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To Market, to Market: Three Steps to Better Results

Marketing takes many forms, and it varies from business school to business school. But it’s all about results, and GMAC’s hard-won lessons learned from the marketing trenches offer some insights relevant to schools, GMAC Vice President of Marketing Pepe Carreras said recently at a session at the group’s Annual Conference recently in Boston.
Marketing is about three things: customer awareness, acceptance, and adoption, said Carreras, who presented a session titled “Reigniting Your Marketing Strategies and Tactics” with Betsy Kacizak, GMAC client services specialist.

Carreras and Kacizak shared best practices and lessons learned from GMAC’s email campaign program, GMATCH MBA Virtual Fair, and their student campaign efforts, as these examples offer many parallels with how schools conduct current marketing efforts and the learnings may help schools refine their own marketing activities. In summary, there were three themes highlighted

  • Measure. Developing solid metrics will allow you to track what you’re doing so you can figure out  what’s working and what’s not. GMAC had been sending mass email blasts about study products, and they were working fine. But two years after moving to a new email message, design and developing metrics, GMAC’s test prep product sales have doubled and continue to grow, Carreras said. Even if you don’t have an email system with built-in measurement functions, you can use spreadsheets to track your results.
  • Target. Segmenting your audience will help you customize messages that will resonate with specific audiences. Beyond targeting subgroups of potential business school students, consider where they are in the decision-making process. For example, GMAT test takers typically register for the exam five to six weeks in advance. Understanding what’s happening within this time frame helps GMAC craft and send email messages about prep materials at exactly the right time, Carreras said.
  • Test and refine. GMAC developed two to three versions of each marketing email to test variables such as subject lines, calls to action, and button placement. Honing the prose, having a succinct call to action, and properly positioning the button, when combined, made a dramatic difference, Kacizak said. “Small tweaks had a really big impact.” With GMATCH, GMAC relied on feedback from students and schools who participated in a small pilot before a launching successfully in November 2010, and more refinement is in the works for September’s GMATCH, September 19-20. The student campaign has been similarly refined.   GMAC knew from the start that it has a large and diverse audience to attract, and that it would take time to hone the message, Carreras said. “We knew we weren’t going to get it right the first time.”
    Earlier this year, GMAC tested four new student campaign themes in seven cities worldwide, with one clear winner emerging in all markets─a sign that graduate management education prospects worldwide are more similar than not, and there are messages that are universal, Carreras said. “We found we didn’t have to come up with different messages around the world.”

Systematically tracking what you’re doing does not have to cost a lot, Kacizak said. Noted Carreras: “What’s really expensive is not looking at the information. And once you have the information, it takes time to activate – so be patient, steer-correct as you go, and don’t stop innovating.”

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