At long last, the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign is over. While the President, members of Congress - and for that matter, political junkies – can now focus on “getting back to work," it is worth taking a moment to reflect on what happened. And, you don’t have to be inside the Beltway to benefit from the lessons learned. MBA admissions officers all over the country can apply the takeaways from Decision 2012.
First, political pundits have been echoing a variation of the familiar adage of the late NBC News’ Tim Russert, “demographics, demographics, demographics.” It has been reported again and again that a dramatic transformation in the demographics of the American electorate over the past several years, specifically the large turnout of the Latino vote, played a significant role in this month’s election outcome.
So, how does this relate to graduate business programs? Although MBA admissions and marketing directors are not seeking the vote from U.S. citizens for the leader of the free world, they are seeking the vote from prospective students for their business school. Moreover, a recruitment campaign becomes all the more important considering that prospective MBA students have more than one other choice. The range of options – regionally, nationally, internationally, and online is innumerable and continues to proliferate. As a result, it’s critical to make sure that a recruitment and marketing plan is tailored to the changing demographics of our time.
Here are just a few questions to consider. How is your business school reaching out to prospective Hispanic students? African-Americans? Asians? In addition, many business schools have developed astute marketing strategies to increase the percentage of women on their program, but what about taking the data one step further to consider the distinct needs of single vs. married women like the split in the presidential vote?
As a prominent online publication reported in recent days, “the country is becoming more diverse in general, with a growing Latino population and an ever faster-growing Asian population.” Business schools that consider the shifting demographics in their marketing plan will be the true winners well before the next election year.
Second, it’s interesting to note that the 2012 elections (on all levels) were the most expensive in history with outside spending alone of more than $1 billion. The casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, placed a huge bet and became the biggest single donor in political history with contributions of more than $60 million. However, none of the eight candidates he supported won.
It gives pause to think about Mr. Adelson’s rate of return. Likewise, what is the ROI from each of the line items in your marketing budget? Which sources are yielding the best prospects in terms of quantity and quality? Are radio, billboard, and print advertising providing a positive return on investment? (Are you capturing these metrics with a Student Entry Survey?) Is there a better use of funds to attract qualified prospects? What about allocating some of the resources instead to a dedicated social media expert within your university – perhaps an undergrad whiz kid? Are there less inexpensive ways to get your message across? There may even be some at no cost such as pitching an article in your local newspaper about how a student or alumni is making a difference in the community. Or, how about cultivating relationships with local and national media so they turn to your business school for an expert faculty opinion on stories of local and national economic importance?
Finally, it turned out that Hurricane Sandy was the proverbial “October surprise” that may have factored into the election results by freezing the momentum of one candidate and putting the other candidate on the front pages in connection with relief efforts.
While there’s no way to control the unpredictable, the lesson here for business schools - in addition to lending a hand to help those in need in the Northeast - is be as visible as possible to prospects. That means capturing leads in a contact management system and developing a lead nurturing plan so the brand is top of mind when a prospective MBA student is ready to take action. Another way is to encourage newly admitted students to promote their acceptance on their social media accounts and build brand loyalty within their networks.
The marketplace is changing faster than ever and that creates all sorts of opportunities to perform better than your competition and establish a clear path to victory.