AI chatbots for ELT marketing: challenges and tips
14 September 2023

Person looking at smart phone

AI chatbots for ELT marketing: challenges and tips

Are you using a chatbot on your website? And if you are, is it supporting bookings or deterring them?

That's one of the questions that will be posed by Richard Bradford at the English UK Marketing Conference, in his session on conversational marketing.

Richard is the managing director of digital marketing consultancy Disquiet Dog, sponsor of our 2023 Marketing Conference. He has been trying out language school chatbots in advance of his session and says they often don't work as well as they should.

"I did a fairly basic search but the sites couldn't cope. They either didn't put me in touch with a real person or took too long to do it.

Chatbots - language barriers meet technical barriers

"Everyone is looking for a solution which will speed up, automate, and improve the efficiency of these one-to-one conversations. Unfortunately, the implementation is often surprisingly bad. While chatbots might help to steer 80% of enquiries, 20% of users will fall by the wayside and be alienated by the poor quality of the interaction.

"Sadly, this is a particular problem in our industry, where there can be a language barrier as well as a technical barrier. AI can sometimes do a good job but how many potential clients are you turning away while waiting for your AI to become powerful enough to learn to do it better?"

"ELT is a business where increasingly every student matters. We will soon be moving back into full-on cut-throat competition and luring students from an ever-decreasing pool. When you have students who have bothered to find your website and land on it and start talking to your organisation, why throw an inept machine in their direction?"

Use AI to be unique in a crowded market

Richard says it is important for marketers to have a real sense of their brand and who they are attempting to target. It is also vital to programme AI chatbots properly and test them with a high volume of questions before they go live.

The risk is that AI, a "fledgling technology" is often being used by people who are new to the ELT industry. As a result, everyone could end up with bland, generic and similar content.

He believes this is the time for schools to create genuine product differentiation and to broaden out into more experience-based packages linked to tourism and themed study.

Start with a clear understanding of your customers

Underpinning all this should be a clear understanding of customers: AI can be a useful research tool in understanding students' profiles and understanding what questions and concerns they have in different countries and even cities and regions. It's also important to understand and segment agents' interests.

If clients do the right research and properly consider their needs, AI technology allows for many interesting possibilities. Disquiet Dog recently worked on a website where every single page now addresses a particular keyword - this led to a strong upturn in the centre's positioning. "Schools have to appreciate why it's worth spending time and a bit more money – you get that back straight away unlike just copying your site into a new template."

Richard is sponsoring the English UK Marketing Conference for the third time. "We want to engage with new schools and meet new marketers. We want to be that backstop, provide the bigger picture to help schools reorientate themselves, identify their true brand identity and competitive position and help steer them towards a more successful marketing strategy."

English UK Marketing Conference 2023

Join us at the Marketing Conference on Friday 29 September at etc venues, St Paul's London.


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