbert, every summer you've been selling these summer courses. 


Herbert: Definitely, I mean, depending on the type of school, summer is either peak season or it's a quiet season. It's been difficult to plan with all these travel restrictions and obviously planning ahead to book accommodation, and activities, and teachers, and of course marketing these courses in advance to get people to book. There are a lot of logistical problems around that, especially in the first half of this year, of knowing whether or not these types of camps are going to take place in person. 


Alex: Yeah, so tell me a little bit then. What's the actual experience of an in-person summer camp? What does that look like?


Herbert: Again, very different but usually it's one or two weeks. Mainly student goes to a school overseas, for example, to learn English in Edinburgh. They have English classes in the morning and then usually a variety of activities in the afternoon. They're kept busy; they get to know the cultural side and historical sides of the places that they visit. They're usually with the host family, perhaps. That's usually how a summer language camp, I would say, for nine to 17-18-year-olds looks like.


There are summer programs for adults you can book, also one or two weeks at a school, an intensive course. Also language classes in the morning and then usually the school organizes activities in the afternoon and the weekends to get together and meet new people.


Alex: So you've got these, and again you're gonna see a real split in diversity in this bunch. Why? Because each niche offers its own options. Then let's talk about what these students are getting. Let's start with this nine to seventeen, eighteen-year-old group. Why are they being sent, and who's this benefiting. 


Herbert: If the student is benefiting, it's from the experience. That cultural experience of going to a different country, immersing themselves in the language with the local people. That's why they have been, and I mean still, are very, very popular. Just in the last year and this year, they have been a bit hampered and limited by all the travel restrictions.


Alex: And I mentioned, and this is not too hard to imagine since it's been such a full-on year. 


What do parents get before COVID and even now during COVID, is that they get a bit of respite, I'm assuming? Particularly we're talking, let's start off with this bunch of kids between nine and eighteen. They're getting them out of their hair, they're getting them out of home, and they're giving them something that they don't have to plan for. They've probably been absolutely bombarded with "How do I come up with things for my child to do to keep them active, keep them progressing, keep up their development." Personal development is very important for parents for their kids, right? So they're constantly worried that they're not giving their kid that kind of opportunity.


There's this whole kind of psychology, I imagine, that's being built up around it. Then also, because this has been such a very engaged period. Parents have previously been able to pass all of this activity-generation to schools, and that hasn't happened this last year. They've had to be incredibly involved in every part, not just the academic side but also the social side, and providing opportunities and activities. So I imagine there's a real hot button right now, and the major demand factor is also parents getting a break and having a sense that their kid is looked after for this particular period of time, which must be hugely relieving if it can take place. 


Herbert: Exactly that, and that's why there's such huge demand at the moment, but obviously, you need to package your programs correctly, just because there are so many things to think about now than pre-COVID. 


Alex: And because we're going to talk about in-person summer courses, we're also going to talk about online summer courses. There are opportunities in both, and we're gonna start off with what are some of the trends. I think we hit on the major trend that's driving this demand and summer courses, which is parent fatigue probably, and an inherent wish for new opportunities for their kids. What are some of the other trends that you think are coming into play with the summer courses for this year?


Herbert: Well, to be honest, the camps are pretty much as they were prior to COVID. With the structure of the camps, with the lessons, cultural activities, maybe workshops or things like that for the students. And so in terms of the program of the summer camp, nothing's changed too much; they just had to adapt to the current restrictions, which are changing all the time.

Then, of course, these online summer camps, as you know, what we like to call them, have popped up. They are taking some market share away from those in-person camps for maybe parents or people who are not certain yet of travelling or aren't allowed to travel because of travel restrictions. 


Alex: But surely it also offers a huge opportunity as well for all of that market? Just like there is a market in language education in particular. The idea of travel is just hugely expensive anyway. Now you've got an online teaching option that wasn't really there before because no one felt that there was any demand. Suddenly you've got a price point that people can actually afford for a much bigger part of the world than that. If it's positioned right, it is lower cost. It is totally different from an in-person summer camp, but it can offer different advantages and maybe hit different pain points. As an example, in an in-person summer camp, I don't see my kid for as long as the course exists. In contrast, an online summer camp can be like for three to four hours a day. They're not going to do their regular six to eight hours. For just two to three hours, I just know that there's something that they're going to be doing that seems good for them and improves development, and I don't have to come up with activities during that period. That seems like a win for a lot of parents.


Herbert: Yes, when school holidays are long


Alex: And they're probably made longer right?


Herbert: Yeah, you need to fill it up as best as possible. So definitely opening up new audiences, absolutely.


Alex: And I think what's really interesting about that is you can treat them as two separate businesses anyway. Both offer great opportunities beyond the current times. There will be an online summer camp for anyone that maybe the price was an issue beyond this. Assuming that people weren't worried about price, then I think people would choose an in-person summer camp compared to an online summer camp. They actually probably want their child to be out of their hair for a particular period of time because you know they're staying in a safe environment, all of those things.


But beyond this, I know a lot of people that are trying to plan their holidays and haven't booked anything because it's too hard to figure out whether they're going to go or not. If you've got an online course program that your child can join, they can still do that whether you end up being able to get to a holiday or if you stay at home. It's not fun, but at least I've got a program sorted. That predictability, I think, is incredibly attractive for a lot of people.


Herbert: Definitely, I agree. Something else that we've been seeing is that people are not planning ahead. It's difficult to plan ahead at the moment, especially if you're travelling, so people are making last-minute decisions. They are booking now for a week's time for their child to attend a summer camp. So it's not too late to start promoting a summer camp because everything is very last minute this summer. 


Alex: One of the other things. All of these sorts of trends are really fascinating because you get these strange feedback loops. And one of those feedback loops, I imagine, it's a lot of physical languages teachers have lost their employment, but they're looking for work. Even if the summer camp isn't sure, if this is an in-person one, for example, even if it's not sure that it's going to go ahead, I think there would be a lot of teachers that would still put their hand up to be like "hey if it does go ahead, I'm in." And if it doesn't go ahead, there's that possibility too.

The point here is that there's a surplus of teachers that can be a lot more flexible. Before, you would have had to have locked in all of your teachers months ago. Now you could, and even if you wanted to create a summer course, you could do that with relatively short notice because many of the pieces are fluid and open to that flexibility. And online even more so.


Herbert: Good point, and again, it's not too late to start a summer program promotion.


Alex: Yeah, so let's then talk about how to succeed. And I think we should start with how to succeed before COVID, and what does COVID change, if anything, to grow in today's current climate. How did summer schools work pre-COVID? What were the messages that they needed to get across? What were the pain points and desires that they needed to unlock to be able to really succeed?


Herbert: I think it was definitely the overall experience. Not just the academic experience, which of course needs to be top-notch, but also accommodation and the extracurricular activities, and everything surrounding that. The things that weren't really that important were cancellation policies and how flexible things can be. That just really wasn't an issue back then, which it is now. So you were really trying to promote this complete program that touches on all of those points. 


Alex: When I've looked at the websites that are currently selling summer schools, the first thing that they do is they have lots of great imagery that really expresses the sensations and the feelings that the students feel. My impression is that parents superimpose their faces on whatever those students are. Right? So happy student faces, like happy faces. When you see people exploring, those are the kinds of images and feelings that students and parents want to get across. It's about discovery, self-development, confidence, social engagement, all of those. Is there anything else than that sort of feeling that you need to get across with your landing pages, your websites, your ads?


Herbert: I mean, that was a given, that you need to have those amazing photos and videos. I always talk about it, so I thought that was a prerequisite to succeed, is having those really emotional assets to show the student experience. What is life like as a student at the summer camp? What are the feelings they go through? Meeting new people from around the world, building their speaking confidence, to really acing whatever their goals. That needs to come across. Happy, smiling faces, outside doing activities, having fun. 


Alex: Yeah, and I think online, as well, again, similar kind of feelings, but probably a slightly different sort of mechanism and way that you transfer that. When you're trying to sell an online summer camp, do you still have the same pictures? There's nothing wrong with still putting pictures of students outdoors because it's about their students there in the summer. You're trying to get across that message that this is a summer camp. So you probably, could you reuse some of those?


Herbert: You definitely can, but you obviously need to mix it up with the assets that show students at the computers interacting on a virtual classroom, engaging with teachers, and people and other students online, and what else is there apart from the online classes. If you are just selling online classes, like two-three hours of English learning, that's not enough. There needs to be more. There need to be things like virtual activities, tours, meet and greets, games, challenges, maybe an extra one-on-one session or specific workshops. You need to be offering something more than just pure online classes.


Alex: Yeah, I think that's really important. One of the main reasons as well, when we associate with summer, it's relaxed right? It's time off. So not pushing too hard like "Hey, I know that you've had a hard year, and you've been absolutely working super hard. Hey, work really hard again" That's a more challenging call. The idea is that it's summer, it's feeling more relaxed, and it's more socializing. That's the whole challenge and the real opportunity for online summer courses, which I think we've certainly felt. 


When we've been sounding this out, there's a big opportunity, and it's up to the creativity of these organizations and the teachers to come up with some great visuals. I do think it's really important to get some good online visuals as well. And I think it's got to be just outside. It could be in a LearnCube virtual classroom. You can make it really colourful and fun and active, but it can't just be nine pictures, all of the students waving at the camera. I think it really, with those images, more than ever, you need to show a level of interaction and fun. That's much more important than, say if you're just selling the generic course, which seems a bit more businessy. Do you agree with that? 


Herbert: Absolutely agree, yeah. I think people have become numb to all those screenshots of Zoom calls with everyone smiling and waving into the screen. It needs to be different. Maybe show a cooking class or something. Something completely different that is not a virtual classroom setting, as such, of the students doing something other than learning the language. 


Alex: Again, it's only because we have it here, but if you're using LearnCube's whiteboard, don't leave it blank. Whatever you do, fill it with colour, and you can even have summary images that are part of that. Even if you're using another software, no problem. You could even be screen sharing something that is summery and fun, and interesting. Either way, there has to be the big, and part of that image has to be something sort of social and dynamic and colourful.


Herbert: Definitely.


Alex: So one of the things that we also talked a lot about, I find it really fascinating, is objection handling. Now there's a whole bunch of standard objections that you're going to have to get across with a summer camp. Usually, because it's a longer course and more intensive, there's sometimes a price objection that you need to go. Let's just put that on one side. Let's talk about what are the objections you need to handle now during COVID to be able to succeed with your summer camp?


Herbert: Right, obviously security, confidence in booking, safety, and also flexibility. That's super important for parents. They don't want any more stress or more issues when they're booking this course. They want to know, okay, I book it, and then I don't have any more headaches. That's the whole point of booking it. And if something were to happen, maybe their country gets on the red list, or the student gets COVID or whatever that is, there are very clear policies and flexible policies in place to transfer to the following year, or for a different course, maybe a different start date making that as painless as possible for the customer.


Alex: I think one of the other things that's so important is being very proactive. This is not something you keep in the small print. This is not something you keep in the conditions. This is something that's pretty much at the same, just past all of the great positive images. It's the section on "Hey, I know that you've got all of these objections, and you're fretting out, and you're worried about all of these things. Don't worry, we've already thought about them, and this is what happens." As a parent, you want me ticking those boxes off, saying exactly, "Yep, this happens, I'm still okay." If this happens, it's not a headache. As this happens, they're trained, and they're super into it; they've got all these great processes. If my country changes they've got these great policies that mean that it can still happen.

I might even create guarantee policies. We were actually talking about this survey, and it was like an upsell insurance policy.


Herbert: Definitely an insurance policy. I know of a company selling quarantine packages you can upsell, and if you come from like let's say a country where you need to go into quarantine, they have a homestay family ready for you, all within the guidelines and the safety guidelines, and they will pick you up. It's basically a headache-free experience, even if you need to go into quarantine. You know, some companies are being quite innovative with that.


Alex: One of the things we thought of as well was that parents are typically going to be a lot more conservative. Right? They've got the most to lose. They've got a child and invest in that child's entire life. So it's a pretty big responsibility to pass to another to look after, mainly depending on a kid's age, the more sense of vulnerability there is in that child. 


So insurance is critical, and it's either guarantee or insurance, but if you don't deal with that, I think it's a significant problem, because (a) if the worst does happen, it creates a massive nightmare for everybody because then no one knows what's happening, and they don't know what's the recompense, or what's the situation (b) if it doesn't happen, then it's fine but people are going to want to know. They've already done the mental calculation; they're going to want to know those answers. 


I think it's better to price it in and package it. As I say, I think selling it as an upsell can help you alleviate that problem, and I believe that the businesses tend to have probably a bit of a better understanding of what the risk ratings are on, for example, a status change in the country. You probably know more or less whether that's likely or not, and even if you don't, if you've got enough students, you're able to outweigh that over a number of other students. I think it is going to be up to the entrepreneurs to take some of those risks. 


But on the online factor, you've just got different objections. You're not going to have the same security in terms of COVID, but you're going to need to deal with the other objections. It could be security, in general, like, "hey is my child going to be safe online?" That's going to be a big one, so you're going to have your data policies really dialled in and know exactly how you're going to protect students. Cyberbullying is just as big a problem in summer camps, I imagine, as it is anywhere. You're going to need to have some policies and processes in place that make to demonstrate you've already thought about it. That's the main message that I think we're trying to get across, and it's up to the schools to come up with the assets and that messaging to get that across.


Herbert: Exactly! Yeah, I think it's an excellent opportunity for schools that perhaps previously haven't had a summer program. Both online and in-person demand for classes is there. You just really need to package your offer attractively and also get those assets, as you said, to build confidence with parents.


Alex: Brilliant. One of the other things that strikes me as a major win with this is the course. At LearnCube, we deal with a lot of online language schools and tutoring companies, and a lot of that is sold in terms of virtual classes. When you're selling a camp, you really are selling a big volume of education, which means that your price point is much higher, and you can do a lot of really interesting things with a much higher value. So instead of worrying if you can sell your a hundred or two hundred value product, you're able to sell this thousand, five thousand dollar product. So you're going to have different processes as well to deal with that.

If you're dealing with a higher value product, you're going to need to have some sales. I'm almost sure you're going to have to have some level of human interaction unless you've got absolutely everything dialled on that website. What's your experience with this, Herbert?


Herbert: If you're talking about thousands, then there has to be some level of human interaction, especially if it's an in-person course. I mean, with online courses, you could probably get away with up to a thousand without any human interaction, but everything needs to be on point. From the website, your testimonials, your assets, the booking process, everything.


Alex: Probably if you're new to this, having a human interaction would be quite important because if people can't get in touch with you, you probably haven't nailed all of your messaging. You don't want to lose that connection with the parent because they've looked at it, they haven't found their answers, so they're offering a website that can tell them. Probably the big call to action then is like, what would you call it, a consultation?


Herbert: Yeah, a free consultation, a free call, whatever that is, just a contact us. You could even have it via some sort of messaging software or chatbot, by phone, a callback, and anything like that. You want to be able to speak to your potential customers to see what their concerns are, what their objections are so that you can make changes to your messaging, to your offer, to your website, and to landing pages, to minimize contact in the future. 


Alex: That makes a lot of sense. We've kind of gone through quite a lot today, and actually, this is a really energizing episode because, again, it's a bit newer for me. I think, to be fair, online summer camps, maybe they started last year, but it's a newer phenomenon. It wasn't the main product. 


Herbert: In 2019, nope. No way people would send their kids to an online summer camp.


Alex: Yeah, so have some fun with it; we're really looking forward to hearing your creative ideas. The demand, from what we're seeing, is really there. The tools are there as well. So there's definitely the mechanism to do that online, and if you're doing it in person, brilliant as well. I think some people have all of the logistics now, but remember, if you're doing it in person, there's a huge amount of responsibility that goes with that. I wouldn't underestimate that. 


So thank you for joining us for another episode of the Get More Students podcast. Again, in this, what we promised is to give insights, inspiration, and motivation to those of you that are running or marketing online language schools or tutoring businesses. We release a new episode each week, and we would love it if you can hit that subscribe button now to keep us going. You'll get a shiny new episode each week. So thanks again and we'll see you next time!