Mandy Prepares for College

Mandy swung her backpack onto the carpet with a sigh. She flopped down on her bed, smiling. She did it. She had finally finished her last day of high school. There had been laughter, tears, and the rest of the emotions that come with the occasion. She was a straight A student and had loved high school.

As she reflected on the day, her mind began to wander to her fall plans. She had gotten accepted into several schools but still hadn’t made up her mind where she wanted to go. Her parents had always placed a high importance on getting a quality education, but she had recently found out that they had not able to set aside any savings for her higher education. Her older brother, who was her idol and bestfriend, had been given a scholarship to play baseball at Winona State University in Minnesota. She had visited him a few times in the two years he had been there, despite it being over 2 hours from her hometown. She had loved the campus, and the idea of going to school with her brother was very exciting to her. The only downfall with going to Winona State was that to pursue her dream of being a teacher, or even better, a professor someday, she would have to attend masters school elsewhere and she didn’t know how well her credits and accolades would transfer. Also, graduate school is very expensive!

She had talked to her parents to see if they had any helpful advice, they usually did and she respected their advice very much. Unfortunately for her, they wanted this to be her decision so that she could feel confident and happy in where she went to school. As they put it “you’re an adult now and choosing a college is a very important adult decision. We will miss you but as you know, were just a call or text away.”

In the following days, Mandy did a lot of thinking and research on what schools were in the area that offered teaching programs. In her research she stumbled across an article from 2018 from Western Technical College in La Crosse, WI. The article read:

Officials at Western Technical College and Viterbo University have formally announced a new transfer agreement for students in the Foundations of Teacher Education program this fall.

Students enrolled full time can complete the Foundations of Teacher Education associate’s degree program at Western in four academic terms. Following successful completion of the 67 credits, students can transfer into Viterbo’s Elementary/Middle Childhood Education major, along with a minor in Special Education.  

“Nearly half of last year’s graduating class is in the process or has already been accepted into Viterbo’s program for the fall,” said Western instructor Shelly Bauer. “This is a great opportunity for students and local school districts to meet the growing need for teachers.”

“In keeping with our deep commitment to education and the community, Viterbo is ever-focused on expanding the pipeline of highly prepared and energized new teachers,” said Sara Cook, dean of the College of Education, Engineering, Letters and Sciences at Viterbo University. “We are happy to add this seamless pathway through our strong, collaborative partnership with Western.””

Mandy was ecstatic! La Crosse was a short 30 minute drive away from Winona, located on the beautiful Mississippi River and home to not only Western Tech and Viterbo, but also UW-La Crosse. 3 schools in one town! As she dug deeper in her research she found out that Western not only had a beautiful campus, but was also the most affordable school in the entire state! This seemed like a no brainer. She looked at admissions requirements and knew immediately that she would be accepted with no issues and she could begin her education towards her dream of teaching. She called her brother, and he had nothing but good things to say about the area, she ran to the kitchen and told her parents about the opportunity, and they were overjoyed for her. She filled out an online application that same afternoon.


This blog post in an example of a buyer persona journey. This is a common tactic used by marketers to personify their customers in order to better understand them and their needs. Instead of a chart showing the target audiences information, pain points and needs, a buyer persona story engages the reader and helps them to understand exactly how to target this audience.

An Example of a social media advertisement that could recruit students like Mandy.

Retail Management Reflection and Simulation Exercise

Recently I completed the VP Knowledge Matters Retail Simulation. I wrote a few months ago about completing the practice version (read here) which I passed quickly and easily. I thought through everything that I have learned over the semester that I would be fully prepared to ace the final simulation. I was not.

The concept of the simulation is to own and operate a grocery store with the objective of having a $17,500 weekly profit. Fairly straightforward. You begin by choosing one of the ten available grocery stores, which are several sizes with a diverse mix of customers and surrounding areas. Each store has a different weekly rent based on square footage, location and interest. For my sim, I chose a midsized store in the middle of the city, because it was relatively low cost and the surrounding area had a high population density.

Once you choose a store, you have to staff and stock it. Due to size limitations, I put in 2 checkouts and had store hours between 7am and 11pm. The store is opened based off of when you have cashiers working. I had 1 work through the morning and early afternoon, with 2 cashiers in the evenings. The sim allows you to poll consumers, so I found out what items customers buy regularly and based my store layout off of that. I tried to place impulse items near the checkouts. I set my base profit margin at 35% and adjusted individual products based off of customer comments and feedback.

Once the store is operating, there are several promotion options. There are billboards, radio ads, newspaper ads and email promotions. For my sim, I focused on billboards to try to bring in customers from around the area that may otherwise go elsewhere. Billboards are expensive, but I rarely saw a drop in weekly profits when adding a new billboard because of the additional customers they bring in.

I tweaked things based on customer comments and feedback and ultimately after 5 simulation years, I was still unable to meet the $17,500 weekly profit goal and threw in the towel. My best week was over $13,000 in profit but I was unable to duplicate that success or capitalize on it further.

In the days following taking the simulation, I went back and tried again based on what I had learned the first time. I was still unable to hit the weekly goal. If I had another shot at it, I would have done more initial planning to set my store up for success. My biggest downfall was adjusting things too quickly on the fly without analyzing the effectiveness of different approaches and marketing tactics. Thankfully, it was just a simulation and I don’t have to actually run a grocery store.

The simulation was challenging, stimulating and fun. I would recommend anybody who wants to someday manage or own a retail business to try it. I believe it was a beneficial exercise for me and caused me to think a lot on the complexity of what goes on behind the scenes at stores we visit daily or weekly.

How to Get 100% on the Knowledge Matters Consumer Behavior Simulation

I recently completed the virtual business consumer behavior simulation from knowledge matters. This is a fun, challenging simulation that tests students understanding of consumer behavior. I got a perfect score on it and you can too! Here’s some tips:

1. Understand Consumer Behavior Basics

There’s a lot to know when it comes to consumer behavior, but for this simulation you just need to understand the basics. A few key points to remember when it comes to your store layout and customer flow are:

  • Shoppers walk counterclockwise
  • Shoppers avoid upper and lower floors
  • Shoppers hate narrow aisles
  • Shoppers need to “orient” themselves

Keep these in mind when setting up your store layout, and it will push sales. If you want more layout tips, check out this chapter from Lumen Learning:

2. Take Your time With the Prep Steps

The simulation offers several steps before you are expected to take the challenge phase. Take your time with these. They are designed to help you succeed in the challenge phase. They will help you understand how the simulation is set up and some keys to success are pointed out in these steps.

3. Change Store Layout Immediately

Okay, now you’re in the challenge phase. The very first thing you need to do is rearrange the store to make it shopper friendly. On the upper right side of the screen click Reports ► Product Info. Under this tab you will see Primary Purchase Type. This tells you essentially where to display the items. You will see three primary types:

Need: Position these items along the walls, customers are coming in specifically for these items

Complementor: These items are usually paired with a need, so place them near a need item. (ex. place phone cases near phones)

Impulse: Place these items near registers. Customers aren’t coming in for a phone charger, but they might buy one if they see it.

4. Simulate One Week at a Time

Your income statements are updated weekly, so simulating one week at a time is your best chance at success. Sim one week, see what has sold, what has not, and adjust accordingly. Also look at Reports ► Comments & Msgs. This report will let you know what customers are saying about the store. You may need to change displays and staffing accordingly.

5. Have Fun

Have fun with this simulation, you can always retake it. Try different approaches and comment below what worked well for you!

VALS, PRIZM, and How Data Analytics are Changing Business

Today more than ever before, businesses are using consumer data to sell product. Everyone knows about the shady dealings of “selling data” and “big data”, but there are plenty of other ways data is found too. One of these ways is via consumers personality, behavior, and self-concept. A couple tools marketers can use (or anyone else!) are the VALS assessment, and the Claritas PRIZM database.

What is VALS?

VALS is an assessment that anybody can take from that puts American adults in one of 8 categories based on their answers to a nearly 40 question subjective test. This data allows companies to target customers, or to better understand the value system and beliefs of their existing customers. I took the test and fell into the “experiencers” catagory with a secondary catagory of “innovators”.

Experiencers are defined as:

  • Are always taking in information (antennas up)
  • Are confident enough to experiment
  • Make the highest number of financial transactions
  • Are skeptical about advertising
  • Have international exposure
  • Are future oriented
  • Are self-directed consumers
  • Believe science and R&D are credible
  • Are most receptive to new ideas and technologies
  • Enjoy the challenge of problem solving
  • Have the widest variety of interests and activities.

Innovators are defined as:

  • Are confident enough to experiment
  • Make the highest number of financial transactions
  • Are skeptical about advertising
  • Have international exposure
  • Are future oriented
  • Are self-directed consumers
  • Believe science and R&D are credible
  • Are most receptive to new ideas and technologies
  • Enjoy the challenge of problem solving
  • Have the widest variety of interests and activities.

This really gives a company a lot of info to help corner their target market. If the country is only divided into 8 segments, there’s a whole lot of people in each category. To narrow things down further, another way of defining customers in by PRIZM.

What is PRIZM?

PRIZM is a segmentation technology used by to help company find their target markets at scale. They can be defined by nearly 70 segments, and sorted by age, income, interests, geography and more. This is a great way for businesses to understand their customers, or just for the average American to better understand their neighbors.

Check out VALS here:

Check out PRIZM here:

Tips and Tricks to Beat the Mimic Social Simulation

Recently, I completed the Mimic Social Simulation, created by Stukent. The scenario of the simulation is this: You have recently been hired as the social media manager by Buhi Bags, a luxury backpack company. Each week, you are given $5000 to spend on social media between content and promotion. Your goals are to build brand awareness, increase engagement, increase sales, and lastly to outperform your peers. That’s the fun of this simulation, you are competing against your entire class, who have the same scenario, and are using the same algorithm.

Although I didn’t finish near the top of the class in profit, I was very happy with my New Follower count, which in a real life setting could translate to sales in the future. My total ROI was $63k over 12 weeks, which I’m certain would be good enough to keep my position at the company if this were real life. There’s a lot of things I would change if I were to complete the simulation again, and a lot of things I would keep the same, so here are some tips and tricks if this is your first time:

#1 Read

Every week you are given a task, and most weeks there is additional reading you can do. Even though reading may take up more of your time, it could change your results significantly.

#2 Try stuff, strategically

The best way to know if something will work is sometimes to do it, especially in a situation like this where there’s nothing more than a grade and potential bragging rights on the line. Try new kinds of posts and take note of what succeeds and what bombs.

#3 Use the personas

Stukent has several preset “personas” or ideal customers already created and researched. Look under the scenario tab at Market and you will see 7 distinct personas, all of whom you can target to. Pay attention to what size of the market share each persona is before trying to market towards them.

#4 Re-purpose material

Real companies do it all the time and you can too. Already used an image on Twitter but want to use it again? That’s fine, crop it and use it on Instagram with a different message, there’s very few people who follow you on both platforms, and those who do are such devoted fans they won’t mind.

#5 Drive Sales

I focused a little too much on social media metrics like engagements and followers, don’t be like me. To climb to the top of the class rankings, focus on what is driving revenue and secure that bag.

The Zeigarnik Effect and Finishing What You Started


What is the Zeigarnik Effect?

In psychology, the Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. (

“Have you ever thought about a movie you didn’t finish for way too long? Had a song that you only know some of the words to stuck in your head on loop?…”

History of the Zeigarnik effect

In the 1920’s, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik performed a series of studies involving task interruption. Her most well known study involved over 100 children, each of whom had to perform a simple challenge such as a jigsaw puzzle. Half of the children were allowed to complete the task, while the other half were interrupted partway through. An hour later the children were asked about the task they performed. Only around 10% of the children who were allowed to complete the task remembered it, while nearly 80% of those who were interrupted remembered it vividly.

Ok cool, why should I care?

Have you ever thought about a movie you didn’t finish for way too long? Had a song that you only know some of the words to stuck in your head on loop? Have you ever clicked on a link titled something like “Doctors hate him! Here’s why” These are all due to the Zeigarnik effect. Our brain wants to finish unanswered questions and uncompleted tasks, and these can take up a significant amount of mental space when not completed. This also takes place at school and work, when you don’t complete a task or assignment you brain keeps reminding you of it. This can lead to high stress and stress about being stressed and having so much to do.

So, it is best to just finish things you start, so you have more mental space to focus on tasks at hand.

Best Camping Near La Crosse WI

Whether you’re visiting the La Crosse area or just looking for an affordable weekend getaway, tent camping is a great option. Here are 5 of the best places to tent camp in the La Crosse area, in no specific order.

Pettibone Resort

Pettibone Campground

Image Source: roverpasscom

Pettibone Resort is located in the heart of La Crosse, near historic downtown. It features 30 tent sites, half of which look out onto the Mississippi River. Besides its ideal location, Pettibone also features basketball and horseshoe courts within the grounds, as well as kayak and canoe rentals if you want to explore the river. Due to flooding concerns, Pettibone Resort’s tentative open date this year is May 25th.   

Goose Island Campground

Goose Island Campground

Image Source: Camp Native

Goose Island Campground is located just a few miles south of La Crosse in Stoddard. The scenic 169 tent campground features hiking trails as well as mapped out canoe trails. Goose Island opens April 15th, make your reservations today at

Great River Bluffs State Park

Great River Bluff State Park

Image Source: Hiking Minnesota

Worth the trip across the river, Great Bluffs State Park in Winona, MN has something for all nature lovers. From extensive hiking trails to birdwatching to uncommon animals such as the Six Lined Racer, this 31-tent park is sure to impress.

Bluebird Springs Recreation Area

Bluebird Springs Recreation Area

Image Source: Travel Wisconsin

This hidden gem in rural La Crosse features an on-site swimming pool and beach, bluff hiking trails and volleyball, basketball and horseshoe courts. Bluebird Springs has 49 tent sites and opens April 15th.

Perrot State Park

Perrot State Park

Image Source: Flickr

Perrot State Park, located in Trempealeau just across the county line, offers a different experience than the rest of the list as it is away from the bluffs a bit. Perrot has rivers, wetlands and wooded slopes all full of animals of all shapes and sizes from muskrats to woodchucks to snapping turtles. A great place to camp, or just to hike, the park will soon be full of color with blue yellow and purple violets.

About the Author:

Hi I’m Nate, I’m 20 years old and have lived in La Crosse for a year. With the weather getting warmer I’m itching to get outside and explore, which prompted me to make this blog.

Coca-Cola and Content Marketing

Coke is arguably one of the most well known companies and logos around the world. But they’re also one of the most famous marketing companies. In ‘s interview with Kate Santore, a content marketing manager at the Coca-Cola company, she covered how she stays on task, how Coke creates new content, keeping their brand image and more (Read the full article here). If there was one thing from this interview that stuck out to me, it would be the source of her inspiration. Kate said that she is inspired by her competition and even sends a weekly email to her marketing team titled “Work That Makes Me Jealous”. She said her competitions good work only drives her to create better ideas and sets the bar higher for everybody.

I like that idea. What work makes me jealous? What makes me want to get better? I think tough competition is the best way to get better, whatever industry you’re in, and if more people saw this as a challenge, the world would be a better and more advanced place.

Here are some examples of content marketing that make me jealous.

Newport Film Festival Trailer

Apple “Unlock”

Taco Bell “Web of Fries”


All three of these pieces are advertisements for something, but are captivating enough on their own that the viewer almost forgets that they’re just watching an ad. These examples of content marketing all make me jealous, make me want to get better.

What makes you jealous?

Self-Assessment Tests and College

When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.

-Elon Musk

And after college, that’s exactly what the Tesla founder did. Recently, I took a self -assessment. This test was designed to judge eight inner strengths, which are key in shaping how an individual experiences life. These eight strengths are:

  1. Accepting Personal Responsibility
  2. Discovering Self-Motivation
  3. Mastering Self-Management
  4. Employing Interdependence
  5. Gaining Self-Awareness
  6. Adopting Life Long Learning
  7. Developing Emotional Intelligence
  8. Believing in Yourself

From taking the assessment, as expected, I found that my scores were in the middle category, or “your choices will sometimes keep you on course.” Like I said, this is the outcome I expected. So why take the test? Tests like these are important to take from time to time to make sure the inner compass is still pointing in a direction you want. Especially as someone in college. College age is traditionally where people decide what direction they want their life to take. We can’t all invent Tesla and Space X like Elon Musk, but we can all do something to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. So I’m glad I took this Self-Assessment test, and I would recommend you do so as well.

This Site has a list of Self-Assessment tests you can take, some free some paid. They serve to offer some insight into your life. Give one a try.