Amazon’s Trade-in Program looks like a great way to get up to 75% Back When You Sell Them Your Books. The program is fast, easy, convenient, and includes free shipping (even if they don’t accept your book and need to return it to you. I wish they had programs like these when I was a college student.
This is the story of how Kristianna Cory “KC” Hoffman acquired nearly 1,300 boxtops (a.k.a., Boxtop$ for Education) as an extra credit assignment in my MKTG 470 course. KC blew me away when she turned in 1,297 boxtops on the last day of class. The key to her success was successful networking through personal selling, email, and social media. With KC’s permission, I am sharing her story…
#helpKCpass college – the hashtag that saved it all
well, maybe not saved… but definitely helped
When I first got the email over the summer about collecting boxtops for extra credit, I was interning at a little distribution office in Trenton, NJ. That very same day, I drafted my own email to send out to the company about the opportunity. The exact email read as follows:
Hello lovely employees of Hughes Enterprises!
One of my marketing professors for this upcoming semester has emailed and informed us that she holds a contest each year for extra credit. She asks her students to collect Boxtops for Education and at the end of each semester, gives out bonus points based on the number each person has collected. Extra bonus points go to the person who collected the most!
She then gives all these boxtops to her son to bring into his school! The school gets money from each boxtop, students get extra credit in class, and it all benefits a great cause (2 if you count me passing my class)! Talk about a win-win.
So the point of all this (and yes, I promise there is one) is that I am asking for you to please bring in any boxtops you may have lying around your house (or your parents, brothers, sisters, kids, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.). I will be putting a collection box on the front desk and you can just swing on by and drop them in there. Easy peasy!
Thanks in advance for your help!
KC Hoffman’s College Degree – Made possible by James Madison University and Hughes Enterprises
Your lovely Hughes Intern,
That same day, I got some replies to my email like this one:
Not to sound dumb but what is a box top?
To which I replied with an explanation, link to the Boxtops For Education website, and an attachment with examples of products with boxtops (all found on the Boxtops For Education website!!). Turns out the guy had 9 kids, all home schooled, and almost every single product at his house had a boxtop on it! Jackpottt!!!
I also got some teasing replies like the one below:
I hope a couple extra credit points are not that detrimental to you graduating. Should have hit the books a little harder!
Ha. Ha. Ha. Hope he doesn’t close his deals with jokes like those :-p
Anyway, the response I got to this ONE simple email was astounding. By the time I left Hughes a mere 2(?) weeks later, I had over 300 boxtops and I had yet to cut out a single one on my own. I by no means ever expected that much involvement. And on my last day of work, I baked treats for everyone, and then handed out little personal goodie bags to those who had contributed boxtops with a note that said “KC Hoffman’s College Degree – Made possible by James Madison University, Hughes Enterprises, and ___(insert their name here)___”. They all got a good chuckle out of it and I got well on my way to those extra credit points.
That same week, I also posted to Twitter and Facebook a simple message asking for friends to send me boxtops as well, using the same hashtag of #helpKCpasscollege – it was a little humorous and also informational but it was so long ago that I can’t find the actual Tweet. But knowing social media, I actually doubted anyone would even read it.
But again, to my surprise, about a month later, 3 different friends had told me that they had bags of boxtops for me! They had apparently, like me, just told a few people about it and collected bags worth, barely doing anything themselves. One of the girls was one of my friends from elementary school, whom I hadn’t talked to since literally 5th grade! So I met up with them all over Thanksgiving break to get the boxtops and to personally thank them for helping out. All had offered to drop them off in my mailbox but 1) I hadn’t seen any of them in a while and 2) I thought it would be better to thank them in person.
Last but not least, I told my mother about the assignment. Who then told all her friends, her one class of college students, and my Grandmother, who then in turn told all their friends. Next thing I know it, I’m coming home to visit and my mom’s telling me to close my eyes and hold out my hands because she’s got a surprise for me. I do what I’m told and she put a bag of about 20-25 boxtops in my hands. I thank her profusely and she goes, “But wait, there’s more!” (she likes to make things dramatic like that) and proceeds to hand me, one by one, 18 more bags of boxtops, each bag from a different person. I didn’t even know how to react.
And when I went to my grandma’s house, at least 10 more bags. And this happened all semester. Until I reached almost 1,300 boxtops.
Now, If you want to know how I did it, the answer is simple: I didn’t.
And that’s the God honest truth. I MAYBE cut out 7 boxtops on my own.
Everyone else did it for me. They’re the reason that I collected so many boxtops. They’re the reason I got the extra credit I did. And they’re the reason Professor Clarke’s son’s school is getting the money from them.
All I did was put it out there. When I could, I tried to be funny, genuine, and make an impression that people would remember. One that they would remember as they were putting that box of Frosted Flakes in the garbage. Did I have any idea that it would be this successful? No way. I thought people would read it and forget about it 30 seconds later. But for some reason, it stuck. Whether they wanted to contribute to a good cause, help out a coworker, or make sure KC passed college, they collected boxtops and made an effort to give them to me. And in return, I made a genuine effort to thank them and remind them of where their contributions were going (and not just to my GPA).
The bottom line is that word spreads. I sent my message out through 4 mediums: email, Twitter, Facebook, and my mother. I did not promise them anything, bribe them, or even guilt them into cutting boxtops out. I also did not pester them. I announced it once and reminded them every now and then, that was it. I didn’t blow up their phones or social media feeds telling them that I was collecting. I sent it out, and let it be.
And I had over 30 people contribute, many of whom I didn’t even know. Friends told friends who told friends and that was the end of that.
I also framed it in a way where it wasn’t all about me. Yes, I used the joke about “helping KC pass college”, but I also made it a point to let everyone know that there was a reason for the collection, a bigger reason. I also made sure to point out just how easy it was to do. Deep down, people like to be charitable. And it may be a hard truth, but most people like the easiest and least amount of work kind of charity that can still make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like their making a difference. And what’s easier than cutting out some cardboard from something that’s already at their house? No extra money spent, barely any time and effort involved, yet still the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping both a college student “friend” and an educational system.
And there ya have it folks. That’s all I did. It wasn’t magic, or buying everything off the shelves, or bringing scissors to Wal-Mart and stealing them of the tops of containers. I just took a few seconds and used the connections that I already had, and some that I didn’t even know I had. I played on their willingness to help, their desire to contribute to a bigger cause, and their need for minimal effort. And ya know all those sayings about everyone doing a small part and making a huge difference? Well, I think this was a pretty prime example of that.
As usual, my MKTG 470 students at JMU completed a major course assignment using Google AdWords. The primary learning objective was to acquire hands-on experience using AdWords to drive traffic to any one of their own web pages and any one of their own blog posts of their choice.
Through this assignment, students developed some initial skills in paid search. With a total account budget of $25.00-$30.00 and a window of 14 possible days, students had an opportunity to learn how to structure accounts, create campaigns and Ad Groups, develop and manage keyword lists, utilize effective matching options, test ad copy using A/B testing, modify keyword bids, assess account performance, adjust daily budgets, utilize keyword tools, and much more. Through GoDaddy, students new to AdWords were able to utilize a $100 AdWords credit to complete this assignment.
I want to recognize a few students from my Fall 2013 Internet Marketing class for exceptional performance in a few key areas from this assignment.
- Best Overall Optimization Efforts: Carly Calhoon (9:30am section), Monika Kelpsaite (11:00am section), and Alexandra Aparicio (12:30pm section)
- Most Days of Account Optimization: Rachel Lam
- Highest Number of Clicks: Maggie Breitmayer
- Highest CTR: Ashleigh Rojanajonvse
- Best Budget Management: Rory Salzberger
- Best Ratio of Clicks to Avg. CPC: Mike Etemad
As an application of SEO, my Fall 2013 MKTG 470 students were tasked with learning how to optimize any one web page or blog post within their site using the phrase “JMU experience“.
This assignment was introduced at a very interesting time in the semester…just 13 days after Google made an official announcement about their new Hummingbird algorithm.
Even though the media started shouting “SEO is Dead!”, and “SEO is Dead Again!” I know that “SEO is NOT Dead” and we just need to approach things in a different manner. So I forged ahead with the assignment using insights about how organic search, social media, and content are becoming increasingly intertwined.
On October 10, 2013, students performed a diagnostic test to determine where their personal websites were currently ranked organically using the phrase “JMU experience”.
- In the majority of cases, students reported that their page was not found within the first twenty search engine results pages (SERPs).
- The students were challenged to get one of their web pages into the top twenty results pages in the next six weeks through optimization of on-page factors, but especially through off-page SEO link-building efforts and use of social media.
On November 21, 2013, students performed a second diagnostic test to determine where their site currently ranked organically using the phrase “JMU experience”.
- On this date 72.1% of the class observed an improvement in organic rankings and made it into the top twenty pages.
- Out of 200 possible pages that could be listed in the top twenty pages, 62 of the pages were created by students in my class, representing about a 31% share of the rankings.
I wish to congratulate these 62 students for their effort, application, and performance in optimizing a page or post using the phrase “JMU experience”.
A special congratulations is extended to the students with the top three highest ranked pages from the Fall 2013 classes:
- Highlight what makes your business, product, or offer unique
- Include prices, promotions, and exclusives
- Tell your customers what they can do
- Include at least one of your keywords in your ad text
- Match your ad to your landing page
Malcom McCutcheon is one of my former students from the time when I was an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Old Dominion University. Malcom worked as a digital marketing consultant and creative director and has served a full spectrum of clients since 1996.
He is the founder of Bossa Nova Interactive, a digital marketing consultancy with an emphasis on helping businesses to be found by their local customers.
Malcom is also a treasured friend and among my army of technological angels.
I recently learned that Malcom wrote a book entitled How to NOT SUCK at Social Media. The book is based on Malcom’s direct experience working with older clients that do not fully understand how to use social media effectively.
Malcom is offering a FREE digital download of How to NOT SUCK at Social Media – A Beginner’s Guide for Business this Thursday, October 24, 2013, via the Amazon Kindle store for a one day promo. He is hoping to get a lot of downloads on Thursday and a few honest reviews.
The book covers why businesses suck at social media, how to set up a social media presence in a number of channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Yelp), social media strategy, social media goals, and key social media tactics.
The companion website for the book is located at HowToNotSuckAtSocialMedia.com.
I hope you will join me in downloading, reading, and sharing How to Not Suck at Social Media by Malcom McCutcheon.
Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of How to NOT SUCK at Social Media- A Beginner’s Guide for Business on Thursday, October 24, 2013.
A short promotional video for the book is presented below.
During the next few weeks, my students will begin transforming their WordPress site into unique creations. They will establish a site theme, edit their “sample” page and convert it to an “about” page, create new web pages, manage their navigational bar, create permalinks, get their blog started, customize authorship of their blog, work with widgets, add images to their website, and create hyperlinks to images and text. Later in the course, students will explore various plug-ins for search engine optimization and site analytics, change their site theme to reflect their individual personalities, add blog posts, enable social media sharing, engage in paid search to drive traffic to their site, and much more.
I am very excited to help my students hone their technological skills. Below is a listing of my fall 2013 students and their URLs.
As a result of being named the 2013 First Place Global Winner of the Google Online Marketing Challenge Social Impact Award, this team won a $15,000 donation from Google for the Augusta Regional SPCA.
Scott Guengerich, Melissa Allen, and Josh Baugher met with employees and board members of the SPCA and were greeted with hugs of gratitude.
In the 2013 Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC), over 12,000 students from 80 countries and territories participated. Out of the 2,454 teams competing, there were 12 top awards and Google awarded three to JMU. Two teams from JMU’s iMBA Program earned global recognition in the social impact category and collectively won $20,000 for local non-profits. Additionally, a JMU Department of Marketing team was named global winner for the G+ Social Media Marketing Award. Each student on these winning teams will receive prizes such as a computing device, an exciting opportunity to participate in Google+ Hangouts with Google team members, and personalized certificates noting their status as global winners in the competition.
What is the Challenge?
The GOMC is a global online marketing competition where students work in teams to develop an online marketing strategy for a real business or non-profit organization. Using a budget of $250.00, teams develop a Pre-Campaign Strategy Report, execute their strategy in Google AdWords, use optimization techniques to run and refine the campaigns for three consecutive weeks, and then develop a Post-Campaign Summary Report. Google uses a proprietary algorithm that considers over 30 factors within an AdWords account to select winners. Factors include account structure, optimization techniques, account activity, reporting, performance, budget, and relevance.
Social Impact Award Global Winners from JMU
Teams working with non-profits are eligible for the Social Impact Award by developing a Non-Profit Impact Statement as an additional and required part of their reporting. Google recognized three teams as global winners in this category; two of the winning teams came from JMU.
The team of Melissa Allen, Josh Baugher, Baris Bilek, Scott Guengerich, and Jeremy Vogan (Team Captain) from JMU’s iMBA Program were named the First Place Global Winner of the Google Online Marketing Challenge Social Impact Award. This award recognizes a team that made an outstanding difference to their nonprofit partners via superb online marketing campaigns. Teams were judged on their impact on and relevance to their nonprofit partner, the overall success of their Google AdWords campaign, and their overall report presentation. The global first place winning team partnered with the Augusta Regional SPCA as their client. The SPCA advocates for the humane treatment of companion animals including adoptions, spay/neuter efforts, and pet education. As a result of being named global winner of the Google Online Marketing Challenge Social Impact Award, Google will provide a $15,000 donation to the Augusta Regional SPCA.
Another team from JMU’s iMBA Program was recognized as the Third Place Global Winner of the Google Online Marketing Challenge Social Impact Award. Chris Foster (Team Captain), Craig Honeycutt, Xavier Pickett, Carla Reese, Dale Richards, and Kelcey Troxell participated in the Challenge with The Virginia Quilt Museum as their client. The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing a permanent collection of nearly 300 quilts as well as other Civil War artifacts, antique and toy sewing machines, and rotating exhibits from across the United States. As a result of earned the global #3 spot, Google is giving a $5,000 donation to the Quilt Museum.
Social Media Marketing Award Global Winners from JMU
As an additional component of the Google Challenge, the Google+ Social Media Marketing Award recognizes teams that successfully designed and implemented a successful Social Media campaign for six weeks. Two additional reports are required to compete in the social media category. This was the first year JMU had a team participate in the social media marketing category…and this team came out on top!
Four recent graduates from the JMU Department of Marketing were named the First Place Global Winner of the Google+ Social Media Marketing Award. As the global winner, this JMU team is recognized for the best-run Google+ campaign and clearly-communicated social media strategies. Hats off to Lindsay Hayes (Team Captain), Cortney Marchetto, Lauren Mason, and Shay Meadows for their success. They participated in the Challenge with The Valley Preferred Cycling Center (VPCC) as their client. The VPCC promotes bicycle track racing, championship racer development, and community programs for racers and non-racers.
There were six JMU teams competing in 2013. Aside from the three global winning teams mentioned above, the other three JMU teams earned a spot in the “Good” category which means that their AdWords campaign performance was in the top 12% in the world. Many of the 2013 JMU students passed Google Certification Exams after the class was over. Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any better (e.g., Americas Winner in 2012, 2011, and 2009) it did. JMU students rocked in the 2013 Challenge. I am so proud of each and every one of my undergraduate and graduate students for their effort and performance this year.
Special thanks is extended to our amazing alums and colleagues at Search Mojo, RKG, and Silverback Strategies for their continuous support of the Challenge at JMU. We are so appreciative of the individuals at these companies who share their time and expertise with JMU students.
Apply now for an opportunity to participate in the 2014 Challenge at JMU. Students will be notified of acceptance in early November. Accepted undergraduate students take MKTG 477 and iMBA students take MBA 678. Each course counts as an elective in their respective program. For detailed information on the GOMC, please refer to the Google Online Marketing page.
Amanda Nemec is a 2011 JMU Marketing alum and she wants to help spread awareness of Deloitte’s job opportunities to JMU students. According to Amanda, “I feel that many of the students would be a great fit here based on their strong communication skills and analytics experience.”
Feel free to reach out to Amanda if you have any questions about any of these opportunities.
- Federal Business Technology Analyst (Full-time): http://bit.ly/Deloitte-JMU-BTA
- Federal Business Technology Analyst Summer Scholar Intern: http://bit.ly/Deloitte-JMU-SS
- Federal Project Controller Analyst (Full-time): http://bit.ly/Deloitte-JMU-PCA