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Why Permission Marketing is a Prospective MBA Student’s Best Friend

permission marketing

I have nothing against Kay Jewelers.  I mean, how could a girl not like diamonds?

Yet my brand experience became a little less brilliant when my cell phone rang on a busy Monday afternoon.

I was in the middle of a time-sensitive lead nurturing email for a client and I needed to stay focused.   I was also up against another imminent deadline involving  a university website project with my digital marketing partner,  Converge Consulting.

It was just not the right moment for a sales pitch about a girl’s best friend.

Later, I realized I had just experienced every inbound marketers’ worst nightmare – “interruption marketing.”

If you’re not familiar with this term coined by marketing guru Seth Godin, here’s a cartoon that pretty much sums it up:

permission marketing

So, what’s the answer?

Enter permission marketing.

According to Seth Godin, who introduced the concept (and book) in 1999, “permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them… It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”  Read more in this short blog article.

In honor of the 15th anniversary of Seth’s book, Permission Marketing, I wanted to dedicate a blog post to help business schools increase leads and grow applications with this winning concept.

Here are some examples of marketing activities that involve “permission marketing”:

1. Blogging

Blogging is a terrific top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) activity to nurture relationships with prospects because they can learn about your programs on their schedule.  They can read stories and information on their own time whether they discover your blogs on your website, on landing pages, or on social media channels.

Blogging also helps with SEO, goes viral when readers share on their networks, and pays dividends long after the blogs have been posted.  I am still getting traffic on articles I wrote a couple of years ago.

The key is to provide content that is useful, interesting, and entertaining.  Address prospects’ interests, challenges and pain points.  What are their goals, dreams, desires, challenges, and fears?  Help them!  Maybe it’s providing tips on studying for the GMAT.   Or, it could be a post about scholarships and financial aid for prospects worried about how to pay for your program.   It’s no surprise that some of the best blog articles come from current students and alumni who share their stories.

Here is a great example from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management:

permission marketing


Here’s another excellent post addressing a key buyer persona, female candidates, from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School:

permission marketing


Blog writing takes less time than you think, especially when you have guest bloggers.  The key point is to take the time to understand what prospects need or want to know.  Write the post from their perspective.  What would you need to know if you were in their shoes?

Need more convincing on the benefits of blogging?  Or, want to convince your dean or colleagues?  Read and share this article from Hubspot.

2. Social Media

This is one of those no brainers.  How many of us spend a lot of time (okay, too much time) on social media?  We want to interact with human beings.  We’re wired to want to share information with other people.  Social media is virtual version of the country diner or corner barber shop.

Every social connection is based on permission to post whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pintrest, YouTube or Instagram.

There are times that are better than others to post, pin, and tweet as suggested by this article, but essentially people are always on – especially a target market of millennials.

To leave social media off the table for engaging with prospective students is as Julia Roberts said to the shop assistant in Pretty Woman:


permission marketing


Here is an example of a business school that is rocking social media with creative posts that stimulate engagement:


permission marketing


It also pays to listen to your students and alumni on social media for permission-based marketing opportunities.  Here is an example of a post I read from a newly-minted MBA alumna I had recruited.   Her team members gave it to her as a graduation gift.  How cool would it be for prospective students to see it on your program wall?

permission marketing


3. Webinars

Webinars are another great way to reach prospects through permission marketing.  There are a lot of webinars offered so one way to stand out and connect with prospects on a more personal level is to feature topics of interest.  For example, The University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School offers an EMBA webinar series led by faculty on topics such as:

  • Navigating a Successful Career
  • Creating a Culture of Entrepreneurship
  • Strategy as A Wicked Problem

Meanwhile, Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management offers a number of live web events including:

  • The One-Year Cornell MBA and finding the right job
  • Join Bob Frank for a discussion on his book, “The Economic Naturalist”

Other ideas?  What about a web chat with your deans like Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management is offering here:

permission marketing

Looking for ideas to take your webinar from good to great? Read this excellent blog post from Hubspot.

4. Videos

It’s important to build connections with prospects through an emotional response.  Videos are a great solution since they tap into viewers’ emotions.

“When entertainment creates an emotional connection, it leaves a lasting effect on our minds,” says  Thales Teixeira, assistant professor of marketing at Harvard Business School.  

With apologies to Pharrell Williams, don’t you feel “happy” when you watch this Train-inspired musical video from HBS?

permission marketing


As you can see, videos showcase the personality of your business school.  What’s more, one minute of video equals 1.8 million words according to Forrester Research.

Here is another creative post from The Wharton School:


permission marketing


5. Lead Nurturing Campaigns

Like all consumers, and I know there is an ongoing debate as to whether students are customers, MBA prospects want to be treated as human beings and make a decision to “buy” on their schedule not the company’s (or, in this case, university’s) timetable.

As such, a lead nurturing campaign treats a prospect with respect by valuing his/her time.  Prospects open and click (we hope) on your emails when it’s convenient for them.

That, in turn, builds trust through ongoing relationship building and enables your business school to stay top of mind when the candidate is ready to apply.

Don’t be afraid to be catch prospect’s attention with creative copy and stand-out design this like example from Carlson School of Management:


permission marketing


What other ideas do you have to share?


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