How we helped sell 1,330,402 dollars🔥🚀 of English language courses online, in only seven months

AKA 58,333,571 PHP or roughly 700,000 Jollibee Chickenjoy meals 🤔

At the time (2014) we were purely a marketing agency, doing online marketing stuff.

What began as a simple SEO project quickly grew into a mammoth organizational development, marketing and sales undertaking. And we nearly peed our pants.

We were hired to:

help avoid catastrophic damage to website rankings due to recent SEO blunders.

But once we started, the requirements changed to (the always vague):

improve sales quickly.

Crockery had nothing to do with our work. Which made a lot of sense.
And just how do we do that, exactly? Your organization is more complex than my great Grandmother’s taste in British ornamental crockery.

It’s quite straightforward in retrospect, although with almost no idea on where to start, we began quickly building a team that had the collective experience to get the job done, and set out to learn everything we didn’t yet know about organizational development, HR and sales…

First things, first

Our client: one of the largest English language schools in the United Kingdom, (generating eight figures in British Pounds, yearly) conducts business worldwide with offices in multiple continents for sales and operations. We knew we had a major challenge on our hands.

To begin, we created what we now call a “fact-finding mission” to establish the organization’s history, current situation, resource availability and goals moving forward.

This gave us a great starting point to reverse-engineer a plan that could take them from where they were, to where they wanted to be.

We figured out that the project would comprise of these key components:

  1. Recruitment
  2. On-location training and workshops
  3. Market and competition research
  4. Defining Buyer Personas
  5. Brand guidelines
  6. E-commerce and CRM integration
  7. Web design and development for 11 websites in six different languages
  8. Social media marketing, email marketing and paid advertising

And this is where we started.

Build and train a digital marketing team on a limited budget, for flexible roles

Okay, so we needed a digital team. This team didn’t yet exist, so the first thing we did was call everyone we knew and ask them if they wanted a job.

Obviously I’m kidding. We ran ads in local papers and online job directories and interviewed dozens of candidates for the seven roles we needed to fill.

Back patting and awkward jokes were commonplace at this stage of the project.

Roles were still pretty vague, since we didn’t yet know exactly how our HR needs would evolve throughout the project, so it was better to hire someone unspecialized and have them do a variety of jobs over the course of time, rather than dedicate them to roles that might be terminated in favor of another avenue.

Luckily the salaries were thin, so that’s all we were going to get anyway…

We hired for the following positions:

  • Five Social Media Community Managers (Italian, French, German, Spanish and English)
    Each language required their own native-speaking professional.
  • Multimedia Creator
    At first glance, we knew we were going to need updated photo and video libraries. This was before the branding phase even started.
  • Webmaster
    For more basic and everyday tasks such as maintaining the website, advertising accounts and so on, an in-house webmaster would greatly lower their costs over time—especially during this comprehensive project.

Within a month all positions were filled and we were off to the races…

Every month, we made sure someone would be on-location to oversee and guide the client

Running a project of this size, remotely, is quite frankly impossible if you actually want to achieve anything good.

This meant either our CEO or myself would fly to Oxford from Romania or Manila, respectively. For the first three months, both of us attended.

Being on-location gave us time to get to know the staff and keep our finger on the pulse of the project.

Initially what seemed like a very pleasant working environment quickly became a playground for toxicity between not only the team members but the department heads as well.

The director of the company has a Masteral degree in philosophy and decided it was better to create a culture where conflict would flourish instead of not.

After seeing the impact it had on the productivity and morale of the people in the org, we think this was a very bad philosophy, actually.

Nevertheless, we did our best to keep the team from killing each other and trained them in-line with the goals of the project.

We delivered training and workshops that consisted of:

  • The customer journey: from visitor, to lead, to customer
  • Customer satisfaction and retention
  • Measuring the agreed-upon business KPIs
  • SEM / Search Engine Marketing including SEO / Search Engine Optimization, PPC (pay-per-click advertising on the Google
    Adwords, Facebook and LinkedIn ads networks)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Online funnels using blogs, calls to action (CTAs), landing pages and online chat tools like Zopim
  • Email marketing
  • Google Analytics and reporting
  • Principles of website development oriented to business objectives

Identifying, analyzing and benchmarking competitors

This is how our analyst looked when he found out there were over 200 competitors.

I don’t always think competition research is essential, because I feel it’s much more beneficial to focus on the needles that move your own success.

In this case though, competition research really helped us see how we could improve our overall strategy and gave us a benchmark on which we could measure and track our performance in relation to the market leaders.

This was essential in retrieving market share lost as a result of the various SEO hiccups that happened prior to our engagement.

In our assessment we reviewed approximately 200 online competitors against the following criteria:

  • Industry-specific data
  • Traffic and visitor engagement and behaviour
  • Traffic channels contribution in total traffic
    > organic 
    > paid
    > direct
    > referral
    > social
    > email traffic
  • Top 5 countries from where each competitor receive traffic — and the traffic quantity for each of those countries
  • The complete list of social media networks from where each competitor receives traffic — and the traffic quantity for
    each of those social media channels
  • The size of competitors communities on main social media channels:
    > Facebook
    > Google+
    > Linkedin
    > Youtube
    > Twitter
  • The engagement average for all competitors over the last three months on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter
  • Domain and page authority, outbound and inbound links data
  • PPC report, including estimated monthly budget
  • Blog and blog engagement report

In the end we compiled the competitors’ data in a spreadsheet and we were able to move ahead with:

  • Building an industry benchmark
  • Building an industry leaders benchmark — the top 20% of competitors that receive 80% of the total marketplace traffic
    (according to the Pareto principle)
  • Calculating the client’s market share
  • Comparing the client at the country level with the average for each relevant country, but also with the top 20% of
    competitors from each country
  • Establishing our next big marketing moves based on the resulting data
    The competition research is an ongoing, fundamental business process and the spreadsheet is updated on a quarterly basis by the client’s staff with our assistance

Establishing our customer avatars with “Buyer Personas”

Up to this point the outline of the perfect customers only existed within the heads of various staff members, and each version was different (as we would find out).

Yes, this is Vince Vaughn being a jackass. You’re welcome.

We needed to centralize the understanding of them so that everyone was on the same page, and so that marketing and sales were looking for and working with the same groups of people as opposed to their own separate versions.

So we ended up articulating:

  • Background
  • Demographics
  • Personal identifiers
  • Goals
  • Concerns
  • The best ways to satisfy each buyer persona
  • Actual testimonials / feedback from each buyer persona (this is especially important when it comes to running marketing and advertising campaigns on landing pages.

Updating the brand guidelines

This was probably the most sensitive component in our project— with the client’s business being over 45 years old—of course they were very protective of their branding.

We almost had our hand slapped off on a number of occasions in actual fact.

There was more to it than graphic design, actually.

Thankfully, after explaining why things needed to change and providing proof, we were able to move ahead and optimize the existing brand for online. This resulted in a a massive sigh of relief in the organization from many of the staff whom had longed for an update but never got one.

All changes were compiled and published in a brand guidelines document, which was then used to create the various properties and assets later on by both BDS and the digital marketing team.

E-Commerce and CRM integration

In an attempt to keep you reading and not put you to sleep, we hand-picked a CRM that fit their needs, custom-built a bridge API between itself and their existing, legacy booking platform, and hit the play button.

I don’t think the booking offices found it this pleasurable.

Once the bridge had been tested and was working with the legacy platform, we started training the staff in all the sales offices around the world on how to use it.

Two presentations in Versailles later, and the adoption of the platform was—surprisingly—rather painless and immediately noticeable.

Our plan was working. The business was… *gasp*… modernizing.

From that point forward, all interactions with customers were logged and commented, and a centralized business intelligence was being created that gave the organization a real-time view of the revenue generated, and potential revenue that lay in the pipeline in any time period. đź‘Ť

Design and develop 11 websites in six languages

I’m not even going to comment on this.

Such is the nature of the business that, they need 11 websites. This is because there are multiple English and French speaking sites, and then there are all the others.

The key here was to understand the buyer persona well enough that we could create a version of the site that would translate well across not only languages but cultures. If budget had allowed, an individualistic design could have been made for each country in question, but that would have been incredibly expensive and time-consuming (and at this point not entirely necessary).

Design process

We built the mockup in InvisionApp first, to let the client see the progress and leave feedback, after which we coded the templates directly into Adobe Business Catalyst (their CRM) and after testing and fixing the first staging site, we built the remaining sites and rolled them out in tandem.

SEO considerations

SEO was a huge aspect of this process—we didn’t want to negatively impact their rankings with the changes even though we knew that they would drop a little immediately following the switch.

It was a relief when we saw the numbers go up—in total by 50% across the board within the first seven months!

Social media marketing, email marketing and paid advertising

To get the results we were looking for (€1,000,000 minimum) we enlisted the digital team to create and manage campaigns on a daily basis, that we helped them create at the strategic level.

AdWords turned out to be our best-performing channel in terms of ROI.

Since the competition research revealed that just 5% of competitors’ combined ROI was a result of social media marketing, we relegated social media channels to the least priority, making way for email marketing and paid advertising on Google AdWords.

Their email list was dusty and unkempt, but it still yielded sales when we pushed promotions and created new automations.

Google AdWords was where we really shone, in collaboration with blog posts published frequently throughout the week.

This helped us build up our qualified leads which were then sold by the sales offices, and also pushed SEO forward with new, fresh, daily content.

The resulting collaboration meant a 393% ROI after just seven months of working together.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading how we initially almost peed our pants at the size and breadth of this project, quickly finding momentum and push to achieve one of the most notable results we’ve ever witnessed with an organization that is firmly rooted in tradition and culture.

We work with businesses of all types, including startups.

It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your business: as long as your annual revenue is over 500,000 USD / 25,000,000 PHP you can also work with us to achieve similar results.

Simply get in touch for a no-obligation consultation and we can discuss your current needs.

Send me an email ( and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Alternatively you can message me directly over at

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