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Darcy Grabenstein Mar 22

Not All Leads Are Created Equal


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A lead is a lead, right? Wrong.

There’s a big difference between a lead and a qualified lead. The latter is someone whose interests/behaviors indicate that he or she is likely to be a good prospect. In the Executive MBA world, this means the lead is more likely to enroll in an EMBA program than other leads.

Lead scoring is a methodology used to identify “hot” vs. “cool” leads. It is used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value each lead may have for the organization. The resulting score is used to prioritize leads. “Hot” leads should be followed up first, with “cool” leads later.

Before you can score your leads, you need to obtain some information about them. You can do this several ways:

  • Include an inquiry form on your website and landing pages
  • Capture demographic information when leads call to get information on your EMBA program
  • Collect information via forms at open houses and other events

Among information you’ll want to track is which program(s) the lead is considering. If this particular lead is interested only in a traditional MBA, be sure to share that information with your MBA colleagues at your institution. Likewise, you’ll want other programs to share leads who show an interest in your particular program.

A word of warning: While you want to capture demographic information via your online forms, you also don’t want to scare off prospects with too many form fields to complete. You must strike a balance. Focus on capturing basic information first; once you have that, you should follow up via phone and/or email to learn more about your prospects.

You can use other methods to find out what programs a lead is interested in. On the web, you can monitor visitors’ activity on your website. Attributes such as where they clicked, how long they spent on certain content and whether they requested more information could tell you a lot about their particular interests.

So exactly how does lead scoring work in the EMBA realm? Truth be told, it works basically the same as in any other industry. You gauge prospects’ interests/actions and rank them accordingly.

To determine how interested prospects are in your institution overall, see how many different web pages they visited on your site. You also can see repeat visitors, and track how often leads visit your site in a given time period. If this coincides with your registration deadlines, you may have a “hot” lead on your hands. Another factor that may contribute to a lead being considered “hot” is whether the lead’s company will help fund the employee’s studies. Once the best leads are determined, your admissions team must work to guide them through the application and enrollment process.

If a lead is identified as “cool,” that lead could simply be researching in advance of making a decision down the road. Eventually, such leads could prove to be equally valuable, but not in the short term. However, you don’t want these leads to fall through the cracks. You must nurture these leads. Keep in mind that committing to an EMBA is a big decision, one that has a longer buying process than, say, purchasing a new piece of workout equipment.

How can you keep cool leads on your radar, and keep your program top of mind among them? Keep the lines of communication open. Remind them about upcoming seminars, deadlines and events such as class previews. Executive education courses are a great way to introduce your institution, its faculty and curriculum to prospective candidates. In addition, if you see that a decent number of leads are coming from a particular geographic area, go to them. Schedule an information session in a location convenient for a majority of your leads.

While lead scoring saves wasted time/effort after the fact, many overloaded EMBA marketing and recruitment staffs simply can’t devote the time to it up front. That’s why it’s important to automate the process. First, set up a point system for assigning points to leads. Determine prospect actions and behaviors that correspond to the various lead scores. Then weight those actions/behaviors in terms of the likelihood that the prospect will convert.

Annodyne’s proprietary lead tracking and lead management platform, Annotrak™, automates lead scoring and more. Leads are color coded for easy identification: red distinguishes high-priority (hot) leads from blue low-priority (cool) leads. Annotrak also tracks social media activity and multichannel marketing performance, and can send tailored email messages to your leads.

No matter how you capture leads and their demographics or how you prioritize them, you must remember that it’s more than just data. It’s all about relationships. In fact, this entire process is referred to as prospect relationship management. Your admissions team must work to develop relationships with prospects at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Darcy Grabenstein Feb 23

Make Your EMBA Program Stand Out from the Crowd


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Transformational. Life changing. Experiential. Professional development. Leadership potential. Executive coaching. Career advancement.

These are all words/phrases used to describe most Executive MBA programs. Could they be used to describe your Executive MBA program?

Therein lies the problem. Most EMBA programs end up sounding and looking the same. How is a prospective student expected to distinguish between your program and that of your competitors?

Think of your EMBA program as a product. Then you must determine its unique selling proposition (USP). This marketing concept was first put forth as an advertising theory back in the 1940s, yet it still remains relevant today. A USP is what makes your product/service different from all the others out there.

Domino’s Pizza does a great job of incorporating its USP into its marketing communications:

“You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less —  or it’s free.” Like a good tagline, a good USP is specific to your business and/or industry. In other words, it’s not enough to simply say, “We provide great value.” How do you provide great value?

Following are other ways you can make your EMBA program stand out from all the rest:

  • Exceptional ROI. Is your EMBA program the least expensive in your city? region? state? the nation?
  • Fabulous faculty. Are your faculty members noted for their research or publications? Have they received awards? Do they have industry experience? Students want to learn from those who’ve “been in the trenches,” so to speak.

  • Innovative curriculum. Most EMBA programs cover business fundamentals. But what types of electives are available? Do you offer specializations in or tracks according to areas of interest?

  • Impressive cohort. Is the caliber of your cohorts head and shoulders above the rest? EMBA students learn from each other as well as from their professors. This could be a big selling point.

  • Brand equity. Is your program ranked? Does it have exclusive accreditation? Is it part of a business school that is ranked or widely acclaimed? Is it part of a prestigious college or university? It’s OK to piggyback on the brand of your parent organization.
  • Program format. Many schools tailor their program schedules to meet the needs of working professionals. Is there anything about your program that is especially flexible? Do you offer a hybrid of learning environments or formats?

  • Leadership development. Do you go above and beyond basic executive coaching? Do you go the extra mile when it comes to careers and placements? Do you take leadership development to the next level? What about executive education?

  • Global reach. Does your EMBA program have an international component? If so, how does it differ from all the rest? The University of Texas at Arlington, for example, is known for its China immersion and Asian Business Studies Graduate Certificate.

  • Alumni network. This extends the value of your program beyond graduation. Where are your alumni now? We’re talking both geographically and in terms of positions at their respective companies. You might just find a trend to capitalize on, such as a track record of success in a particular industry.

Another way you can distinguish yourself is through your advertising. Think about foregoing the traditional students-in-classroom imagery and use an image totally unrelated to academia. This will make your ads eye-catching, which is the first goal of any ad. Your messaging, however, will still resonate with your audience.

If you’ve read the above bullet points and still are scratching your head over how your EMBA program stands out, this could be a wake-up call. Perhaps you need to revisit one or more elements and tweak them to make your program more enticing to prospective students.

Annodyne can help you determine your USP with services such as brand identity and messaging workshops, competitive intelligence and communication assessments.

Visit us at Annodyne.com

. . .

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Darcy Grabenstein Feb 1

How to Shorten the EMBA Decision-Making Process & Increase Your Program’s Bottom Line


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The decision-making process for a prospect to enroll in an Executive MBA program is painfully long. Statistics show that this process can take up to two years. So what can you do to speed up the process? Develop —  and implement —  a pull-through digital enrollment marketing strategy.

EMBA Decision-Making Timeline

                      Source: GMAC mba.com Prospective Students Survey 2014

Audience targeting is a key component of any successful marketing strategy, online or offline. Don’t throw a wide net; targeting will produce better results. Why? Because you will be delivering relevant content. If you bid on keywords that are too broad, you may be wasting your online advertising dollars. To promote a Healthcare EMBA program, for instance, both the keywords and the ad messaging must be specific. Otherwise, you may receive a great quantity of leads but not quality leads. Quality leads will be more interested in your EMBA program and, therefore, more likely to commit sooner.

Timing is everything. While you want your online ads to appear prior to your program deadlines, you also want prospects to see them at key stages in their decision-making process. Keep in mind that, although these two timelines may intersect at certain points, the overlap may be minimal. That’s why you should schedule ads throughout the calendar year, not just based on the academic calendar.

So what are some of the stages that prospects will go through on their path to enrolling? Here are a few common stages:

1. Considering an EMBA
2. Deciding what type of EMBA program
3. Seeking information
4. Applying
5. Enrolling

The Adult Audience Journey

Just because you get a prospect into the funnel, that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing. Bottlenecks can pop up anywhere:

• Cost of program (more important to self-financed than employer-sponsored prospects)
• Concerns regarding work-life balance
• Questioning ROI of EMBA degree

Your program positioning and digital marketing strategy must address and overcome these and other obstacles. You can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by offering incentives for early enrollment. First, financial incentives will help to bring down the overall cost of an EMBA. Second, incentives can help shorten the decision-making process.

What kinds of incentives can you offer? That depends on your program’s pricing and operations budget. Some programs offer scholarships, waive application or GMAT fees (some programs waive the GMAT altogether), or pay for textbooks. Other programs offer incentives to specific groups, such as military veterans.

If you find that work-life balance is an issue for prospects, take a look at your program format. EMBA programs must be willing to rethink traditional models in order to appeal to professionals with limited bandwidth. Programs with flexible scheduling will have an advantage over those with rigid formats, and may prompt commitments earlier in the decision-making process.

Your digital marketing strategy must demonstrate program ROI. How? Include testimonials on ROI from current students and alumni. If favorable, compare your tuition to that of other EMBA programs. Survey your alumni to find out how they moved up the career ladder (and how quickly) and how much their salaries increased post-graduation. Collect stats, and then use them to your advantage.

Digital enrollment marketing is more than just “setting and forgetting” a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign. Your strategy should be made up of many components: keyword optimization, banner and search ads, landing pages, search engine optimized (SEO) web content, social media advertising, retargeting campaigns and more. Your online campaign also should be consistent in visuals and messaging with offline marketing.

Don’t forget to monitor your campaigns. Tracking results will reveal which components worked best, and which fell flat. Then tweak your campaigns for optimal results.

A coordinated, consistent, ongoing marketing effort will produce the best results and, ultimately, shorten the prospect’s decision-making timeline.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.


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Michelle DeVirgiliis Oct 31

How to Transform Alumni into Brand Evangelists


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Call it what you want — brand advocate, brand ambassador, brand evangelist — this is an individual who enthusiastically supports (and promotes) an organization and its products/services. At Annodyne, we prefer the term “brand evangelist” because it describes someone who has complete faith in your offerings.

When it comes to your Executive MBA program, what audience segment is likely to be your best brand evangelists? Your alumni. They have already gone through your application/admissions process, experienced your curriculum firsthand and hopefully are on to bigger and better things in their careers.

Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki is credited with coining the concept “brand evangelism.” He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. Kawasaki was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing its Macintosh computer line back in ’84. He currently is brand evangelist for Canva.

Kawasaki maintains that the key to brand evangelism is a great product. He has come up with the acronym DICEE to illustrate what constitutes a great product:

Megaphone

 

  • • A great product is Deep. That is, it does not run out of features after a few weeks of use. In the EMBA world, this could mean offering your alumni executive education courses to keep on top of industry trends or holding networking/reunion events to maintain connections beyond graduation.
  • • A great product is Indulgent. With the price tag of most EMBA programs, this is a given. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be the cheapest option available. However, you must provide value (think ROI) to your cohorts.
  • • A great product is Complete. The total user experience should be exceptional. If you have the greatest EMBA program around but a lousy admissions process, for example, you miss the mark.
  • • A great product has an Elegant user interface. Think about it. Are your faculty members accessible? Is the post-enrollment process (course selection, housing, transportation, etc.) a seamless one?
  • • A great product is Emotive. It is so awesome that consumers (i.e., students & alumni) can’t wait to tell others about it.

Let’s assume your EMBA program is a great product. How do you encourage your alumni to become brand evangelists? You can pray that they’ll see the light, or you can take active steps to foster their relationship with your brand:

  • • Segment your marketing strategy to target the alumni audience.
  • • Connect with and friend alumni on social networking sites.
  • • Invite them to share their enthusiasm in info sessions and class previews.
  • • Create a closed alumni/student group on LinkedIn and encourage alumni to acts as mentors.
  • • Better yet, set up your own private networking site (ask us how) where alumni can seek answers to work challenges, post job openings, announce & bid on RFPs and more.
  • • Interview your alumni to create case studies that can be used to market your program.
  • • Curate/create content alumni would be proud to share, comment on or like.

We can’t stress enough the importance of social media. In terms of alumni giving, donations have dropped at schools nationwide in recent years. However, Philadelphia’s Drexel University is bucking that trend, thanks to a social media engagement campaign. David Unruh, senior vice president of Institutional Advancement at Drexel, says in the Philadelphia Business Journal that seeking large donations wasn’t the main goal of the campaign. “[The campaign events] are not intended to generate large dollar amounts… they’re really designed to engage the broader Drexel community.”

We’ll take it a step further. Don’t just milk your alumni for donations. Milk them for prospects.

It’s all about social proof or social influence. Include alumni testimonials on your website and in your marketing materials. Alumni videos can be repurposed; include them on your website, your social networking sites and in online ads. Third-party “endorsements” — such as testimonials, rankings and news placements — are extremely effective in forming a positive impression of your program among prospective students.

To recap, create a great product. Maintain your connection with alumni. When you do, they’ll become  believers, brand evangelists who will help you convert your prospects into students. Amen.

Want to explore how to engage and connect with your alumni in a secure, private online environment? Learn about Ziel, Annodyne’s proprietary audience engagement portal.

Michelle DeVirgiliis is an account manager at Annodyne.

 


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