What keeps a Business School Marketer Awake at Night?

Posted: February 6, 2012

Tony Poillucci Vice President & Creative Director


In November 2011, I attended the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education (#amahighered on Twitter) in lovely downtown Chicago. The three day event focused primarily on what matters most to Higher Education Marketers, and covered a range of topics from building strong college brands to how to use mobile more effectively. For the most part, the content was relevant and the presenters did a fine job.

One of the highlights for me was that I was able to sit on a roundtable discussion with a group of Business School Marketers. Over the course of an hour, representatives from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business and Management, The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and others shared the top concerns/challenges they’re facing at their institutions.

The top six ‘hot topics’ discussed (in no particular order) are:

  1. A declining pool of applicants.
    All schools represented have seen a decrease in applications especially over the past year.
  2. How to best reach prospective students.
    With so many options, it has become increasingly difficult to decide where to spend marketing budgets: social media, website enhancements, mobile, email, viewbooks, paid search, etc, etc, etc.
  3. The need for outside consultants.
    If given the opportunity (read: budget) most schools heavily prefer to have a trusted, external marketing partner that understands higher ed as well as the ins-and-outs of online marketing. The challenge is finding the right fit.
  4. The competitive nature of MBA programs.
    In Chicago alone, there are 32 MBA programs. How do you compete in such an aggressive arena?
  5. How to differentiate.
    Given the competitive nature of B-schools (especially MBA programs), how does one school or program set itself apart from the rest of the pack?
  6. What are the ‘new’ and ‘cool’ things that B-schools are doing to market themselves?
    While it’s normal to want to know what’s new and cool, it’s actually quite unhealthy to jump into something new and cool unless it’s going to help you achieve your goals. The better question is: What are the most effective things that B-schools are doing to market themselves?

The conclusion

You’re not alone. Most business schools these days are facing the same challenges; and they’re all struggling with how to thrive in an increasingly competitive arena.

Hang in there. If you CLEARLY understand your goals and you take a strategic, thought-out approach to marketing your school and programs, you’ll be just fine. If you fall into a reactionary, trend-driven approach to marketing, you’ll simply end up wasting your budget and falling behind the rest of the pack.