Graduate Management News

Segmentation to Make Your Marketing a Cut Above

To help business schools in their efforts to attract broader prospective audiences, GMAC is forging a more direct relationship with potential students to market graduate management education.

But just as all schools are not created equal, neither are all students. GMAC is taking a segmented approach, dividing customers into manageable groups for targeted, efficient marketing, said Pepe Carreras, GMAC’s director of product marketing and outreach services.

At an Annual Industry Conference session, Carerras shared GMAC’s initial approach to segmented marketing, specifically targeting undergraduates, diverse students, the military, working professionals, women, and special needs students. Field marketing efforts will include programs and events, which will be tracked to ensure partnerships are effective.

Carerras also shared more general advice for schools on how to use segmentation to market their specific programs. He noted that as the number of new business programs grows—641 were launched worldwide in 2007 alone—students will have far more options, and schools must be precise about both the advantages they offer and the students they most want to attract. The alternative is mass marketing─an expensive, inefficient proposition that makes it difficult to measure results and track return on investment.

Segmenting your customers into distinct groups with common characteristics and behaviors allows you to be more specific in your message, track your efforts more precisely, plan better and less wastefully, and improve customer satisfaction, Carerras said. To divide a heterogeneous population into more homogeneous groups, make sure each group is:

  • Identifiable. You need to know who is in the segment.
  • Substantial. You need to know if it’s worth pursuing.
  • Unique. You need to know why a segment is similar within and different without.
  • Accessible. You need to know where a segment can be reached.
  • Durable. You need to know the segment is relatively stable so it makes sense to spend on strategy.
  • Sustainable. You want to be in it for the long haul.

Most importantly, the segmentation process should be aligned and communicated. The research, goals, go-to-market efforts, and stakeholders all must work together to serve customers. “You have to plan for all the efforts to come together at some point,” he said. “The siloed approach won’t work.”

Carerras also highlighted turnkey tools GMAC offers to help schools market their programs:

  • Research ranges from the GMAT Interactive Profile and Validity Study Service, which cut data precisely for your programs, to global and geographic trend reports that give a broader view of the GME market.
  • Pathfinder and the School Search Service allow schools to upload their own program data, which is searchable by prospective students on Free to both schools and students, the School Search Service was used for nearly 70,000 searches in the first quarter of 2009.
  • The Calendar of Events lets schools list recruiting events on the redesigned, which is free advertising for prospective students. The website had more than 1.5 million hits in the first quarter of 2009.
  • GMASS, the Graduate Management Admission Search Service, is a lead generation service that provides access to more than 370,000 registrants who’ve opted to make their information available to schools. Free webinars this summer and fall will show you how to customize your searches for targeted communication.
  • The MBA Survival Kit, tutorial software that helps accepted students get up to speed on the finance, accounting, and statistics skills they’ll need in their specific MBA programs, will be updated this fall. Schools can customize content for their specific programs so that their students all start on the same page. The updated version, Carerras promised, is dramatically more dynamic─ “It’s Pong vs. Madden ’07.”

So far, GMAC’s efforts have been showing results, Carerras said. In 2008, 208,000 prospective students in more than 90 countries took the GMAT exam. Since 2004, the number of score reports for women is up 24 percent; for African Americans, 26 percent; for 18-23-year-olds, 100 percent; and for those with non-business undergraduate degrees, 36 percent.

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