When I first started promoting my school at my two local stations, I began to worry that I’d all flyered out the area and that I’d reached all my potential students already. I needn’t have worried: for one thing my area has a very mobile population with many new residents and office workers moving in every year; for another over 150,000 commuters use the stations each day – it would take a very long time indeed before I’ve saturated this group! But perhaps more importantly, a flyer-in-the-hand has a very long shelf life.
I’ve had a few cases of people booking a trial over a year after receiving a promotional item, and this is because there is such a latent need for English here, that many things can suddenly trigger someone’s desire to study. These triggers can take a range of forms: a couple coming back from an overseas trip realise how much they enjoyed communicating in English, and unleash a ravishing hunger to learn more; a high school student or business man have an impending eiken or TOEIC test that they’d like to ace; a housewife new to the area wants to try a new hobby and make new friends; a professional is facing a transfer overseas and needs a lot of help to prepare mentally as well as linguistically for the transition. I’ve seen all these examples and many more, and that is why one of my favourite questions to ask at a trial is “Why do you want to study English now?”
Perhaps the best case of a trigger is one that started as romantic, and then morphed into something that became essential. One day a very nice gentleman came in for a trial and said that he wanted to study English because next year it was his 20th wedding anniversary, and he wanted to take his wife on a trip to America to celebrate the occasion. He studied for a year, his holiday of a lifetime came and went but he still remained a student as he was enjoying the classes so much. This was a good thing because the following year his company asked him to head a new project in England, thanks in part to his English skills. So we worked hard to get him prepared for a long stint overseas, and after 18 months there I’m delighted to say that he has come back and signed up for classes again this week. The trigger this time? Naturally he needs a place to maintain his great English!