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Cupcakes and MBA Candidates

One afternoon I stopped in a friend’s company for an impromptu visit just as freshly-baked cupcakes arrived for an afternoon treat.  There’s nothing like confectionary delights to bring employees (including the CEO) out of their offices, and it provided the opportunity to chat with a talented team member who is just starting to think about going back to school for an MBA.

This young woman has been deliberating about a part-time MBA vs. full-time MBA program in Washington, D.C. for some time, yet is still very early in the decision-making process.  So early that she hasn’t even taken the GMAT yet or contacted any busines schools.

It was evident that she was as bright as she was ambitious, and I thought she would make a great candidate for any one of the many excellent MBA programs in the area. While I was encouraging her to attend information sessions to learn more about various MBA programs, it made me think about how MBA programs could find out about her.

A recent HBR Blog Network article, “Invest in Your Customers More Than Your Brand,” provides some helpful advice.

With Amazon as a case study, the author argues that the secret of success is “helping customers” rather than “selling things.”

In our digital world with increasing use of mobile and tablet devices, traditional advertising is giving way to advice and education. For example:

“Amazon transformed customer behaviors and expectations by consistently favoring innovative “advice” over sales-oriented “advertising” and promotion.  Credibility comes from commitment to facilitate decision, not calculate persuasion.”

So, how are you using digital media to better educate your MBA prospects?

When it comes to targeting MBA prospects early (read before other competitors scoop them up), consider the value of advertising that focuses on helping in the decision-making process. For example, digital media messaging that provides advice on deciding between a part-time MBA vs. a full-time MBA.  One idea is a series of videos with students and alumni on how they went through the decision process.

Other ideas to connect with propects during first bites of the buying process:

  • Organize a luncheon information reception at a restaurant near a targeted cluster of office buildings.  Send an invitation to HR directors to spread the word through the company or post a flyer on their message boards.
  • Initiate a referral program with an email to MBA students and alumni asking for 2-3 names of friends or colleagues who are thinking about an MBA.  In our hyper-connected world, MBA admissions officers can find propects in the very early stages of the buying cycle through a web of connections and relationships.
  • Initiate a lead generation campaign based on demographic metrics (e.g. title, companies, etc.) to invite to early prospects to an information session or keep in touch through social media.  The American Marketing Association has a great article on “Getting Leads by Going Social.”

What sweet ideas have worked for you?

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