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How to Engage, Recruit and Enroll the Next Generation of Business Students

New research identifies changing expectations
University Business, July 2017

The current generation of prospective business students expects more from potential institutions than students of the past did. Identifying the best-fit students, as well as engaging and recruiting them, is more challenging than ever before. This webcast explored the findings from Liaison’s research into how the most successful business schools overcome these challenges. Presenters outlined some best practices to integrate into a recruitment marketing strategy, and described the importance of understanding students’ needs and using the latest technology strategically.

Robert Ruiz

Vice President of Strategic Enrollment

Liaison International

Suzanne Sharp

Executive Director of Enrollment Management Consulting

Liaison International

Robert Ruiz: The good news is that business degrees continue to be one of the most sought-after education credentials. Interest remains high, and as a result of that class size continues to rise.

We know that 52 percent of graduate business programs are expanding or plan to expand their incoming class size. So certainly there will be more students in your building. And the push to find the best-fit students, literally around the globe, continues to increase. It’s critically important that business schools take advantage of every inbound inquiry to stay competitive in today’s markets. Landing the best students in this competitive environment requires attention from first interest to first day.

Suzanne Sharp: First interest to first day—all of it’s important. So it can be a little overwhelming when you think, “Where do I start?” With the Inquiry Response Project, we set out to find what business schools are doing when a student inquires.

We visited university web pages and looked for ways to raise our hand to say, “Hey, I’m interested. Can you engage with me?” We submitted those forms and tracked the responses. We did the study for only four weeks; if you thought past four weeks was an acceptable time frame to respond, you unfortunately were not part of our study. We studied 140 schools on the GMAC list, visiting the websites for each.

The findings we have are wrapped around four key points to improve engagement at that inquiry stage:

1. Be available. It was astonishing how many institutions do not have the inquiry form right on their home page. You need to be available. Allow the students to raise their hand and engage with you, because there will be some who aren’t quite ready to submit the application, and they’re still shopping. If they raise their hand, that’s a good indication for you to engage.

How much information do you ask for? I want to get enough information to engage the student, but I don’t want to be a barrier to the student submitting the form. If you want to ask for a piece of information, make sure you’re going to use it.

2. Be fast. Be the first to respond. “Thank you for your request, I’ll get back to you soon”—that’s not going to cut it in today’s world. You want to be fast not only because it’s expected, but because it matters.

How fast did we see responses come in? Sixty-three percent responded within 24 hours, which is good. We saw 74 schools, which is over half of our sample size, have some kind of a response that could keep the student engaged in less than an hour. It was at least acknowledgement that the form had been submitted.

Seven days for an email is getting a little long. Don’t ignore your inquiry forms. If you’re reaching out after the prospect has already emotionally connected with someone else, it’s an uphill battle that becomes harder to win.

3. Be relevant. You want to respond to the information they provided. We’re talking about lifting beyond just using the inquirer’s name. It’s about reaching the right individual at the right time with the right message. What are they interested in? What might they be concerned about, based on their behaviors, so that we can re-engage them in things that are highly relevant to them?

Have it come from an individual. Personalization is so important in connecting with people and engaging them. Remember, you’re competing. You’re competing for these students, and they want to go somewhere where they matter, where they’re going to have a connection, where they’re going to have a valuable degree that will help them make connections when they go out into the world. That connection cannot be underrated right from the onset.

4. Use multiple channels. There is significant evidence indicating that using multiple channels does result in a higher response rate and a higher conversion rate. The highest response and conversion is a nice combination of print, email, PURLs and mobile.

Robert Ruiz: If things go well, this should help you build, grow, shape and diversify your existing applicant pools. And then the challenge and the opportunity is to manage all of those applications in a way that makes sense to you.

The Liaison folks are an admissions and enrollment specialist team. What we do, more specifically, is develop, among other things, Centralized Application Services (CAS™). We’re pleased to announce BusinessCAS™, which is a CAS that will serve as a global platform to bring together prospective students and prospective programs. The opportunity to be fast and to be relevant will play a role in your ability to attract and continue to attract the best good students.

We think making the application easier—both from the applicant’s standpoint, being able to come to BusinessCAS, submit one set of credentials, and then have those credentials disseminated across a variety of programs, and still allowing the program to configure a portion of the application to meet their specific needs—creates a win-win proposition.

Getting students through that funnel and getting them to the application stage is something that we want to help do, but we don’t want to stop there. We want to help with the application stage as well.

We operate approximately three dozen CASs across a variety of disciplines. We’re very excited to bring this tool to the business school space. Using the kind of methodologies and practices and tips mentioned today, and coupling those with the best tools, can help position you to continue to yield and enroll the best-fit students for your respective institutions, particularly in today’s very competitive climate for business programs.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit