Easter is a beloved holiday for springtime enthusiasts with its images of pastel bonnets, confectionary baskets, and garden bunnies. It is also signals the height of MBA recruitment season for many business school admissions officers. In today’s highly competitive market, finding the most qualified MBA candidates can seem a lot like hunting for hidden Easter eggs. Here are five ways to create an MBA referral program so your applications multiply like rabbits.
Hatch New Prospects:
A favorite activity of the holiday is decorating plain eggs in all sorts of designs and colors. In fact, Americans purchase more than 10 million PAAS Easter Egg Color Kits during the Easter season, according to the company website. Make sure that you design your MBA referral program to be as diverse as all the different hues and patterns you’ll find on Easter eggs. MBA Admissions Directors typically think of asking for referrals from current students and alumni. However, there are many more constituencies within your business school community who can help. For example, tenured faculty often have consulting arrangements with leading organizations which can yield some excellent MBA leads and affiliate professors will know of interested colleagues within their companies. Staff and administrators are another great resource to provide vetted referrals of friends, neighbors and relatives as well as colleagues of spouses. Be sure to create an MBA referral program that reaches out to a broad range of contacts within your business school.
A Basket that Keeps on Giving:
Children love finding Easter baskets for all the sweet treats – Cadbury Crème Eggs, Marshmallow Peeps, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Eggs just to name a few. How are you going to reward your referrals who recommend a strong MBA candidate? One idea is to order a basket of goodies (of the grown up variety) that is delivered to their office. A token of appreciation, like a wine and cheese basket, shows your gratitude for their help with MBA recruitment and creates incentive for ongoing support. It also provides the added benefit of raising the profile of your brand with curious colleagues who see the generous gift from your business school. Other ideas include a donation to a charity in their name, a gift certificate to the college bookstore, or a coupon to a business or restaurant owned by an alumnus/a.
A magical experience of the holiday is observing a glorious sunrise on Easter morning – and it’s all about the timing. With busness school referral programs, you want to also think about the best time to generate optimal results. For example, avoid reaching out to current students around exam time. Also, make sure the campaign is early enough in the recruiting season to allow enough time for MBA prospects to go through the admissions process and secure funding. And, if don’t get the results you expected, remember the sun will rise again. Repeat your MBA referral campaign in four to eight weeks.
Does Your Message Peep Loudly like Baby Chicks?:
Your search for qualified MBA candidates may be a top priority in your work life, but business school recruitment probably isn’t the daily focus of your targeted referrers who lead their own busy lives. Make sure that your appeal stands out in a crowded inbox. Craft a message for your MBA referral campaign that is clear, direct, and specific. In your request, ask for names and contact details of three colleagues, friends or relatives who have been considering an MBA and follow up with them directly. Also, be sure to include the benefits for the referrer to provide incentive to take action.
Ham instead of Spam:
One of the most popular traditions of the holiday is going out to Easter brunch with family and friends. In today’s impersonal technological age, there’s no substitute for good conversation than meeting in person and enjoying a meal together. As part of your MBA program marketing strategy, invite some of your most enthusiastic and dedicated students and alums out for lunch or dinner. Ask for their thoughts and ideas on how to optimize your MBA referral campaign. You will increase their buy-in and gain more information than you would otherwise with just an email campaign.
Barbara Coward, author of this article, is a marketing communications consultant at Percept Research. Barbara welcomes your questions and comments.