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How are MBA Information Sessions like Real Estate Open Houses?

As the sun gets warmer and the grass greener, real estate signs are sprouting up on neighborhood lawns all across America.  It’s the best time of year to show a property and April and May are the peak months for home sales.  For MBA admissions directors, business school information sessions are a lot like a real estate open house – just without the ubiquitous “for sale” sign.  Like prospective home buyers, MBA prospects often conduct multiple searches before deciding on a business school.  Here are six tips toward a successful closing at your next MBA information session.

1. Staging Works

Staging has become a popular strategy to make a property sell faster.  A hired decorator can make a house more attractive and inviting through some interior touches and enhancements that help the buyer visualize themselves in the home.  As part of your business school recruiting, how are you staging your information sessions?  In addition to learning more about the academics, prospective students are also picking up visual cues and noticing the environment – the building, classrooms, and overall atmosphere – to see if they fit in.  Make sure that you have chosen an appealing and welcoming venue that best shows off your business school and helps candidates picture themselves in the program.  For example, if you are hosting a small group, make sure that you hold your session in a small boardroom or sunny classroom rather than a vast and impersonal lecture hall. Try business school “staging” to increase MBA application yields.

2. Fresh Baked Cookies in the Oven

Give a taste of your business school through a taste of hospitality.  Many open houses have goodies like warm chocolate cookies in the kitchen to entice prospective home buyers.  What snacks are you serving at your business school information session?  Even light refreshments (sodas and chips) can make your information session memorable and stand out above the others.  For an even more special event, serve wine and canapés at an evening session.  With tight university budgets, shopping around for the best deals (e.g., Costco or Sam’s Club) can make quality food and drinks a surprisingly affordable enhancement to your session.

3. Offer a Virtual Tour

In today’s digital age, prospective home buyers can easily search for properties online before taking the time and effort to see multiple houses in person.  A virtual tour helps them narrow down their choices.  Are you hooking MBA prospects in their initial search? As part of your business school marketing strategy, make sure that you are keeping up with the times and offering on-line information sessions to accommodate busy work and home schedules.  Time is a valuable commodity and virtual sessions provide ease and convenience to prospects.  An online MBA information session can also increase MBA applications by attracts additional prospects that aren’t able to visit the program in person.  Moreover, it signals that your business school is on the cutting edge and on the forefront of information technology.

4. Every Home is Always in the Best School District

Notice how listings always describe the property in the best possible light.  A small home will be described as ‘cozy.’  An older kitchen will be described as ‘charming.’ A small backyard will be described as ‘low maintenance.’ Make sure your presentation is showing the features and attributes of your business school and MBA program in the best possible way.  For example, if your position in a media ranking has fallen since last year, make sure you focus on the collective picture and history of all of your rankings over time.  Or, if your alumni salary data is lower than other schools nationwide because of your geographic location, be sure to compare your alumni salaries to other schools in your region or professionals in your area without MBAs.  While marketing your MBA program, there is always some way to slice the data to present the information in an accurate yet favorable manner.

5. How Many Days has Your Program Been on the Market?

Listings will always show the number of days a house has been active which provides important information to the buyer and seller alike.  Are you capturing data from your MBA information sessions to track attendance patterns and the conversion of attendees to applicants?  In order to optimize MBA application growth from your business school information sessions, you need to make data-driven decisions on optimal schedules, formats, presenters.

6. Find a Top Agent

There is an old saying that 20% of the real estate agents conduct 80% of the business. Choosing a top-notch real estate agent can make a big difference in how quickly your house gets sold.  Select the most enthusiastic and accomplished “agents” to help with MBA marketing and represent the program at business school information sessions.  MBA alumni and student testimonials will be a trusted and independent influence, and the can also bring the data to life.  For example, I once presented alumni salary information at a session when the alumni speaker jumped in to comment that his salary actually went up twice the average – an unexpected yet fortuitous exclamation point to the presentation.  Suffice to say, he was asked back to the next session.