One of the most important things that will help your business get off to a good start is getting your name out in the community and making your company visible to the public and potential customers. This is the main reason all companies spend such a large budget on advertising. Having a well-designed website, a strong social media presence, and effective advertising campaigns are necessary to be competitive with other language schools in your area. These can take a lot of time and money however.
There are other effective ways to reach out and become known in your community that don’t require as much money. New eikaiwas should think about how to give back to the community before thinking about how to receive from the community. Activities such as volunteering at English events (speech contests, summer camps, holiday parties) are a great way to show off your brand.
With a little more planning and networking, you can even set up your own events. Try starting an English movie night, potluck picnic, or a day trip to a famous location in your area. Any kind of event that is free or cheap for participants will be an effective method of advertising and also build a good “buzz” about your business through word of mouth advertising.
Recently, our city and prefecture have become a popular destination for tourism and art. So, we decided to design and print an English guide poster on how to eat the local cuisine, Sanuki udon. This was a free service we offered which cost us a couple hundred dollars for design and advertising. It was much cheaper than advertising in a local magazine or newspaper, and the feedback was excellent. Hundreds of local shops agreed to put our poster up for free, we were interviewed by numerous newspapers, and the poster and our school were even featured on some TV shows.
This just goes to show if you do something for your community, it could payoff tenfold. Look for those opportunities to show your individuality and your strengths as an English school and promote your brand.
4. Establish A Strong Curriculum That Meets Your Students’ Needs
Every English school needs a solid English curriculum, but what kind of curriculum is best for your English school? First, you should think about your students and their needs as ESL students. Are you going to focus primarily on kids or adults? Will you have group lessons or private lessons? If you try to do everything from the beginning, you might sacrifice quality, so it’s good to choose a specific target you are confident in doing. Once you have a solid foundation of students and classes with a steady source of income then you can slowly start branching out and offering new products or services.
Not everyone can design their own original curriculum and create teaching resources, but if you can, it’s a great way to give your company image a boost. Another important thing is to pay attention to your students’ needs. In the countryside of Japan, we found that many students prefer conversation-based lessons with less book work. This is because many students grow up learning how to read and write in junior high school English class, but never have enough experience to master speaking. Focusing on this weakness, we decided to create a curriculum that meets their needs and focus primarily on conversation.
The kids class curriculum we designed, the Free BINGOBONGO Curriculum, is also a solution to this problem. With this flexible curriculum, kids can learn proper pronunciation and remember natural expressions easier through repetition with music and videos. After children learn the target expressions, they can then practice reading and writing with our free worksheets and flashcards. All our songs are specifically designed with a grammar point in mind to help students master conversation before they learn to read and write. This makes sense since it’s how native speakers naturally learn language.
Whatever you choose for your curriculum, just remember that your students’ needs are first and foremost. A custom-tailored curriculum to meet their needs will be the most effective way to create fun lessons that people want to keep coming back for and tell their friends about.
5. Set Up Monthly Automatic Bank Withdrawal Payments
The last point of this guide to starting your own language school (eikaiwa) is often overlooked, yet a crucial point. As a business owner and manager, you will be busy with numerous tasks including teaching, scheduling, book keeping, advertising, and more. The more time you can save in daily tasks, the more time you will have to take on new challenges and promote your school.
Setting up automatic bank payments for students that pay a monthly fee will save a significant amount of time. Our school started automatic payments after about six months, and it was the single biggest time saver and headache eliminator. The stress of trying to chase down overdue payments and keep track of who has or hasn’t paid was instantly gone. Not to mention, it gives a sense of trust to your customers.
In Japan, many banks required having at least 100 transactions (customers) per month to set up an automatic withdrawal system, but the Yucho Post Office Bank Service is a little more flexible and we could start with around 30 or 40 customers. They charge 25 yen per student which is also reasonable. Depending on the country you start your English school, this may be easier or more difficult, but without a doubt, it was the best thing we could do to make management more efficient.