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What matters most to future MBA students?

Higher education marketing

Some weeks ago, I had some minor surgery and had to choose a doctor for the procedure.  Like many “consumers” looking for advice, I turned to my trusted network of family and friends for recommendations. After some pre-procedure comparative shopping and consultations, I settled on a surgeon who was considered the most experienced in his specialty in our metropolitan area.

Dr. Miller’s credentials were impressive.  He completed a residency at University of Pennsylvania and was affiliated with Johns Hopkins for 9 years before he started his own practice. With more than 25 years of experience, Dr. Miller has received numerous awards and is widely published in prestigious academic journals.

These numerous accolades were on display on the walls of his beautifully appointed waiting room that featured a fireplace, library, complimentary Coca-Cola, and, thankfully, an assortment of peanut butter crackers which would later become lunch.  Distinctions included rankings  in Men’s Health and Baltimore magazines.

MBA alumni


In addition, I later discovered that Dr. Miller also has an MBA from Hopkins where it was clear he aced marketing.  When it comes to intangible services, consumers rely on reputation in the buying decision.  Throughout Dr. Miller’s office, there were many, as we marketing folks call, “proof points” as we see above.

Those of us who work in business school marketing and admissions know all about the importance of proof points.   In just the past month, there’s been enough media rankings headlines to keep Nate Silver occupied until the next presidential election:

It goes without saying that MBA candidates evaluate a business school’s reputation based on these rankings.

But what other ways do candidates measure a b-school’s reputation?  And do some matter more than others?

A recent article in Forbes has one answer.  When it came to the 10 most important characteristics in choosing a business school, researchers found that Prestige of the MBA School emerged as twice as important as any other attribute.

“The researchers expected that MBA Starting Salary would be the most important attribute and were surprised when Prestige of the MBA School emerged as twice as important as any other attribute, a difference that was statistically highly significant.”

In a separate follow-up survey, the researchers learned that Achievements of Alumni was the most frequently-mentioned measure of Prestige, “measured twice as frequently as any other characteristic.”

The simple takeaway for business school marketers here is to showcase alumni achievements in marketing collateral.   One of the easiest and most effective ways to do that is through storytelling that addresses all of your buyer personas.

So, how is your business school demonstrating alumni achievements in your marketing assets?

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Earned media
  • Advertising
  • Lead Nurturing Campaigns

Looking for  inspiration?  Here are some examples of how leading business schools are communicating alumni success stories on their Facebook pages.  The headings are my take on the buyer personas they are targeting.


 Career changers (Corporate)

MBA alumni

CAREER CHANGERS (International)

MBA alumni


MBA alumni


Career Changers (Industry)

MBA alumni

Career  Advancers  (Female/High Tech)

MBA alumni

Career Advancers (Male/Aviation)

MBA alumni

Female Entrepreneurs

MBA alumni

What examples do you have to share?

Schedule a 20/20 Brainstorming Call