Business School Marketing Challenges from the Marketers Themselves

Posted: November 27, 2012

Tony Poillucci Vice President & Creative Director

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We at VisionPoint Marketing love our work. Helping our higher education clients achieve their goals is not only a gratifying pursuit, but one we truly believe in.

That being said, you can imagine how thrilled we were to share our experiences and meet more than 800 higher education marketing professionals when we spoke at the 2012 AMA Symposium for Higher Education in New Orleans last week.

While there, I attended a roundtable session for B-School marketers to talk about what keeps them up at night. The roundtable discussion was one of the most heavily attended roundtable sessions at the symposium and had representatives from most major B-Schools in the country.

As I sat there and listened (as a ‘vendor’ I choose not to participate unless I’m asked a question) I found that among the 30 or so attendees, there were a number of common themes that consistently popped up. The following are the top five:

The Top Five B-School Marketing Challenges:

  1. Keeping the funnel filled – Bringing in applicants was the top concern for this group. They’re all feeling the pinch and also feeling the heat from their leadership.
  2. Consistent messaging – How do you communicate consistently across channels? How do you get your stakeholders (faculty, staff, alumni, students, etc) to all be on the same page and communicate clearly and consistently about who you are and what you stand for?
  3. Branding/sub branding – There was a lot of talk about how to communicate about different offerings (some referred to them as ‘sub-brands’).
    For example, Do you treat the messaging for the executive MBA different from the full-time MBA, than the part-time MBA, than the global MBA, than the online MBA? Or do you focus on the strengths of the umbrella program, and simply differentiate between the ways you can go through that program?
  4. Effectively utilizing digital media – Everyone knows that being online is core to their marketing efforts, but how does one get control of and leverage all this stuff?! (social media, the web, etc). And how do you do this with such a small staff?
  5. Narrowing down your value proposition – Business school marketers acknowledge that they are offering essentially the same things. So how do you go about defining our value proposition and differentiating among such steep competition? How do you narrow this down to simple messaging and into an elevator speech even?

Now what?

While many of the country’s business schools face similar challenges, the solutions for each aren’t necessarily the same. A young program with a lot of new energy but little brand awareness will require a much different approach than a more established B-School looking to boost enrollment or get to the next level competitively.

The first thing business school marketers, or any marketer for that matter, should determine is a clear and narrow definition of success. What are your goals? Why are you doing what you do? Who are you and what makes you unique?

Only by examining your goals and prioritizing them can you responsibly and successfully move on to developing your road map. And once you have a an idea of where you are versus where you want to be, your team (sometimes with the help of an external marketing partner, wink, wink) can develop a strategic plan that, if executed well, will get you where you want to go.

So how about you?

Whether you’re from a business school or not, what marketing challenges keep you up at night?