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 herbertgerzer.com.

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 www.learncube.com.

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

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