Make It Practical: A Key Quality to Learning Effectiveness

Now having discussed learning effectiveness and the two qualities that account for it, let’s explore the second one of these qualities: making language learning practical. 

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How To Market your Summer Student Programmes

Below you'll find Herbert & I discussing How To Market your Summer student programmes.

It's summer! And that means summer language programs are running in full swing. In this week's episode, learn how to market your summer course this year and navigate all the challenges of travel restrictions. 

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Make It Personal: A Key Quality to Learning Effectiveness

Having discussed why learning effectiveness is essential to success in LangTech in a previous article and the two qualities that account for it, let’s explore the first of these qualities: making language learning personal. 

Let’s start by highlighting the important word here; personal. We deliberately use the word personal, not personalised... Why?

  • Personalised learning: Where the learning experience is customised to the individual. However, options for customisation are externally created and predetermined by the instructor or organisation. Therefore, choices are finite. Think of Netflix.

  • Personal learning: Where the learning experience is a product of a learner’s input. Therefore, choices are infinite.

In the words of educationist Will Richardson, “‘personalized’ learning is something that we do to [learners]; ‘personal’ learning is something they do for themselves.”

Why Can’t Educators Follow Netflix’s Example in the Entertainment Industry?

There is a reason why personalisation works well for content consumption, but it is not ideal for language learning.

Netflix does a great job of personalising your home screen and list of recommendations. Netflix has a limited range of TV shows and movies but by running 250 A/B tests per year, continuously tracking and monitoring your behaviour, and employing extremely advanced algorithms, your Netflix home screen and recommendations can seem to remarkably reflect your tastes and preferences. 

If we’re happy with a “Netflix-grade” of personalisation with our entertainment, why couldn’t we accept a similar degree of personalisation to our education?

Firstly, let’s clear up that there’s nothing “wrong” with personalisation. Personalisation is an improvement on a one-size-fits-all approach. However, personal learning takes this a step further even still. 

Watching video-based entertainment is a purely passive activity, and requires little input from the individual. Users select amongst a finite set of options and those options are created externally.

By contrast, the end goal of learning a language is to actively speak it or “produce” it. This requires significant input from the individual. Options are infinite because those options are created with the individual and every individual is unique.

Why Personal Learning is Essential for Language Learning

As we discussed before, the goal of teaching a language is to create independent language users. The optimal way to achieve that independence is for learning to be personal: students taking ownership of their learning. It is a teacher or an organisation’s responsibility to inspire and facilitate this. Most independent teachers can achieve this ideal, but it becomes much harder for an organisation at scale. 

Let’s take a look at an example in language learning, and explore what the same course would look like with three different approaches: 

  1. Standardised; 

  2. Personalised;

  3. Personal.

In this case, we’ll assume the student has never studied nor had any exposure to the target language before.

Example of a Standardised Learning Approach 

The lesson plan consists of a predetermined set of competencies (e.g. introducing yourself, describing your family, describing where you live, etc.) and language skills (writing, speaking, listening, reading) that the learner needs to master. These are created by the teacher (externally) without any involvement from the individual student and the delivery is the same for all students in the course.

The course also includes a fixed series of grammar topics (e.g. Present Simple, Present Continuous, Wh- Questions) and vocabulary topics (e.g. nationalities, occupations, household objects, etc.) that are considered key to this level. 

The learner progresses through the curriculum and acquires the competencies, skills and knowledge by using an externally established methodology. This methodology is decided either by the instructor in a teacher-led course or by the instructional designer in a self-paced course.

The learner demonstrates their acquisition of knowledge and skills through an assessment (externally predetermined by the instructional designer). The assessment occurs throughout and at the end of the course (e.g. Q & A, multiple choice, giving a presentation, writing an essay).

The course has a fixed plan (e.g. 10 units) to be completed within a fixed period of time (e.g. 30 hours of classes, 30 minutes per unit, etc.).

Example of a Personalised Learning Approach 

The scenario, level and goals are the same as above: 

  • Externally created plan

  • Fixed topics

  • Single teaching methodology

  • External assessment 

  • Typically with a fixed frequency and course duration. 

In this case, however, the individual’s learning preferences and choices are considered when deciding how the course is delivered, whether all/some of the content units are covered. However, the learning paths and combinations that the student can choose from are limited and typically determined by the instructional designer.

For example, the learning options open to the student may vary, based on broadly-held preferences and goals such as the:

  • Sequence of topics covered.
  • Methodology or approach.
  • Content and time spent on each content unit (possibly enabling each student to complete a unit at his/her own pace).
Regardless of how many possible options there are, all these options are predetermined and finite. They still only barely involve the learner in the decision-making process and so limit the potential options and results.

Example of a Personal Learning Approach

In this scenario, the instructor or machine interacts with the learner to understand what the student’s motivations are and to help the student establish what her learning goals are:

  • Why are you learning this language? 

  • What for? 

  • What are your expectations at the end of this course? 

The answers are, by nature, unlimited (or infinite).

Once the goals have been defined and agreed upon, the instructor (or machine) and learner work together on creating a lesson plan to achieve them.

Questions they have to explore together and the answers could include: 

  • What competencies, knowledge and skills do we need to reach these goals? 

  • What content are we going to use, and how are we going to use it? 

Throughout the course, there will be multiple opportunities for reflection, during which the initial decisions can be reassessed, and content and/or methodology can be changed accordingly. The learner will also have to agree and decide, together with the instructor (or machine), how the learner will demonstrate knowledge acquisition or mastery of a skill, in order to assess that the initially established goals have been met.

In Summary

Personalised learning is more effective than standardised learning but less so than personal learning. 

Personal learning happens where learning is a product of an individual’s unique choices. It is more relevant and more effective for language learning, but there are challenges in scaling up across a large organisation. Technology may offer to overcome these challenges. 

What do you think? When will this transition take place or is it happening already?

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LangTech Book: Introducing the PP-PS Framework to Language Educators

We previously discussed the three key product categories of LangTech (Human-Powered Instruction, Machine-Powered Instruction, and Mixed Instruction). We most recently explored the 5 fundamental enabling technologies that are shaping the future of online language education. 

We would now like to turn this theory into something practical, and help answer the following question: What makes a LangTech product (or service, or feature) successful? 

Let’s begin by addressing the problem of defining “success.” Of course, there is no single definition of success because everyone might define this term differently; what is successful for one learner or for one company might be seen as sub-standard for another. In addition, when we talk about success in LangTech, are we referring to pedagogical or to commercial success? 

We have identified two common issues that generally prevent LangTech teams or founders from finding an objective perspective and creating a product that is adequately balanced for “success” in both learning and business. These issues can (and oftentimes do) ultimately kill a product. These are (a) founder bias and (b) friction between learning and business teams.

a. Founder bias

Anyone who has been in LangTech for a number of years is all too familiar with the following scenario: a new language learning product is created, it claims to be the holy grail of language learning due to x or y methodology/technology and after a few months it shows significant weaknesses either pedagogically or commercially.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how good your language learning product is: no single methodology, strategy or technology can be the holy grail of language learning (or learning in general), due to two interrelated facts: 

  • Neurodiversity exists; and, 
  • Consequently, learner variability exists.

In a nutshell (since these concepts merit, at the very least, an independent article), neurodiversity refers to the infinite variation of human brains and minds. Just like each individual is unique, so are our brains. Inevitably, each individual will therefore bring an infinite variety of learner profiles into the classroom; a concept we refer to as “learner variability.” 

Founders and Product Managers tend to be biased towards their own experiences as learners. This is not a criticism, it is an observation of a natural way of thinking: if it worked for me, why wouldn’t it work for everyone else?

b. Friction between learning and business teams

Another issue we have often seen in LangTech product development is that there seems to be a disconnect between people with a background in the learning sciences and people with a background in business or entrepreneurship. The former is generally more product-oriented: they tend to want to develop a product that is well-rounded and effective from a learning perspective. This can lead to a product or service that gets full marks for pedagogy but is unviable for cost or market reasons.

On the flip side, more business-oriented entrepreneurs tend to prioritize cost-cutting, scalability and profitability. These attributes are valid and important in LangTech but not when they erode the student learning experience to the point that the product does not work. It is also very common in LangTech to observe “solution-focused” entrepreneurs trying to solve problems that most teachers and students don’t have, or otherwise trying to solve problems that are not enough of a pain that they will pay enough money for their solution (if at all).

This friction between learning effectiveness and commercial viability will always exist in LangTech (even not-for-profit organizations and products need to have a business model these days). Instead of fighting or trying to remove this friction, what LangTech leaders need to do is embrace its existence and try to optimize your product for both.

So how do you overcome these two challenges? 

When we look at a LangTech product, we personally try to maintain a balanced view by using a four-part framework which we call Personal & Practical - Profitable & Scalable, or the PP-PS Framework.

The framework considers a LangTech product, feature or service is successful when it is optimized for learning effectiveness, which we define as making learning personal and practical, and for commercial viability, which we define as making an endeavour profitable and scalable. We will dig deeper into these two concepts as well as their choice for the framework in the next two articles.

The purpose of the PP-PS framework is twofold: 

  1. To avoid relying too heavily on your own vision and on confirmation bias; and
  2. To help find the right balance between sales and product development, and/or identify in which area your product is lagging behind.

In the follow on article, we will explore the PP-PS framework in detail, including how we use metrics and rubrics to assess just how successful a LangTech endeavour is, and how its success can be increased.

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Teaching ESL Online in China and Stung By New Chinese Regulations? Want To Start Your Own Online Teaching Business?

Last month, new regulations have upended the future of tutoring and language learning in China. For-profit tutoring in core education in China has been banned in order to improve school-life balance for families. Firms cannot hire staff, teachers or tutors based outside of China to tutor students inside of mainland China. 

So what does that mean for the thousands of tutoring agencies & language schools and the hundreds of thousands of foreign teachers that work for them?

The leading tutoring & language teaching providers in China have all announced drastic changes in their operations and/or have discontinued their contracts. VIPKidfor example, initially announced it would stop selling foreign-based tutoring to students in China to comply with the new rules and later, on the 25th of August announced that even pre-scheduled classes would be cancelled. It's current advice is that after August 31, VIPKid teachers would only be able to work with those students located outside of Mainland China. 

This is a huge blow for those teachers relying on this work so if you have been affected by this massive shock, you are not alone. 

However, many online ESL teachers are now using this as an opportunity to start their own online tutoring businesses. With so much regulation in China, many of those teachers are also looking at markets outside of China. 

LearnCube can help you with both the tools and know-how for you to start your own business.

Starting with a virtual classroom & online school platform for tutors & language teachers:

  • If you’re an individual teacher looking for a professional virtual classroom, signup for a free trial of our virtual classroom here .
  • If you’re a solopreneur with the goal of starting your own independent business, find out about our new Online School Lite solution here

  • If you’re an online language school looking to grow your business, learn more about our Online School here
LearnCube can also help you with marketing your venture. If you're looking for good advice on how to market your new business, start with our 'Get More Students' podcast focused on solving just this problem.

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Virtual Classroom and Online School platform updates - August 2021

We've made some changes to the Virtual Classroom and Online School platform.

LearnCube Whiteboard & Virtual Classroom Software

Following on from our improvements in February and May, we've released:

  • The translations for Romanian now available in the classroom.

  • Improvements to the look of the language switcher in the top-right of the class.

  • We've had reports of some teachers unable to use the cross, tick and star symbols in the classroom. These edge cases have been solved and users still experiencing the issue should try clearing their cache.

  • We've made tweaks to the text editing tool to make it more user-friendly.

Online School Software

Following on from our improvements in February and May, we've released:

  • We've created two areas to add notes to a student profile when editing a student:
    • Admin notes (viewable by Admins and Staff only) and
    • Teacher notes (viewable by Admin, Staff and Teachers).
    • Watch this video to learn more

  • We have added two levels for Online School customers: US school levels and levels 1-25.

  • The look of the language switcher in the top-right of the school has been improved to enable more languages in the future.

  • Cancelled classes no longer appear in a student's past class list to reduce clutter or potential confusion.

  • Enrolling a student in a demo class no longer requires a credit.

  • There were occasional reports of students having a second credit deducted for an already-booked class when entering the class. This has been resolved.

  • Students searching for teachers to book classes using filters would sometimes see other teachers in the filtered results. This has been resolved.

  • There were reports of some students able to book a 1-hour class in the last half-hour of availability when booking classes via a teacher's calendar availability. This should no longer happen.

Other general changes:

  • We added Young Learner exam units to ESL content.

Of course, we're constantly improving LearnCube behind-the-scenes to improve usability and performance.

Thanks for your ongoing support and if you're in the northern hemisphere, hope you're having a great summer!

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How to Sell Online Courses via WhatsApp

Below you'll find Herbert & I discussing How to Sell Online Courses on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp can be an amazing marketing tool for online language schools and tutoring companies, particularly in certain markets. Read on to find how Anthony Ninos from American Teacher Club used WhatsApp to catapult his language business in Brazil.

How to Sell Online Courses via WhatsApp

Alex: Hey and welcome to another episode of the Get More Students podcast! I'm your co-host Alex Asher and CEO of LearnCube.

Herbert: And I’m Herbert Gerzer, founder of

Alex: Now we actually have a special guest also with us, but I’m going to leave you all in suspense because I want to tell you first of all what we're going to be talking about. This wasn't an original idea, but when we started talking with Anthony, who you're going to meet, we just got really captivated and excited about this topic. It was something that could give us all ideas about whatever marketing we're doing in social media. That is how to sell online language or tutoring courses via WhatsApp. 

It's not something that we'd actually discussed or even thought, Herb and I. We're very much the juniors in this conversation, but we wanted to talk about this because (a) with LearnCube, we specialize in helping online language and tutoring companies grow their business with our three products, online whiteboardvirtual classroom and online school. So by helping our customers sell more classes we're actually helping ourselves. This is actually a really nice virtual cycle.

Herbert, tell us about your experience as well because you rely on social media.

Herbert: Oh absolutely, running an advertising agency for language schools and education businesses, we're always looking for ways to market courses through different platforms, mainly through Facebook, Instagram, and google. I’m excited to talk about a different method or strategy of selling online courses today. 

Alex: That's totally it! And let me introduce you to Anthony. Anthony Ninos. He is the director of The American Teacher Club, and it's an online language company based in Brazil. They're going for years. We think it's fantastic and they've been doing a really great job in social media. 

Now one of the things that I didn't realize when I thought of social media, and I think Herbert thought the same, you know we're going to be talking about Facebook and Instagram, and then we start talking with Anthony, and we're talking about WhatsApp. This is a really fascinating conversation we're about to have and I’m looking forward to it.

Let's set the stage a little bit for this conversation. Anthony, first of all, tell us a little bit about your journey of even starting an online language school.

Anthony: Nice to meet you, everybody! Welcome, hi Herbert, hi Alex!

Basically, I started off teaching by myself. I came down to Brazil when I was only 25 years old and I started teaching private classes. After a while, I got too many students, and I started to get a teacher here, get a teacher there, and finally, in 2011 I was able to create American Teacher Club. In the beginning, we were working with private students in companies and stuff like that, and in 2015 is when I started working with online classes as well as classes in companies.

Now it's been a really good experience, especially starting last year when I started using LearnCube of course as well in May. The pandemic came and the increase in online classes really really worked out well. We were able to double during the pandemic and also the quality of the classes as well as the platform we use with you guys.

Alex: that's fantastic, and Anthony, again on my side, I have been such an admirer of what you've been doing. I've only seen the kind of glimpse of what you've been doing social media-wise, on say Facebook and the platforms that I’m really familiar with. But you said something quite interesting before. What percentage of your students actually come from social media do you think?

Anthony: A hundred percent, all of my students come from social media. Of course, we have referrals but the core students come directly from social media platforms.

Herbert: That shows you the power of social media.

Alex: We were thinking of just starting off with the basics. Some people are still on the fence, even whether I should get into social media, and you're saying, look my entire business is really made up of me doing a great job on social media.

Anthony: Yeah, I think that the main problem, in the beginning, is people don't know what to do. They don't hire people like Herbert to help them and show them what to do. At times you can spend a lot of money and not get results, not get the right results that you need, and I went through this myself in the beginning. I learned by trial and error and social media you need to invest. If you don't invest in social media, you're not going to be able to grow. 

Organic I do it. Of course, I make a video here, I post things, but there's no comparison with organic compared to paid advertising. There's basically no comparison whatsoever. In my opinion of course. Maybe other people have different opinions. 

Alex: I think organic does feel a little bit like I’m handing the keys to somebody else and hopefully they drive back to me. Whereas social media, particularly in the paid aspect, you really can control like it's a lever, and you can play with the machine. Whereas, blogs or SEO and organic, I think, by the way, I really do think that can work for some customers, but they require different skill sets and it's a different machine that you don't really know how it's working. Is that your experience Anthony?

Anthony: Yeah, I agree with you totally about that. Like I said, today everybody's basically working from home, like it or not. Even when everything gets back to normal, people are still going to be continuing to work at home. I believe that in Brazil and Brazil at least, it transformed. Brazilians had the knowledge of going to a class, and now with this pandemic, they're getting really used to having classes online. Everybody that we get, a lot never had a class online, but I really liked it. You give them a trial class, so they can meet the teacher, so it's really good. I really like this format. But like I said if you don't actually make that investment and not be afraid. 

I can tell you, in the beginning, I was a little bit afraid because I was just a private teacher, trying to get some students. So my budget was just the money that I had. I’m saying "I’m gonna spend like 10 bucks or 15 bucks a day." That for me was money at the time, to see if I can get students. But when I realized it was working, the more you invest, the more results you're gonna get. That's just how Facebook and Instagram work. Depends on how much you want to put in. These platforms will give you the results according to what you pay them. It's a business basically.

If it wasn't for Facebook or Instagram, I wouldn't have American Teacher Club today, I’ll tell you that. We wouldn't be anywhere close to what we were able to become, because of online marketing.

Alex: Interesting, and how do you actually use Facebook at the moment?

Anthony: Basically we create ads, we take videos from LearnCube, that we have the classes actually, and we market exactly the videos. What we do is we make about 20, 25-second ads. we get the best moments of the class for example, and then we post a video, and we use the forms. 

I always use the forms, I don't really use reach and different formats that they have there, like sending to a landing page. From my personal experience, the landing page doesn't work as well as the form page works. I've seen that you can get many people to go to your landing page, but to get those results from the same amount, you would invest on a form page. I don't see a comparison for me. With the form page, the person goes there, he put his name, he'll put his WhatsApp, and he'll put his email and his level of English.

That's basically the four things that we asked them, and I receive that and then from there, we make the first contact.

Alex: And I assume you make that contact very quickly?

Anthony: I make it as quick as possible. Of course, during the night, some people also make it, we make the contact as soon as possible. Every two hours I’m checking to take the contacts and we send them the first message, which is through WhatsApp. That's how we send the first contact that we have with the potential students.

Alex: Yeah, because people are so impatient these days. I’ve heard a lot of other schools run these sorts of campaigns but they wait hours to get back to people. But I think if you're using WhatsApp as a form of contact, people expect an answer immediately.

Anthony: Yeah exactly. I’ll tell you exactly what you just said now, it's interesting. Sometimes we'll get a contact at night, and of course, we're sleeping. People are up all night long, hours, social media is moving. I’ll send them a message, and they'll say "Oh I’m sorry. I've already found something else." 

You registered like one o'clock in the morning, I sent it to you at 10 and they said, "Oh no. We already have an English teacher for us. Thank you very much." So you need to be fast, you need to be as fast as possible. People want answers fast. And another thing is, speaking about WhatsApp, messages can't be so long either because a lot of times you know people will take a look and they won't read the whole thing. They just look at the top, and that's a little bit difficult as well. 

Another thing I find difficult as well as you'll send them “Okay. I’m from American Teacher Club blah blah blah,” and you'll ask them a question like what's your level of English, what are your objectives, and what's the best day for your trial class. When they reply to you, their answer is like this, ”What's the price?” Without even answering, always about the price, always the price.

Herbert: Right, it's always about the price, exactly. 

Alex: It's interesting, Anthony, just to reflect that back to you. it does also depend on who you're marketing to. So sometimes, if somebody sent you that back then, for example, that might not be a good customer. They're going to be just hunting for the lowest price, and then you get nowhere. You know that they're hunting around for the same reasons, and also doesn't show any kind of indication that they're really committing. You said that you do trial classes, right?

Anthony: Yeah.

Alex: I know that those are really effective, but I also know that they're not effective at all if you get the wrong people. People might go, well I’m not valuing it, I haven't paid anything for it, so I just won't turn up. But then you're paying the teachers still, so actually, it's a major problem if you get the wrong people turning up. How do you handle those people that are super price-conscious straight off the bat?

Anthony: Well Brazilians are Latinos, so they're really different from, let's say Americans as myself or people from England as yourselves. They like the contact. What do I normally do, I work in the sales, I have other people, I'm the one that sells, I’m good at it, I like it, I like to do it. What I always do first is I'll send them the first contact and then when they send me that example I’ll price. So I’ll send them an audio: “How are you my friend. Nice to meet you. My name's Anthony, blah blah blah. What's your level of English? What are your objectives? What I’m gonna do is I'm gonna also send you the price list to see if this also fits in your budget or not.”

I always say that first, why, because before you send the price list and I’ll even tell you today. If we go to June, we've already had this month of 97 trial classes. Out of 97 trial classes, we've gotten more or less about 20 students. So it's about 20% of the trial classes that you're going to actually give. I don't know how it is in the rest of the world, maybe it's similar, but in Brazil, the price is really important for the people. You can have Product A which is wonderful and Product B which is horrible. I’m just gonna go with Product B because it's cheaper.

We've even had students that actually had trial classes with us went to a competitor that's charging extremely cheap, really bad quality classes, and they've left the competitor and came back to us. This has happened a few times already. You know that's good. People see the platform and say it's really nice, I really like the platform, I like your material, I like everything, but you know I have another couple of trial classes. When they say that to me, I'll go in and I’ll say, okay but didn't you like the class with us, I said, be honest, what are you looking for, price? Then you got to negotiate with them, try to get a price, discount them and try to make the sale.

If you let them go to the next school to make a trial class, you lost them. They're gone. They're finished. 

Alex: That's really nice. Just going back one step, you said that you send them an audio. So they've just gone through Facebook, they've put in their details through the form, I think part of that is the WhatsApp number. You then send them an audio? 

Anthony: No, I sent them a pre-made text that I already have, I just put the name there, and then once they respond to me, then I’ll send them an audio. I'll always personalize it. A lot of people say why don't you pre-record it, because they're going to see it's pre-recorded. It's another thing if I say, "Hi Alex..." they know you're not just sending them a pre-recording. I always do that about 30 seconds, 45 seconds most of the time.

They'll reply with an audio, or they'll reply in English, try to reply in English, or they'll write something in English, so you have to make that rapport. If you don't have that connection, you're just cold like everybody else, just sending a message on WhatsApp and that's it. That's my way of working, that's what I do and I see that it works.

Alex: I actually think it's brilliant. One, because we've talked about this before, but if you're anyone that's not one of the big box language schools, if you're going against that kind of competition, personalization is probably one of the first tools that you have at your disposal. Herbert, do you have any kind of thoughts? I think that this is enthralling, but tell me your thoughts? 

Herbert: I would love to know, Anthony, how you handle the amount of WhatsApp messages. If you're running ads, you know you could be getting hundreds of lead forms each day. Is it manageable for one person to handle communication with hundreds of potential students? 

Anthony: Yeah, what's happened during this pandemic? I don't know if you've realized that if the same thing is happening out in your neck of the woods or not, but in Brazil, the price has increased a lot on Facebook because there are a lot more ads. We used to get a form for a pretty good lead for about three reals, four reals, which is equivalent to a little bit less than a dollar. Nowadays, it's not less than eight, so eight is about a dollar fifty. I don't know how much it's costing out there, but about a dollar fifty, a dollar sixty to have the right, more or less, leads. 

We get per day about twenty, twenty-two. How do I do that? I’ll explain, what do I do, I basically will send out the leads today, because if you don't get the lead today, and you don't get the lead tomorrow, the third day he's lost, he's gone. So you have basically to work with him within two days. I'll send out the first message today, let's say. Let's say he hasn't responded. People normally respond after work, six seven o'clock, eight o'clock at night as well. At night time they're sending messages out a lot here in Brazil, until 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, sometimes I’ll be responding as well.

I’ll just look at my dates and see, and then the next day I’ll follow up with another message: "Hey, this is Anthony again, you know you didn't respond to me, I guess you were a little bit busy..." If he's still interested, he will schedule a trial class. I have that pre-made text ready again. I’ll see if they view it or not, the ones that at least leave it open that you can see. If not, and after the second time I send another short message, and then I’ll just archive them. I won't talk to them again because they're basically lost. If they saw it once, twice, or three times, you know they're not gonna answer you anymore. 

Another trick that I have as well, I have a code that I put for me to know who I’m talking to. I have to register it on WhatsApp. Let's say Ad June Herbert, Ad June Alex. What I do sometimes is I’ll go to old leads that I have, and it's funny how people just fill forms out left and right. I’ll send out a message, "Hey you filled out a form" and they say "Oh. Yes I did." They don't even know who they fill out forms with because they fill out so many.

I’ve gotten leads from two, three years ago that are still on my phone, my phone has about 23-24 thousand contacts in it, and I’ll just send them out as if they're fresh and sometimes you'll get them. Whatever works you know.

Alex: You've done the hard work upfront as well, and also they've got that history with WhatsApp much more so than even email. You can see and you're quite specific, like hey you know this is obviously about language, and these are the things that I need from you. I think one of the other things about that is that you mentioned before, students might go to another competitor, maybe a competitor that's cheaper, that can be great. Then they've had a really bad experience and then when they come back to you, they're like why would I need to go again. I’ve just had a terrible experience. I’m having a great experience here, and then you've got some student retention there as well.

Anthony: Exactly and sometimes we have our price list. Sometimes I’ll just take it away from the competitor, I’ll give the same price. Every now and then, I do that, because just for them to learn the lesson. I have leeway where I can play because we have enough students, and you know that they don't have so many students. You know that they're suffering and they're still breaking the prices, and basically making nothing. It's a business. You know you got to make money, you know if you're not going to make money, you're just going to charge a class, for example, 18 or 20 and pay your teacher 10 or 12 and make eight. You're not going to make money with that because you have expenses, but that's what a lot of people do here. I look at some prices, and I’m like how can this guy charge this price. I mean it's virtually impossible.

Alex: Interesting, Herbert, did you have any questions? We've gone from a Facebook ad, to form, to WhatsApp, to send out a text message, follow-up messages, possibly an audio, which I loved by the way in terms of personalization. and what could be more personal than hearing from the owner of American Teacher Club. Sounds fantastic! Then, obviously, being able to re-engage leads, you take them to a trial page.

First of all, the thing that was interesting for me was the fact that WhatsApp is incredibly popular in Brazil. Can you give us a sense of what that feels like? Because I’m based here in the UK and I certainly haven't heard WhatsApp used in the same way you're describing.

Anthony: Yeah, we use WhatsApp for everything. Stores in the shopping malls, if you go there they'll take your WhatsApp. They'll send you the promotions that they have as well. Everything. Video calls, calls, nobody basically calls anymore. Everybody calls on WhatsApp or just sends audio messages on WhatsApp. So everybody has WhatsApp here. The government sites have WhatsApp, where you can communicate. They have the robots, those bots wrote on WhatsApp. Every kind of service is on WhatsApp nowadays here in Brazil. Every single company that you can imagine uses WhatsApp. That's just the main form of communication here. 

I find when I go to Europe, I don't know if you guys know, but I’m Greek as well. In Greece they use Viber. They don't use WhatsApp. My mother too in the States, I said put it on your phone, we don't use them, my sister, too. But now in the states, they're starting to use it. I think Facebook, they're trying to push it a lot. A lot of people on Facebook, they're like oh I’m not gonna let Facebook take my data and this and that. They'll try to go to Telegram but everybody will come back to WhatsApp.

Alex: No one uses the other platforms. 

Anthony: No one uses the other ones, exactly. I find that the best way to communicate with students. The best way to even follow up on your students and stuff like that. Emails I just don't use them. I look at my own inbox and I don't even look at basically anything. It's all spam, it's all this, it's all that. I sign up for specific English courses. One of the big ones, I’m sure you know who it is, and they send out basically five or six emails per day. it's ridiculous. I just followed to see what they're doing. Always with the biggest promotion of the year, the biggest sale of the year, the biggest this of the year. If I’m getting these emails, I know it's not true. You just basically wind up not even looking or just deleting them. That's why I don't use emails as a form to contact, the first contact of the students.

Alex: Just one thing I wouldn't mind going back to. Even an email right? so email in particular, there is the sense of why they're sending so many emails. It's like, hey they didn't buy on the first day, as you mentioned before, they didn't buy on the first day, second day, or third day. In your view, you've sort of stopped that WhatsApp, which by the way, totally could understand. Is there any benefit in follow-up messages and WhatsApp or does that tend to start backfiring more so than, say, an email would? 

Anthony: Well, what I normally do, we're in the underground, we're going into July. In July, I’ll start sending back to the students again in June. I’ll send a follow-up because as I told you, I put them with code so I know what it is. And then I’ll just go down and just copy-paste. It's pretty fast. It sounds like it'll take a long time, but it's not. And I’ll follow up on them again. Sometimes, every now and then, somebody will respond or not.

Again, in my opinion, I don't do follow-ups on emails either. I just don't find that productive. because I think like this. If I don't open it, why would somebody else do it? So if I’m going to make a specific campaign and I don't like it, why should I do it. Why do I think somebody else will open it? I think it has to be something that I would like to do, that I would like for me to open myself. That's how I think. I’ve never done marketing, school of marketing, I never studied, I’ve studied some marketing just to see how it works. But everything that I do on Facebook and Instagram, I do by myself.

I get these specialists from Facebook, they call me, they help you with these campaigns, but they're so generic and so basic that I refuse it. I look at the campaigns that they give me. I’ve done it before, and I look at my own, I get more results from my own, so what do I need from them? They've been working for Facebook for one year, and I’ve been advertising on Facebook for 10. So I think I know a little bit more than they do. that's how I think sometimes.

Alex: Is there anything that you think, and I’m wondering for you Herbert, just out of what you've heard. What do you feel that people outside of brazil could really learn from this experience?

Herbert: Definitely, experiment with different forms of communication depending on your target audience, your target market. If you are marketing to Brazil, and I know that a lot of English schools in North America, Brazil is one of their main markets. Making WhatsApp your main form of communication. I've also heard that Latin America, you know they also like WhatsApp a lot, and are very savvy with that. But there might be a different messaging platform for a different market. Maybe for Russia, that might be Telegram, or VK, or whatever they use there.

These small experiments don't usually cost a lot, but they can be very effective.

Alex: That's that. Anthony, you've learned on your journey and this has been a fantastic conversation about WhatsApp. But any last comments?

Anthony: I think that if you're gonna market your products online, you can't be afraid to invest. You can't be afraid, like in the beginning, I was afraid but I was able to get out of it. Of course, you know if you do it through somebody like Herbert, who has the experience, you'll be much better of course than trying on your own. Herbert will know the business himself and could help you. But you have got to spend money. You’re not going to get anything in life for free, and neither is marketing. Unless you're a big influencer that has, hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. But if you're an English school and you have five thousand, ten thousand followers. You still gotta invest.

Another thing too is you have to let your own followers appear. Generic followers. Don't pay for followers, don't pay for fans, because that's a waste. You have all these fans and then you post something online you'll get no likes. As I said, I think you can't be afraid to invest. You got to keep on trying, never give up. Offer good products, and also a good platform, just like LearnCube's Online Tutoring Platform, and I’m not paid to advertise you guys but I really like the product. The product is really wonderful, I’ve had a really good experience with it.

Alex: I really appreciate that as well Anthony. It's been an absolute pleasure having you on the Get More Students podcast. Again, this has matched or exceeded my expectations. Totally learned something new. 

I think it's a wonderful story of how often we think that the big box companies have all of the strings and know everything or have all of the answers, or that the channel. but actually, we're learning here that you can succeed with really owning and really understanding a channel or a market much better than anyone else. I think you're a real testament to that. Congratulations on the success!

Anthony: Thank you very much!

Alex: Just to finish off. Thank you again for listening to the Get More Students podcast. We deliver a new shiny episode each week so make sure you hit the subscribe button. And if you would actually like to try LearnCube, please check it out at

We look forward to talking to you more next week. See you again!

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