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A Winning Campaign for Prospective MBA Students

While many Americans have their eye on a big election this November, higher education marketers all around the world are counting down to a different kind of deadline.

Whether your next intake of students is this spring or next autumn, it’s important to remember that prospective students cast their votes every day of the year. How can you influence candidates to elect your university?

Here are five lessons from the 2016 presidential campaign trail to optimize your enrollment results right now.

1) Identify Your Swing Students

There are 50 states in the Union, but in every campaign, contenders focus on handful of swing states (think Ohio and Florida) that will decide the election. With only 24 hours in the day and a finite amount of time, it is critical to campaign where the deciding votes are.

Likewise, many undergraduate and graduate programs receive applications from all over the world, but some prospects will provide a better return on investment.

For optimal use of time and resources, analyze your acceptance yields by country or region to determine where to spend your time and energy on recruitment fairs, digital advertising, and targeted communications.

Segment your audience. Identify and nurture the strongest candidates who are most likely to accept this admissions cycle. Establish persuasive calls-to-action. Nurture longer-term candidates in your pipeline through lead nurturing campaigns.

2) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Debates always have the potential to be game changers. There is no doubt that both the Republican and Democratic contenders are preparing intensely for the upcoming debates next week. While NBC’s Lester Holt is probably not going to show up to moderate your next MBA information session, there is an important take away from the upcoming debate showdown in Charleston, SC… Be prepared.

Many candidates are shopping around and will have probing questions. You know the content of your presentation better than anyone else, but look at it from the outside from a prospective student’s point of view. What questions would you want answered? What is the perception of your program relative to the competition? What concerns need to be addressed? How will you convey your unique value proposition? Identify a compelling and persuasive argument that sets your program apart.

3) Channel #42 to be #1

It was thought that Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, delivered one of the most substantive speeches of both 2012 conventions due to his ability to make a strong argument. High praise even came from a GOP strategist who acknowledged that Clinton’s speech “tilted the scale.” Commentators on both sides complimented the specificity and delivery, including a prominent Fox News analyst who opined that nobody “can frame an argument more effectively than (Bill Clinton) can.”

Like a party convention, an information session is a key opportunity to influence constituents. While we call them “information sessions,” consider these ubiquitous recruiting events as influential sessions as well.

While candidates are seeking information – “the nuts and bolts” of program curriculum and the admissions process – they are also an important opportunity to convince prospects that your business school provides the best value proposition. Speak in terms of benefits rather than features.

4) Storytelling that Sells

Presidential candidates such as Dr. Ben Carson show that one of the most effective strategies to connect with coveted voters is by sharing your personal biography.

Take a page from his playbook at your next information session. Make a connection with prospects by mentioning however briefly your own story. If you have your MBA or another graduate degree, explain your journey to show prospects you understand and can relate to their position. Have a personal conversation with your “voters” to humanize your business school.  Be real.  Authenticity wins.

5) Testimonials that Touch

Notice how presidential candidates pick up endorsements as the weeks go by. For example, former Defense secretary Leon Panetta endorsed Hillary today.

Think of the key influencers. Who matters most to each of your different personas? Be sure to segment your audience and feature their testimonials  in your “prime time” space – website, digital ads, lead nurturing campaigns. Make sure the copy is concise, compelling, and connects on a personal level.

What other “winning” strategies to you have to share?

(Note: This post was originally published on this site on October 2, 2012 and has been updated for relevancy.)

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