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Complete the course and get a full refund

English learning service has a unique marketing hook

Feb 29,2020
Kim Min-cheol, 44, CEO of Yanadoo, says consistency is the most important factor in learning how to use English. [KIM SEONG-RYONG]
Kim Min-cheol, 44, CEO of Yanadoo, a fast-growing English conversation training company, says the reason people find speaking English difficult is because they “don’t practice.”

Kim says he couldn’t speak any English when he was young. His first job was a low-paying, part-time job in a video game arcade in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul.

An online EBS English lecture motivated Kim to establish his own company. After realizing that only 10 percent of all people who registered for online courses completed them, Kim started to think of new approaches to marketing an online learning course.
Kim’s idea was to offer full refunds to people who complete their courses. In less than three years, Yanadoo attracted more than 1 million members.

“If people complete their courses, their English skills will definitely improve,” Kim said during a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “The more people are satisfied with our company’s online lectures, the more new customers we will get.”
Below are the edited excerpts of the interview.



Q.What was your intention when you started Yanadoo?

A.
I thought that the most important factor to success was encouraging people to complete their courses without giving up. On average, of all people who registered for online lectures, only 10 percent complete them. I wanted to raise that number to 20. In order to motivate people, I came up with a new idea — giving a full refund to students who complete their courses. Although many people may think that is a bad idea, it is actually a very strategic concept. If people complete their courses, their English skills will definitely improve. The more people are satisfied with our company’s online lectures, the more they will recommend us. It’s good for students as they can improve their English conversation skills and also good for us as we can attract more customers.



Can you explain more specifically your strategy?

I focused on people’s aspirations. No matter how many times they make new plans, most of them end up giving up in less than three weeks. What I believed was that consistency was the core to success. Motivation is basically divided into two parts, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The extrinsic motivation leads people to start something. However, only strong-willed people are able to endure. This is the reason why people should be intrinsically motivated.



How can people be intrinsically motivated?

The only thing that existing companies do for students is let them get on with their work. People may work very hard in the beginning because they paid their money. However, most of them quit in less than three weeks. So I made all our online courses 10 minutes long so people can study consistently without quitting in the middle of the course. Consistency is the key to success. If you don’t try riding a bicycle, you’ll never know how to ride it. However, if you practice riding a bike constantly, you’ll know the way.



Could you elaborate more on the refund system?

People can receive 50 percent refunds when they finish 60 days of their courses. If they complete their courses to the end, which is about 90 days, they will be given a full refund. People who complete this 90-day online course will be able to use English without difficulty. The refund system works as a stepping stone to motivate people to work more consistently. To be honest, people can easily speak English with the 500 English words they learned during their school years. The only reason why people find it extremely difficult is because they don’t practice.



Is the refund system effective?

All students can choose between a regular program and a program that offers a refund, and the two cost the same. The reason why we started refunding money is because we wanted to encourage people to study constantly. Its efficiency is definitely noticeable. Compared to people who chose the regular program, those who chose the refund program are twice as likely to complete their courses.



How long are the courses?

People can decide the duration, but a longer course is recommended for people who want to speak English fluently. Although there are many English training companies in Korea, they don’t care how the students are doing. However, Yanadoo tells people what to do. A 90-day course is the longest offered by Yanadoo.



Yanadoo’s marketing skills are very unique. Did you study business administration or management?

I studied economics as an undergraduate at Dong-A University in Busan and media as a graduate student at Chung-Ang University in southern Seoul. Although I didn’t study business, I learned a lot from my 10 years of past failures. When you develop a new product, only a few lead users are interested in it in the beginning. Attracting them is the key to success. You are very mistaken if you consider marketing the same as advertising. People should have a clear understanding of the “4Ps of Marketing” — product, price, place and promotion. If the first three Ps are not well prepared, people cannot succeed with a product no matter how much time and money they devote to it. Developing an attractive product is essential.



Would you say your business has been successful?

The two key factors I put emphasis on were making a product that encouraged people to work consistently and advertising it. No matter how good a product is, people won’t buy it if it isn’t popular. I tried hard to find a way to advertise our company. In 2016, when Yanadoo was established, it was advertised in G9, the biggest online shopping mall in Korea. I spent hundreds of millions of won on advertising in ways that were different from our competitors. After Yanadoo hired Cho Jung-seok as a brand ambassador, it was met with even bigger success.

BY KIM DONG-HO, CHEA SARAH [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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