As I type this, Danielle – our International Marketing Manager, is preparing for a 3 week trip to Brazil. That’s a long time and a long way from home.
Now, any job title with ‘International’ in the title sounds very glamorous. You may imagine, therefore, that Danielle’s job involves jet setting around the world, travelling first class to luxury hotels. A typical day may involve a long continental breakfast, sipping freshly squeezed juice while enjoying sunrise over a tropical panorama. Danielle then dons sunglasses and takes a leisurely stroll over to an agent’s office to have a laugh and browse through our brochures. The agent says “wow, what a great school! It’s a deal!” and signs on the dotted line (Danielle having whipped some ready prepared paperwork out of her briefcase). Over the course of some weeks, Danielle takes scenic routes to other cities and repeats meetings just like this; relaxing after each one with a long lunch, dip in the pool and then sunny evenings to explore some of the wonderful cities she visits.
It is nothing like this. NOTHING. Danielle works hard. Damn hard! I have been on one overseas trip with her, and talked in detail about her other long trips abroad (often back to back, often on one side of the world, then another, skipping over time zones and cultures as if hopping over a giant children’s globe).
First of all, what DOES a marketing manager do for a language school? Students want to come to Ireland to learn English, so they google schools and book a course via our website, right? Wrong. Hard as this is to believe, many potential students have never heard of Ireland or cannot place it on a map, or think England is the only place to go to learn English. These days, those who have heard of Ireland worry that language schools may close down with no notice (without realising that schools like Swan are accredited and recognised and guaranteed by various bodies – a very different kind of school to the ones which have recently closed). Language schools are a business, like any other, and we have to compete for students. We are a brilliant school – but that means very little if no one outside of the school and our present students know it! Even word of mouth wouldn’t reach the amount of students we need to stay open. It is not easy to run a language school and those working within the school, like myself, are dedicated to running and planning, quality issues and pastoral care. Visa issues. Legal issues.
So, we need our International Marketing Manager to go out there and inform students about our school. But students in each country go through agents, so Danielle contacts the agents – often huge organisations who want the best care and the best deal for their students. They act as a go-between, between us and the students, or between us and state schools, businesses, programmes. And when Danielle travels the globe to meet these agents, thousands of other marketing managers have the same idea and so Danielle has to compete with thousands. Agents also like to build up a relationship of trust with marketing managers, so it can take years of old-fashioned face to face contact, meetings, new brochures, workshops etc before an agent agrees to work with you (although, I have to say, with the winning combination of our EAQUALS accredited academic programme and with Danielle’s flawless professionalism, we tend to build bridges with agents quickly and they love working with us). Danielle is vital in bringing us students so that the quality product we send time developing has someone to receive it and so our teachers have someone to teach. Danielle tells people where Ireland is if they haven’t heard of it, and why is it such a great place to study English.
And a typical trip goes more like this…Danielle gets up around 3.30 to drive to the airport, gets on a basic flight (no first class travel!) and works on documents and proposals during a long and cramped flight. Person next to her doesn’t speak English but is delighted to be sitting next to an Irish person, and so chats to her for the entire 12 hours. Daneille tries to have a snooze. Person wakes her up again to have another chat. At the destination, Danielle has to make her way to her budget accommodation (often not in a convenient location if the trip was arranged at the last minute). Just enough time to check emails via often intermittent wireless before dashing off to meet an agent. Agent has a surprise – he has arranged a workshop and example lesson for the group of clients. Danielle is not a teacher but she has 5 minutes to pull off a sample lesson which shows what Swan can do. After presentation Danielle has 15 minutes to get to another meeting 30 minutes away. Everyone at this meeting wants to ask questions. At next meeting agent has rescheduled and so dashing across the city in sweltering heat appears to have been for no reason. Danielle checks email – agent emailed a new time. Danielle has already missed lunch and so grabs a snack on her way to the next meeting. And so it continues. But at 5pm she can go off and relax in her room and enjoy dinner on the balcony. Right? Wrong. The clients are delighted to show her the local delights and so have treated her to a long dinner and entertainment – which is always a fantastic and welcome evening, but does mean Danielle is working a long day. Back to the hotel after midnight and ready for the 5am train across the country to the next meeting. Repeat for 6 days, involving giving up her weekends to work, meet clients and travel across different countries. Or maybe Danielle is home for the weekend – just enough time to unpack, wash clothes, send follow-up emails and reports, and then jump on next flight into next timezone…while still checking emails, receiving calls and writing follow up reports and proposals. And keeping in touch with us to make sure she is selling what we are doing (some marketing managers have been knows to sell something impossible just to endear themselves to a client…!).
Agents also hold annual trade fairs, there are many throughout the year, usually in the autumn. These are like speed-dating events. Danielle sets up a table showing off Swan to its best – with our great new brochures and website. Each agent, client and school wants to speak to Danielle asking questions from 8am until 8pm or later. Without a break. For days on end. Before dashing back to Dublin to get on another flight…!
And it is important because we have a great school and we want to stay open. We are a business, like any other, with an extra commitment to quality. We can offer that to our students, and our staff benefit from the work too. And we need Danielle out there, telling people about how our school is that little bit extra special and a little more professional than the others. Like Danielle herself! Thank you Danielle.