I’m a graduate of the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore, an AACSB Accredited University and one of the Best Undergraduate Business Programs in the US according to the World News & Report. I was a transfer to University of Baltimore from Coastal Carolina University another highly ranked program. My experiences at both of these schools were very similar.
Steve Corona, CTO of Twitpic, has been spotlighted for his recent article “College Was My Biggest Mistake“. He goes on to talk about how all that college taught him to do was pay back debt. Largely I agree. Fundamentally college needs to shift its focus to prepare students with the skills needed for today’s workforce. Our jobs are going to be outsourced because it’s cheaper, easier and faster than wasting time on a untrained new graduate.
Here are a few classes that I think should be added to every cirriculum.
1.) The Psychology of Sales
Business is about making sales. Nothing more. Aspiring professionals would gain immense knowledge by learning the psychological principles behind our desire to purchase items or choose one thing over the other. What makes people want to buy things? Exercises could include creating cold calling scripts, analyzing sales letters or gasp even trying to sell something for the school.
You graduate from Business School with a degree and little to no experience. Your parents are yelling at you to be responsible and get a job. You take the first thing you can whether it’s insurance, logistics or cars. They pay you 25k to get by and expect you to find your own clients and start making them money. How many people do you know quit after a few weeks?
We can’t learn how to sell without first knowing why people buy. Learning more about the psychology behind sales can lead to students advancing into tracks like conversion rate optimization or user experience design.
Recommended Reading: The Ultimate Sales Machine
2.) The Art of Negotiation
With an understanding of the psychology of sales, it’s time to divulge into negotiation. How does the value that I’m offering compare to what they’re asking and where is the middle ground? Is there a middle ground? What does his or her response mean in regards to the status of my contract?
Without any experience in negotiating business deals, contracts or anything similar you’re going to say yes to anything that comes your way. Often you’re going to be cheating yourself out of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. You know why? Because people who understand how to negotiate know exactly what to say and when. They know why it works because it’s been proven to work before and since you’re a naive graduate, it works on you too.
3.) The Fusion of PR and Marketing
Marketing today is radically different than what’s in your textbook and a year from now, no one will be able to catch up. If you’re “online marketing” professor asks you to buy a $400 textbook you should laugh in their face. 99% of websites are businesses and it’s almost 100% guaranteed that whatever job you take will have some sort of online presence.
During the 2013 Superbowl, 30 seconds of airtime cost $4 million for advertisers. If all we did was watch tv, maybe that price figure could be justifiable but we don’t. We’re checking our Facebook feeds and tweeting about how excited we are for the Ravens to win.
Oreo hired the marketing agency 360i to manage their social feeds and react in real time to anything that happened during the game. When the lights went out because of Beyonce’s holograms were too hot to handle, they released the image below.
The tweet went viral and Oreo won the Superbowl. Those are the case studies you should be looking at… in real time.
4.) Copywriting Applications for the Modern Consumer
If there’s any natural advantage that you have over the person in India or China who’s working every second of their life to make money online it’s probably your grasp of the English language. Copywriting is writing designed to market or sell a product. Good copy is the different between a conversion and a new customer or a lost opportunity.
But Ben I’m not going to be doing any selling or marketing when I graduate….
Reality is that you don’t know that. But even if you don’t end up in a position where you’re directly selling to customers, you’re always going to be selling your ideas and strategies to people who don’t want to listen. Understanding the psychology behind their decision making is critical, but now you need to learn how to convince them using words.
The business writing that I did as an undergraduate was mainly irrelevant. In today’s economy companies have to move fast or get swallowed up. Decisions are made on the fly and if they don’t work they pivot onto something new. Copywriting is a skill that you will use in every phase of your life.
Start learning copywriting now @ Copyhackers.
5.) The Fundamentals of Growth Hacking
Growth hacking should permanently replace statistics for business students. Growth hackers enter a business and look to exponentially increase the userbase and sales in a limited timeframe. Teams are typically made up of staticians, programmers, marketers and other people who can take a problem, analyze the data, test their hypothesis and optimize to scale.
Growth hacking can include things like A/B testing, Choice Modeling, Multivariate Testing and other models. These tests can not only be modeled to real life examples that actually make sense and are relatable, but can easily be applied to any business situation.
You’re hired to State Farm and begin cold calling. Immediately you notice that certain key phrases in the corporate sales script seem to throw people off. You’re not sure it appeals to their psychological need of fitting in. You then volunteer to run an A/B test using an identical script except for a few minor phrases. The new script covers at a rate 55% higher than the original at a 99% confidence level. Using these figures you’re able to project new sales numbers that predict a record year. You get promoted after your first month in and head back to school to buy your old professor a beer.
Concept: Have a class where you do a real life A/B test using a webapp like Optimizely.
6.) Online Marketing Channels
Brands today have wonderful opportunities to market online and tell their stories to customers across the globe. How do they do it though? Advertising online is much more than setting up a blog or Facebook page and then inviting all of your friends to like it or follow. Human nature is simple to understand in that we don’t do anything unless there’s something in it for us.
Whether you enter the corporate realm or work for a small business you should have a firm understanding of the different marketing channels available to you online. Should you put your effort into Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Or maybe there’s a niche network online that’s specific to your business where you’ll get considerably less traffic with incredible conversion rates.
Should you use affiliate marketing, media buys, email marketing or ppc? Do you know what these options are? Entry level positions require candidates to understand these technologies, but without prior knowledge or experience you stand little to no chance. College should acclamate you to these tools.
When I asked this question on my Facebook page, I got a variety of different answers. The overall consensus was that college should prepare students with specific training in software like Google Analytics, WordPress or Oracle. Perhaps it would be a better use of funds to purchase software licenses for training purposes rather than textbooks.
What classes would you add to your college curriculum?