Evidence-Based Innovation Blog

Does Your MBA Marketing Look Like a Holiday Catalog?

Posted on Dec 5, 2013 8:45:00 AM

Holiday Catalog Blog   MailmanOur longtime mail carrier, Rocky, has been hunched over these past few weeks during his daily route. And with good reason. Every day I open the mailbox, it’s stuffed to the rim with catalogs. I know that we’re in the midst of holiday season, but isn’t the world supposed to be digital now?

Nonetheless, it is fun to see all the brightly colored and festive cover pages from L.L. Bean’s nostalgic snow scene to Target’s toyland-inspired logo. Apparently, SPANX is feeling some holiday cheer as well with its celebrated founder, Sara Blakely, standing whimsically in a snow globe.

higher education marketing

During one day’s wrestling with the jammed-packed mailbox, I extracted a Boden catalog which was peeking out from under the covers of more familiar brands. Although I’ve received catalogues from this British clothing retailer in the past, this issue, which I initially mistook for a J. Crew catalog, caught my eye. It had that same sort of look. Notably different from previous issues, Boden upgraded its Reader’s Digest format for larger pages, glossier photographs, and snappy Anglophile messaging like “Snuggle Up for a Cracking Christmas” and “Highland Fling” to showcase its British origins.

To drive home the point even further, there were Scottish phrases scattered throughout from “Lang may your Lum Reek” (Live Long and Well) to “Gie it laldy” (to give something your all). Images of Scottish kilt dancers next to clothing models and tartan backgrounds made you feel like you weren’t just buying a crew neck cardigan. You were buying an “awfy bonnie” (very pretty) jumper to coordinate with your “breeks” (trousers). In other words, you were purchasing a holiday across the pond with each outfit.

higher education marketing

For once, the Boden catalog was not going directly in the trash.

All this is to say that in the quest for more customers (in the case of Boden) or more students (in the case of MBA programs) our catalog “case study” demonstrates that it’s not just about buying a list to grow enrollment numbers and blasting prospects with information. 

When it comes to lead generation, it’s important to think about the message your business school wants to get across so that:

  1. it catches a prospect’s attention in a crowded virtual or physical mailbox; and
  2. the prospect takes the desired action.

Here are some questions to keep in mind with your next MBA lead generation campaign:

Which Format? 

Is the format of your marketing collateral appealing? Is it easy to read and flip through? Is it distinctive? Does it reflect the preferences of your target market? From all the viewbooks and printed materials that I’ve collected at MBA recruiting fairs, I’ve noticed a wide range of shapes and sizes from individual 8 ½ x 11 sheets to bookmark size brochures. Here are some examples from my extensive collection of MBA print collateral which represent more trees than there are on Balmoral.

higher education marketing   

Does Your Content Have Personality?

Are you showcasing the personality of your school in your marketing collateral? Can readers get a feel for the location and the benefits through the photos and images? Are the images enticing? Make sure you content has personality like Sean Connery as 007. Also, you don’t have to be located in New York City, London, or Hong Kong to have stunning photographs of landmarks. What makes your venue hip and cool? One tip: promote rankings of your location if featured in articles such as:

Does the Messaging Stand Out?

Is the messaging distinct, compelling, and memorable? Does it have pizazz? Does it sing like bagpipes? How can you take phrases like “world-renowned faculty” or “innovative curriculum” or “flexible delivery” and make them fresh and unique when practically every other business school is saying the same thing? Consider incorporating some regional expressions in your messaging like Boden did with the Scottish phrases. 

Where is the Call-to-Action?

How easy is it for the prospect to take action? Case in point. When I looked for the phone number to call Boden and find out how I got on their mailing list, it was like searching for the Loch Ness Monster. After scanning the back cover and flipping through the pages, I finally saw a 1-800 number and website address in tiny print in the lower right hand corner. Either their target market is a younger customer with better eyesight or they aren’t all that keen in making a sale. Doubtful. Make it easy for busy prospects to take action right then and there and move further along the buying process quickly.

What are the Incentives?

Are you providing incentive for new prospects to take action? While Boden offers 25% off all orders plus free shipping, I know that business schools aren’t likely to offer candidates a tuition discount for applying on Cyber Monday, for example. But what else can you do to provide incentive as sweet as Walkers shortbread? Consider waiving the application fee for candidates who attend an information session or who apply in an early round. Maybe it’s offering a complimentary one hour session with an executive coach or career advisor for applying within a certain date.

Other ideas, lads and lassies?

Do you know someone else who can benefit from the ideas in this article? Please share it using the buttons at the top of this post!

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Barbara Coward, author of this article, is a marketing communications consultant at Percept Research. Barbara welcomes your questions and comments.

Topics: Barbara Coward, Admissions, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Communications