Lusa Language School adopts online tools to overcome challenges
André Teixeira has no hesitation when asked to describe his business’ greatest asset. “Lisbon,” he says. “We are located in a city bursting with life, beautiful beaches, bustling nightlife, and endless secret spots to be explored.” No wonder then that, when André first founded Lusa Language School, it was a physical business in almost every respect. Teachers largely taught in a physical classroom. Students, many of whom came from locations around the globe, were offered assistance not only in terms of finding accommodations but also in finding their way around a city André cares about passionately.
But what happens when that city goes into lockdown? No nightlife. No beaches. Perhaps, as André feared, no students either. “I loved this business and I didn’t want it to close,” André recalls, “I felt this immense weight upon my shoulders because it was on me to ensure that didn’t happen. I also realized that it was in my reach to do something about it.” He moved fast. The first order of business was to create new digital products such as online group classes; that meant restructuring his website. He developed the new designs and content and got it up and running in less than two weeks. Then he needed to let everyone know about the new offerings, which meant reorienting his marketing; André turned that around even quicker. “I had to rethink everything. It reminded me of when I first started the school actually,” he recalls. “The difference this time was that I had to rely on digital tools to get it done. I’m glad I did. I can’t imagine what I would have done without them.”
Once classes shifted online, Andre’s teachers and students moved to video conferencing. Instead of teachers handing out assignments in class, they uploaded them to Google Drive. André himself turned increasingly to other aspects of the Google Workspace, which he said played a “very, very important role in the day-to-day operations of the school—and at a much lower cost than similar software used by larger companies.” Google Sheets served as a great way for Lusa’s staff to share information with potential new students. Google Ads formed the cornerstone of the company’s prospecting strategy itself, becoming its primary marketing tool. Search and YouTube campaigns led the school to not only maintain its operations but even increase its overall turnover, by bringing +40% the amount of signups of pre-Covid times. André’s team also continued to utilize social media platforms to connect with its community online, although often in new ways. For instance, while Lusa’s social posts previously offered windows into the school’s day-to-day goings-on, they served the added and critical purpose during the pandemic of keeping the Lusa community updated during a time of rapid change.
All of this led to a shift in André’s business model: from physical-first to a dual-track hybrid of offering courses both online and (when COVID-19 restrictions began to lift in summer 2020) in-person. André intended to continue this way indefinitely—until a second and mostly unexpected lockdown came to Portugal in 2021. But this time André was ready. “It was a completely different experience from the first lockdown,” he explains. “The digital capabilities we implemented in 2020 allowed us to shift much faster and cope much easier in 2021. We are much stronger now than before.” Indeed Lusa has actually added staff over the past year and André himself is still quite optimistic about the future. He knows it’s going to be a more digitally focused future for Lusa too, and he’s already started thinking of new ways to integrate digital tools into the learning experience.