Entering a new international market

Transfluent asked on Twitter:

This is an interesting question, especially from a digital marketing perspective. The first and most logical choice is: go wherever the business is. To do this, you’d want to invest some time in audience research, to find out where the business actually is. One of the better tools for the job is Facebook, believe it or not.

Using Facebook’s Audience Insights, look at the broad category of your industry, or look at a major competitor that already has an international presence. Let’s use an example of people who are interested in translation or people who are interested in the Rosetta Stone language software:


In this case, the first pass at audience research indicates that countries like Brazil, Italy, and Pakistan might be interested in a competing product category.

This seemingly obvious strategy has one significant potential trap: cultures vary!

By cultures vary, I mean to say that just because a market is large, doesn’t mean you have the ability to operate effectively in it. In the example above, Brazil may be the largest potential market, but doing business in Brazil requires significant investment in people, because the Brazilian culture requires that you work with someone who can help you navigate the environment, language, and people.

This is largely true even of countries that share your language. For example, just because the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia all share a generally understandable version of the same language as the United States does not mean that United States companies can copy and paste their marketing to those other nations.

So how do you make the determination for where you should go next? Think about which of these nations I could effectively operate in as a business. For example, despite the traffic, the United Kingdom might not be my first choice solely because of the time and significant cultural difference. I might instead look to my neighbor to the North, Canada. I can drive there, parts of it are in the same time zone as I am, and there’s enough cultural overlap that my marketing might work out of the box in the short term while I look to bring on local talent in the long term.

To wrap up, do your audience research, and then make the determination about where you can operate most effectively. Remember that these percentage numbers mask the true scale of the nations they represent. “Only” 6% of Facebook users may be interested in translation software that live in Italy, but 6% of 60 million people is still 3.6 million human beings. That’s a healthy potential market to start making inroads into.

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The long tail is longer than you think

I left the world of financial aid and student loans way back in January 2010.

Slackershot: Financial Aid Podcast Shirt

I had created a ton of content for the company I was working for at the time, including the very first financial aid podcast, and I’m proud that kids paid less for college based on the work I did.

But this should give you a sense of just how long the long tail of content is. I got this email today – October 23, 2014, almost 5 years after leaving the field:

Quick question could you recommend where my daughter should go/apply for a student loan? I remember you were connected with a student loan site or was I tripping?

This demonstrates the power and longevity of content online. Half a decade has passed since it was my job to answer questions like this, yet people still find me through evergreen content and ask questions. (I’m still happy to answer as best as I can, because it’s for a good cause)

The content you create today can come back to you years later. As long as content marketing programs take to get running, once they have momentum, they can continue paying benefits to you long into the future.

Financial aid stuff

For those interested, by the way, the answer to the above question is as follows. Before you go shopping for loans, be sure you’ve applied for scholarships. There are millions of dollars out there and many scholarships only get a handful of applicants, especially the low dollar ones. Winning 10 $500 scholarships is just as good as winning 1 $5,000 scholarship, and the competition is lighter. Googling for scholarships is simple to do, and just requires dedication and work.

One parent who was a listener of my podcast back in the day had a great tip: he paid his child 10 cents on the dollar for every scholarship they brought home. When Junior wanted a new car, new phone, new etc., this dad reminded him of the deal. By the time freshman year rolled around, the kid had the new phone, new laptop, etc. – because they brought home $138,000 in scholarships.

When it comes to loans, start by completing a FAFSA and then seeing what financial aid you qualify for. Every student enrolled in an eligible, accredited school can get an unsubsidized Stafford federal student loan. Students who file a FAFSA and are given approval by demonstrating financial need can get subsidized Stafford federal student loans as well. After that, students can either apply with a cosigner for private student loans, or parents can apply for federal PLUS loans. For complete information about federal student loans, go visit the US Department of Education’s website.

Your best bet before you begin the financial aid process is to talk to a qualified financial planner to look at all of your options. Many community banks and credit unions offer these services for free to members; typically they work on salary and receive no commissions or incentives to sell you extra stuff. Sometimes, taking out a home equity loan if possible may make greater overall financial sense than taking out a student or parent loan – but you can make that determination only when you look at the big picture, financially.

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Average, median, and marketing analytics

If you’ve never taken a statistics class, yet you’ve ended up being responsible for your company’s marketing analytics, then this blog post is for you.

One of the core statistical concepts we rarely hear about is the median. We hear about averages all of the time: average revenue per user, average website traffic, average number of new followers gained. But here’s the thing about averages – and any statistic, for that matter – sometimes they don’t tell the whole story.

About the only time the average person even hears the word median (besides when they drive in it on the highway) is from politicians when they talk about median income.

Broadly defined, an average is when you take the sum of all of the numbers in a data set and divide by the number of things in the data set to look for a central value. For example, let’s take the numbers 10-20. There are 10 numbers: 10, 11, 12, 13… etc. There are 11 items in the data set. Add up all the numbers and you get 165, then divide by 11, and you get the average, 15.

Broadly defined, a median is when you find the middlemost number in a data set. In the same example data set above, the median is also 15. It’s right in the middle.

Here’s how average can mess up, using a very often-cited example. Imagine you’re in a bar with 10 of your friends. The average income in the bar, let’s call it $50,000. The median income is $50,000. Now Bill Gates walks in. The average income in the bar skyrockets to $5 million. Is everyone in the bar richer? Should the restaurant change its pricing because the average income of the patrons is so much higher? Of course not. The median income stays the same, but the average gets skewed because of an outlier.

Here’s the thing: digital marketing is FILLED with outliers. If we want to measure accurately, we have to deal with them – and that’s why median is important. Medians help to give a second perspective on the same data, one that can sometimes deal with outliers a little better.

Let’s look at this chart of my personal website’s analytics, focusing on the month of October.


If we do the math, the average daily website traffic on my site is 410 visitors a day this month.

Let’s chart that out. Does that look right to you?


It doesn’t to me. There are more parts of the blue line below the red than above the red, and if an average is supposed to help me find the middle, it’s not necessarily doing the best job in this case.

Now what if we put the median on here, which is 393 visitors a day:


There is a difference. That big spike drove up the average, but the median remained relatively resistant to it.

If I’m trying to budget for personnel, for advertising, for anything that relies on web traffic, which number should I plan around? I’d use the median, because it’s more representative of the typical day on my website than the average, in this case.

Keep the median in your toolbox and when you’re doing analysis and reporting on any series of data in marketing that calls for an average, calculate the median at the same time. It may shine some light on what’s going on in your data.

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