Finding a New Path to Bring Executive MBA Students In

Finding a New Path to Bring Executive MBA Students In
As the executive MBA marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, it’s critical for higher education recruiters to turn to new avenues to bring students in the door.
Colleges and universities with executive MBA (EMBA) programs know these students can be more elusive than traditional students — or even traditional MBA students. Their needs are unique, and schools are updating their curricula to compete with ever-changing formats.

Higher ed institutions also are tweaking their marketing approaches in order to attract these  candidates. So, who is the target audience?

Zeroing in on the target audience

Most EMBA candidates are already entrenched in the business world. Many have made their way up numerous rungs of the corporate ladder. They are seeking a convenient, flexible program that fits into their busy schedules. In addition to the obvious academic advantages they’ll receive, EMBA candidates are looking to expand their business networks, whether for personal or corporate gain.

Price is one, but not always the primary, factor with prospective EMBA students, as it is with undergrad prospects. This is important to note because, as I will explain in greater detail in a moment, institutions must be discriminating in the search terms they use to promote their EMBA programs online.

Searching for a needle in a haystack

Search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns should be designed to deliver powerful messages about the specific EMBA program. They should also be designed to deliver more relevant results as well as highlight the program’s listing in the search rankings.

For EMBA programs not restricted by geographic boundaries, keywords used in SEM may or may not include local terms. Due diligence is required; conduct research to determine the most effective keywords.

EMBA online marketing does not live by SEM alone. Strategically-designed and placed banner ads work in conjunction with paid search. Banner ads should be placed on sites likely to be frequented by prospective EMBA students, such as financial sites, business publications, networking sites and the like.

Optimized landing pages can help attract new students

Search engine optimization (SEO) goes hand in hand with SEM and banner advertising. To properly attract (and ultimately convert) prospects, a dedicated landing page is in order. This landing page should include the same keywords used in SEM. Most importantly, it’s a lead-generation tool. That means it must include a form to capture key prospect information.

A few words of warning:

  • Don’t be overzealous in your efforts to gather prospect data. A form with too many required fields may scare off prospects, sending them scurrying to a competitor. At a minimum, ask for name, email and phone number. You can fill in the rest of the blanks in one-to-one marketing.

  • Don’t assume folks who arrive at your landing page will automatically hand over their personal information. Give them a reason to do so. Require signup to download an EMBA program brochure or other material that will reflect on the caliber of the program.

On the right track

Remember, the beauty of any online marketing campaign is it can be adjusted along the way. In fact, it should be updated as new data is revealed. Track campaigns regularly to see what’s working (and what’s not), then revise accordingly. Changing your tactics midstream doesn’t mean you were wrong in your initial approach. It means you understand the nuances of online marketing and are eager to make the most of your advertising dollars.

A lead is a lead, right?

Just as you want to make the most of your advertising budget, you also want to make the best use of your recruiting staff’s time and energy. Careful analysis of each lead, each channel, can help determine which leads are likely to be the most promising.

Follow-up is critical. It’s up to the admissions or enrollment specialists to convert these prospects into students. As with any business model, it’s all about the sales funnel. The better the quality of leads you place into the funnel, the better your results when it comes time to close the sale.

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Readers Comments

Gwen A. Parker 2014/09/04 at 3:00 pm

In order to follow through on Campisi’s strategies, institutions need to first beef up their data collection and analysis. Having worked as a recruitment consultant in higher ed for almost four years, I’m routinely surprised at the lack of information an institution typically has about its ideal candidate’s habits, needs, etc. The first thing I tell many institutions to do is collect data to develop this type of student profile. That will greatly help in any targeted marketing initiatives.

Elena Cole 2014/09/05 at 9:26 am

I agree with Campisi that the key is for institutions to be flexible about changing tactics to re-capture the attention of the target market. Some strategies may work for a particular time, or a particular group, but there’s a need to always be looking at what’s on the horizon and what other institutions are doing that’s working. Flexibility will sometimes mean abandoning a strategy that’s floundering, even if there’s a cost associated with doing this. Not an easy lesson for institutions to accept, but absolutely necessary to see results in the long term. Perhaps the eMBA department could learn from CE units and others that tend to work with adult and non-traditional students, as they have more experience with responsive tactics.

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