Translating a Study Abroad Experience Into Business Success

Blog Update #468 – Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Translating a Study Abroad Experience Into Business Success

Studying abroad is a popular and honored tradition for many students as they go through college. If you had the opportunity to do so, you likely reveled in the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture. But while you were busy learning about new cultures, you were also learning some valuable insight about business. You just might not have realized it. Here are three lessons you learned about being successful in business while you were studying abroad.

Jump in with both feet

When you find yourself studying in a foreign country, you don’t have the luxury of taking it slow. You’re living in a new land, completely immersed in the new culture. You now have to completely rely on your language and culture lessons because this is no longer just practice.

When you start a new business, you need to apply the same principles. You need to jump in with both feet and completely apply yourself to your new business and new industry. If you try to cut corners or resist investing the time and energy needed for the business, it’s going to be substantially more difficult to succeed.

Be assertive about learning

When you first arrive in a foreign country, the next six months or year feels incredibly long, but it’s actually quite short. Before you know it, you’re back on a plane coming home. You have only a matter of months to absorb all you can about your temporary country. This means meeting the people, trying the food, seeing the sites, and learning the language. You need to be assertive about learning to maximize your opportunities.

When you start a new business, you need to dedicate yourself to learning as well. Once your business officially opens, you only have so much time financially before you need to start having customers. Before you open your doors, you should have a very good understanding of everything there is to know about your customers, how to market to them, and what your appeal will be to reach them.

Surround yourself with helpful people

When you arrive in a new country to study abroad, you’re likely to experience some degree of culture shock. There will be a period, however brief, when you feel overwhelmed by the differences in how things are done in the new country versus your home country. One of the best ways to cope with these problems is to surround yourself with people who can help you. In a school program, this might be fellow students going through the same emotions as you. If language becomes a struggle, professors can offer some additional tutoring to help you communicate as well. Finding these key people who want to help you is enormously beneficial.

In business, you’ll also face difficult moments. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed with your ambitions and will wonder if success is possible or worth the effort you’re putting into the company. You also need to surround yourself with helpful people who can support you. These people can serve as your sounding board, helping you bounce ideas around while also offering guidance when you feel like giving up.

Running a business is a challenging proposition for anyone. If you studied abroad, however, you learned some valuable lessons about success that you might not have even realized. As you begin to prepare for the future of your business, consider the lessons you learned and see how they might be applied to moving your new enterprise forward.

How Engaging Are Your Sign-up Forms?


How Engaging Are Your Sign-up Forms?

Take a moment to think about the forms you ask your visitors to fill out and submit when they visit your website or come to your store. These forms help convert those individuals from anonymous visitors to active leads you can contact regularly. To make that happen, you want people to feel encouraged to leave you with their name and information so you can remember them.

Make the offer look enticing

Leads are the lifeblood of any organization. If you want people to provide you with their contact information, you need to give them a reason to do so. Make your sign-up forms appealing. First, make the offer something desirable. Then, make the actual screen look inviting.

Desirable offers

Developing a desirable offer means understanding the people with whom you’re speaking. Carefully analyze your buyer personas and consider the type of information and material that would appeal to them. Once you develop the information you want to put behind a sign-up wall, advertise it on the parts of your site where you know those specific buyers are likely to venture. For example, mention it at the bottom of relevant blog posts or alongside product information geared toward specific customer groups. As with all content, your primary goal should be to provide high-value information.

Appealing appearance

When visitors reach your landing page, you want to make sure the offer looks appealing on the screen. Add an image or two to help them connect with the offer. It doesn’t have to be an image of the real offer. A cartoon drawing with the name of your ebook, for example, will work just fine. Use a balanced layout and enticing language to encourage people to sign up.

Make the form itself manageable

Once you’ve attracted visitors to your sign-up page, the last thing you want to do is scare them off by making the process too drawn out or complicated. Make sure the form itself doesn’t look too intimidating. The amount of information requested should be comparable to the offer you’re providing. If it’s just a basic ebook, you should only ask for basic information. If you ask for too much, people will get turned off and click away.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to entice leads, contact us today. We’d love to help you with your marketing campaign.

Keep Your Existing Customers Around By Improving Engagement


Keep Your Existing Customers Around By Improving Engagement

If you’re like many business professionals, you know that half the battle of growing your business is getting existing customers to stick around. When you provide your customers with outstanding customer service, some incredible things happen:

  • Customers are willing to pay more, just for your service.
  • Customers are more likely to recommend you to others.
  • You end up spending less for each conversion (it costs less to retain customers than find new ones).
  • You build customer loyalty.

In our intensely competitive modern market, you can’t afford to overlook these benefits.

The key to providing this outstanding level of service is taking the time to engage your existing customers. Too many organizations focus so much energy on attracting new customers that their existing customers feel neglected and overlooked. This can lead to feelings of resentment. Fortunately, with just a little bit of extra effort, you can keep your existing customers engaged and invested in your company. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Leverage the ‘social’ part of social media

Social media was designed to give you a platform to chat and get to know your customers on a personal level. Rather than advertising blindly to large populations, you can communicate directly to individual people and meet their needs personally. Encourage your existing customers to communicate with you on social media. You can do this in a number of different ways.

  • Invite them to ask questions about using your products or services.
  • Start fun contests that involve customers telling stories about using your products or services.
  • Respond to inquiries quickly and personally.

When you use social platforms to reach out and communicate with your customers, you show them how much you care about their experience, which resonates with both existing customers and those considering your company.

Run relevant promotions that existing customers can use

We’ve all experienced times when special promotions or discounts were made available only to new customers. Such deals often leave us feeling unappreciated and annoyed. Many customers facing such restrictions look for ways to get around them, such as switching back and forth between companies just to take advantage of the promotions. This leads to poor service and frustration for customers and does no good for the company’s reputation.

Instead of rewarding only new customers, offer your longtime customers a "loyalty" discount based on their longevity with your company. Customers will feel more appreciated and more loyal to your brand. They’ll see this simple ‘thank you’ as evidence that your company truly does value them, not just the bottom line.

Develop communications relevant to your existing customers

The more personal you can make your communications and correspondence, the more likely your customers are to respond. When people buy from your company, remember what they bought and why. Initiate messages, such as emails, asking customers about how well their needs have been met and if they have any questions about using your products or services. Ask customers for reviews and feedback, and make your requests using the name of a salesperson the customer dealt with personally.

Keeping customers engaged is an important step in encouraging them to stay with your company. When you do this successfully, you can grow your customer base and your bottom line.

Blogging Can Be a Fantastic Promotion Tool Across Platforms


Blogging Can Be a Fantastic Promotion Tool Across Platforms

Building a successful blog is an excellent way to integrate your marketing campaigns across several platforms. Here are a few ways to use your blog to promote your business regardless of medium.

With direct mail

When you send direct mail, mention your blog to let people know it’s there for them to read and comment on. Highlight some of the recent topics you’ve covered to entice them even further.

Direct mail is a wonderful way to advertise deals and upcoming sales. Market your blog as another way to stay updated about specials and events. Promote it as a way to learn more about your industry, so customers can get the most from your products and services.

On social media

Social media is an excellent tool for promoting a blog and connecting with page visitors. Use your social media accounts to promote your blog posts among your followers. Invite conversations on social media about subjects you’ve covered in your blog as a way of keeping your social channels active and engaged.

Promoting your posts on social media makes it much easier for people to share your content. People can read and post your content to their own social media pages without much effort. The more people share your content, the greater your reach, which can help spread your brand name and reputation.

With community events

Becoming active in your local community is a fantastic way to promote your brand. Customers enjoy working with local businesses they see as interested and supportive of the local community. Sponsor various charity events or host a table at community picnics and other neighborhood gatherings. This will allow you to get your organization in front of others in the community, so your company becomes a familiar entity. Use these opportunities to begin conversations about your industry and products with interested parties to further boost your reputation as an industry leader.

Use your blog to promote the events you participate in and to speak about your involvement with the organizations holding them. Encourage people to participate and get involved. After the event, post some pictures and write a post with highlights from the day. These types of posts can help advertise the event and encourage people to participate, while also demonstrating your involvement in the community even for those who are unable to attend.

A successful marketing campaign means reaching out to prospective buyers on a variety of platforms so they get to know your brand and how you can serve them. Your blog can be a fantastic tool for accomplishing this goal. If you’re still debating the merits of starting a company blog, consider the benefits it will bring to your integrated campaigns. If you’d like assistance getting a campaign off the ground, let us know. We’d be happy to help you with your marketing.

Instilling School Spirit at Your Company


Instilling School Spirit at Your Company

Many factors go into the decision about where to attend college. While majors, location, and ranking undoubtedly hold a high place, the experience of other students and the school’s reputation also play a crucial role.

Schools must strike a careful balance between providing a rigorous academic environment, while at the same time offering an enjoyable experience that will make students talk about their school in a positive way to other prospective students.

Satisfied students can be the best brand ambassadors an institution can find. When students love their school, it emanates from everything they do.

  • The students root for the home team during sports matches.
  • School tour guides who speak about the university to groups of prospective students are enthusiastic and insightful.
  • Successful professionals who have ‘made it’ in their respective fields eagerly voice their support for their alma mater.

Such enthusiasm builds a positive culture around the school and encourages new students to come and try it out. Building a strong brand around any organization entices people to want to belong to that particular select group and culture.

What colleges can teach us about building a winning culture

Most professionals realize that employees are important for keeping the company running smoothly. They know that turnover is bad because it wastes time and resources. They also know that high turnover can damage their reputation among potential hires.

What they don’t realize, though, is the importance of employee satisfaction when it comes to the customer experience.

Just like the college student who loves their school so much they broadcast it to anyone who asks their opinion, employees who feel respected and appreciated help to broadcast a positive image of the company and can increase customer satisfaction rates.

Think about it.

Employees are the face of your company. When they feel valued, they take the time to invest their energy into the company and their interactions with customers. They also strive to embrace a culture of success, which can help inspire their peers to improve their interactions with customers, too.

Employees and brand advertising

Employees can be wonderful sources for building up your brand. Just as happy college students take the love for their school to every facet of their life, satisfied employees tend to bring their jobs with them wherever they go.

Think about the last time you heard someone complain about the company where they work. How did those complaints impact your perception of the company? Chances are, that negative feedback made you feel worse about the brand in question — and less likely to turn to them when you need products or services in their industry.

An entirely different experience, however, comes when an employee is positive and upbeat about their employer. When they tell you enthusiastically that they can help you solve your problem, you become inclined to trust them.

Treating your employees well can help boost their satisfaction and improve how they represent your company to the general public. Remember that your employees are the face of your brand. That means you need to select them — and treat them — with that goal in mind. Cultivating a great employee culture is a wonderful way to improve your brand’s reputation from the inside out.

How to Build a Company Culture that Helps Marketing


How to Build a Company Culture that Helps Marketing

As managers, we all strive to develop an atmosphere of success and teamwork. When you can develop a culture that respects those in your office and encourages success, you’ll notice many immediate benefits.

  • Workers will become more motivated.
  • Employees will feel valued and know the role they play in the success of the greater organization.
  • They’ll also feel more confident handling day-to-day situations and solving problems.
  • You’ll be able to spend your time more productively, too, by not having to handle issues your employees now feel confident dealing with on their own.

When your employees feel valued and content, the impact can stretch far beyond the office walls. Happy employees present a more enthusiastic and helpful face for your brand to potential customers. Your company’s reputation for caring for its employees and its customers will spread. Referrals will grow, and your marketing efforts will have a greater impact. In short, this type of fantastic company culture can help the bottom line.

So how do you achieve this type of business-friendly dynamic in your office?

During hiring

Building a fantastic company culture begins during the hiring process. Make hires based on two main factors: skills and how well the candidate will fit with the culture you’ve created or are trying to create. Many companies focus solely on finding the person with the best qualifications, without taking into account how well that person will fit in with the rest of the team.

Ask questions during the interview that speak to the values you seek. When you’ve found a candidate that appears to work well, consider having them do a trial project with your team to see how well they get along.

Among current employees

Educate and empower your employees so they feel confident taking control of their interactions with customers. Teach them how to delight customers not by just telling them or giving presentations, but through examples and demonstrations. Build a culture that focuses on under-promising and then exceeding customers expectations at every turn. Teach employees to focus on solving problems for their customers. Develop concrete buyer personas that employees understand completely, so they can quickly gauge what customers seek when they speak with them.

At the same time, empower your employees. Let them know they’re trusted and responsible for solving problems and finding new ways to help their customers. Have clear guidelines about when employees should ask for help and when they need to come up with their own solutions. This will help employees better assist customers and solve their problems. Customers will be happier knowing they’re speaking with someone who can actually do something, rather than just relay messages.

Creating a positive culture and work environment does more than make your organization a great place to work. It can also help boost marketing efforts and improve the bottom line. By helping your employees, you’re improving the face of the brand your customers see. You might be amazed at the impact it can have on your


How Much Value Are You Providing Customers Online?


How Much Value Are You Providing Customers Online?

Imagine you’re a student struggling to understand a difficult concept in one of your classes. A friend who aced the class last semester offers to help but ends up just regurgitating the same information you already got from your notes. Frustrated, you ask if they can give you any insight that might help you better understand the subject. "Sure," they reply, "but that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of your class because it would make it too easy for you."

Sound far fetched? It probably is. After all, who would show such little interest in helping their friend succeed? Yet, for many companies, that’s precisely the attitude they take with their marketing content.

How helpful is your content?

We’re all turning more and more online to learn about products and make intelligent and informed buying decisions. In response to this trend, many companies broadcast themselves as the expert and want people to turn to them.

Their content, however, is far less than helpful.

Rather than actually answer industry questions or help customers learn about their products, these companies simply repackage the same general information found elsewhere online and remain vague about the advice they give.

They’re afraid that by ‘giving away’ too much information, customers will not have a reason to hire them. In the process, they’re missing a key part of the marketing puzzle: building trust.

Instead of giving customers a reason to hire them, they’re driving them away in frustration over the lack of information they provide. Potential customers end up visiting competitors’ websites and getting the information they seek there instead. The unhelpful content meant to entice customers actually destroys opportunities to build trust and credibility.

How you can avoid this scenario

The solution to this problem is straightforward: provide valuable content. Listen to the questions that customers ask and use them to generate blog posts. Write helpful articles that will actually inform the reader and guide them in making better decisions. Use the Internet to build a reputation as an approachable leader in the industry.

Consumers today want answers and help navigating your industry. Like a student seeking help in a school subject, these customers aren’t going to stick around someone who just tells them general information they already know. To convert your customers, you need to be the helpful authority.

High School Loyalty and Brand Community


There’s something about high school that inspires loyalty for decades after graduation. For an outsider looking in, it can be difficult to understand why people care so much about their past high school experiences. Whether it’s journeying hundreds of miles for a high school reunion or feeling offended when someone insults the old sports hero, high school loyalties run deep for many people.


High schools have built an incredibly strong community within their walls. The students have countless shared experiences together, from classes and teachers to events and activities. These common moments help to tie the collective memories together.

This same sense of community, which helps bring high schools such strong loyalty, can also prove helpful in the business world. Building brand loyalty can lead to higher numbers of repeat customers and more referrals, both of which are excellent for the bottom line. Here’s how to go about building a community around your brand.

Create shared experiences

Help customers get to know each other and your representatives. Host get-togethers and customer events. Get involved in your local community. Raise money for a national charity, or sponsor regional fundraising events. All of these are fantastic ways to bring your customers together, improve your reputation, and get your brand in front of new potential customers. They’re also great conversation starters with followers later on social media or in blog posts.

Encourage connections

Invite existing customers to tell stories about using your products or services on various social media platforms. Have contests where people take pictures of themselves with your product or share stories of how your service helped them. This type of sharing builds credibility for your brand and helps participating customers feel more connected to your company. It helps encourage a concept known as the ‘bandwagon effect,’ where people are more likely to try a product or service when they see others doing so. Having customers share their experiences with your brand helps all customers and potential customers see themselves as a part of a desirable group, which increases loyalty.

Highlight clients and employees

Show prospects the people behind the reviews and the employees who will be helping them succeed. Highlighting past clients and employees in this manner serves two purposes. First, the person highlighted will enjoy and appreciate the attention cast upon them. And second, other customers will feel a connection to the person and thereby feel a strong connection to your brand.

Building a strong community around your brand can help tremendously when building brand loyalty. Just like a high school looking to encourage its alumni to come out and root for the home team, creating a strong loyalty can serve your company well for years to come. Keep the above three tips in mind and start coming up with ideas to build loyalty for your brand.

What Relay Teams Can Teach Us About Teamwork


Few people exemplify skill and teamwork better than a well-coached relay team. Whether at the Olympic Games or a high school track meet, the relays are often one of the most exciting events.

Relay teams typically consist of four of the most highly skilled runners at a particular distance. But skill alone isn’t enough. The teams must practice together to get their timing and execution just right. It takes a great deal of teamwork to win a relay event.

In a relay race, runners must pass the baton from one to the next within a predefined zone. If they fail to make the handoff within that zone, they are disqualified. At the same time, the runner receiving the baton cannot start their leg of the race from a complete stop. The amount of time they’d lose would be astronomical. That means the runner handing off the baton and the runner receiving the baton must time their running perfectly so that the second runner can pick up speed while still receiving the baton within the zone. This requires a level of precision that can only be developed with practice and considerable communication. When a team masters this aspect of running a relay and combines it with phenomenal skill, they can accomplishes incredible things.

How running a relay relates to running a business

Like running a relay race, running a successful business requires more than just having talented people. You could hire people who are absolutely genius in their respective roles, but if they can’t communicate well together, they won’t accomplish much.

Building a successful team in a professional environment requires finding employees who can accomplish their jobs effectively, but also fit together as a group. When a relay team is working together, they understand how their roles fit together to form a cohesive unit. The same is true of your organization. Everyone on your team must be clear about their individual role and how it relates to the end goals of the organization.

The handoff

As with a relay team, the handoff is critical in business, too. Every member of the team has their own job to do, and handoffs dictate how well potential leads and prospects are passed from one department or team to the next. When these handoffs are handled well, leads are moved seamlessly down the sales funnel, and relationships develop and grow.

The perfect handoff occurs when the members of the team know how to communicate with one another. They understand each other’s respective roles and strengths and know how to work together for the betterment of the team. For example, in a team with weak communication, the marketing department might hand off a lead to the sales team before that lead is ready to move along. However, when the two departments communicate and understand each other better, they improve their handoff skills, boosting the odds of conversion and success.

Track and field can be a source of entertainment, but also inspiration. The next time you see the sport, watch carefully how well the relay team fits together. Use some of their insight when planning your hires and organizing your business.

Back to Basics: The ‘Why’ in Creating Valuable Content


Back to Basics: The ‘Why’ in Creating Valuable Content

When it comes to producing valuable content, countless marketing and business professionals will tell you that you ‘should,’ but not many delve into the ‘why.’

"You need content to bring customers to your website!"
"You need content to keep up with the digital age!"
"You need content because that’s what your customers seek!"

These responses are the ‘reasons’ most often given for spending time creating content for websites and marketing materials.

In truth, creating valuable content will help you grow your business and improve your bottom line. Here are two key ways it accomplishes this:

1. It helps you build trust with your customers.
People don’t accept advertisements at face value. They choose brands based on how well those brands meet their needs.

When customers go online, they want to find answers to their questions. They want a brand to understand the problems they face, offer solutions, and explain why their products are the best at meeting those needs. When a prospect finds a company that answers their questions again and again while also providing them with a service that comes with good reviews, the decision to buy becomes a no-brainer.

Valuable content builds a reputation of authority and leadership in the minds of customers. They come to see you as someone who really knows your industry and feel confident knowing they can turn to you whenever they have questions. This increases loyalty and the potential for future sales.

2. It’s more likely to be shared, increasing your brand’s reach.

Customers today live on social media. Just about everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account. People use these profiles to share things that interest them and offer value they think others might appreciate. When you provide your customers with repeated value, you enhance the odds your material might be shared on these social sites. When content is shared, it automatically increases your reach, while also building credibility in the minds of all those who see the share. Customers tend to trust referrals more than standard advertising.

How to develop content that can work this way

The potential for quality content is incredible. Your task is to learn how to capitalize on it. Here are six steps to get you started:

  1. Research and identify the ‘ideal customers’ you want to reach.
  2. Learn as much as possible about these ideal customers.
  3. Determine the common questions and problems that face these customers.
  4. Develop content that addresses these questions and problems in an informative and helpful way.
  5. Share the content on blogs, social media, emails, newsletters, and other places to draw attention to it.
  6. Repeat the process regularly to stay current.

When you take the time to develop valuable content for your customers, you’re investing in helping your business grow. Take the time to create content your customers will appreciate, and watch the impact it can have on your brand.

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