The International Association of Language Centres (IALC) is an established global network of 158 accredited independent language schools for non-native speakers abroad, representing 20 countries.
Over the years, IALC has evolved from an association for private family-run language schools and now includes a range of organisation types: single-centre and small chain, profit and non-profit, family businesses and partnerships. The member organisation operates a primarily B2B (business-to-business) model, relying on third party agencies to find and book students on its courses. However, with growing competition in this field and students turning to the internet to assist their decision making, IALC now recognises the need to become more consumer-facing.
In April 2016, IALC brought together 80 language school members from around the world for a one-day workshop to agree a new strategy and set a new path for this member association. The objective of the exercise was to consider the organisation’s current brand positioning and establish a clear brand direction for the future, maximising IALC’s existing strengths and aligning the brand to the future of the language school market.
They needed a strategy adviser to facilitate the day and subsequently help shape the new direction. Whitecap Consulting was appointed to support IALC with the project.
Julian Wells, director at Whitecap Consulting, said:
“Our approach was to carry out research and first stage thinking before the strategy day, so that we maximised the input and ideas from members on the day.”
“We created a number of options for discussion, which had to be highly interactive to ensure the members really owned the process. On the day we provided a team of experienced marketing practitioners and facilitators to ensure that we could get the most out of a workshop that had to be very focused as it was quite time constrained.”
Jan Capper, executive director at IALC, said:
“Whitecap quickly understood our organisation, our challenges and picked up where we wanted to take the business. They came up with a pragmatic but robust way for us to work with our members so they were involved in the process and would be united as we implement these plans.”
“They were excellent at keeping everyone focused on strategic direction and pulled together the discussions and themes into a working strategy that we can implement easily across the world. We now have a great strategy which continues our relationships with agencies but also connects us directly to students for the future.”
There was support all round for IALC to connect more directly to students, through both digital and non-digital channels, even though the majority of the students are recruited via third party agents. It was also agreed to focus even more on the benefits of learning languages in the country where they are spoken, absorbing the culture in the process.
“IALC is more than a trade association. We are here to provide a platform for the industry, to deliver quality in every area – from our school members to cutting edge research to networking opportunities that help build relationships which will drive business forward. We are looking forward to rolling out a stronger brand over the next year that will firmly position IALC as the expert in language travel.”