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Is Your MBA Website a Haunted House?

Halloween is that time of year when thrill seekers get their adrenaline pumping at haunted houses throughout the country. And if there was ever any question about the best places to get spooked, haunted attractions have joined business schools, consumer goods, and celebrities as yet another subject of media rankings. From Screamworld in Houston to The House of Horrors in Buffalo, Reader’s Digest has it all covered in the 11 Best Haunted Houses Across the Country.

While these scary attractions are great fun at Halloween, there are far too many websites that resemble haunted houses all year long. To ensure that your business school website doesn’t frighten off candidates, here are four seasonal tips to bewitch prospects with the magic of your program:

1. Is your Website a Labyrinth?

Haunted houses are famous for winding corridors, twists and turns. However, don’t lead MBA prospects down secret passageways to hidden doors.

According to the Science of Website Redesign, 76% of consumers say the most important factor in a website’s design is “the website makes it easy for me to find what I want.”

Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and includes a call-to-action on every page so that the reader knows what to do next. Do you want the prospect to register for a webinar? Schedule an informational interview? Apply?

(The last one goes without saying.)

Prospective business school students are busy professionals and we know they have a lot of choices – including staying with the status quo. Make sure it is convenient for them to get the information they need quickly. If they don’t, they will fly like a bat out of — to a competitor website.

Make sure content is easy to scan. Include bite-sized text. Add bullets.

Also, 17% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Make sure your website is responsive and regularly check your web analytics to see how many people are using mobile devices. Content should present well on smartphones and tablets. Less is more. Be a vampire with your word count.

 2. Does your Content Turn Visitors into Zombies?

Did you know that you only have 15 seconds to capture someone’s attention?

That’s a challenge when there’s a huge cauldron of information to get across on a b-school website including admissions requirements, application deadlines, information sessions dates, curriculum, faculty profiles, and alumni accomplishments.

Think about what really matters to the prospective student and bring that to your “front door” (aka your home page).  Include creative, compelling headlines to spark curiosity.

The famous David Ogilvy said that 5 times as many people read the headlines as the body content.

Above all, don’t be boring. Think about why people visit haunted houses. They go to be entertained.

Instead of describing a litany of program features, showcase the benefits by telling stories.

Create content that educates and entertains.

3. Are You Causing Blood-Curdling Screams?

Sure, candidates go to business school to be educated. But often times there is a “trigger” factor involved. They feel like something is missing from their professional or personal lives.

But then something happens.

Too often candidates get spooked by the amount of work involved or the cost. You’ll attract more visitors and applicants if you show the enjoyable side of the experience and dispel uncertainty about ROI.

Answer these questions:

a) Why is it essential to pursue the graduate business degree right now?

b) What will happen if a prospect doesn’t attend your program?

c) What is the unique value proposition of your business school?

Throughout the website, use persuasive content that propels candidates through the admissions pipeline and creates a sense of urgency. Above all, you want to craft messaging that casts a spell on candidates to turn them into applicants.

4. Does Your Design Have Strobe Lights & Fog Machines?

The best haunted houses have special effects and thrills around every corner. Make sure your website conveys energy and is engaging with plenty of visuals.

Don’t cloak it in darkness. Colorful photos and captivating images will tap into the lizard brains of your prospective students to create momentum. That’s because visuals wake up our lizard brains to move away from the status quo and do something different. And that’s exactly what we are trying to achieve.

Think about ways to bring your programs to life. Use large images. Think about the strategic use of color and contrast.

Don’t forget, videos are a must for good reason:

Video is processed 60,000 times faster by our brains compared to text. While people are often hesitant to read heavy blocks of text, videos appear effortless and can be consumed very quickly.

Think of all the ways you can create an appealing visual experience.

5. Are Your Prospects Greeted By Ghosts?

I’m constantly surprised by the lack of personal contact information on many business school websites. It’s bewildering because we are in the people business. So many times a student will describe how their choice of school was influenced by a member of the admissions team (above a media ranking or anything else).

So why disguise their identity?

It’s particularly important for schools that aren’t able to trade as much on brand recognition. The front-line staff become all the more important to “sell” the school.

It all boils down to relationships, and in order to create a connection, you need to first show that connection.

Instead of a generic contact email address such as, make sure your website has phone numbers and email addresses of key members of your recruitment team. 

Imagine you are a prospective student searching business schools and one program has the names, photos, and contact details of their admissions team and the other one doesn’t.

Which school appears more personable and welcoming? Think about how your business school website looks compared to your competitors. Also, consider putting profiles of key recruitment personnel on the site with biographies and interests to make a personal connection. Check out this great example from Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management.

During this Halloween season, review your business school website to see if it is handing out more tricks-or-treats to MBA prospects all year round.