SOM revamps online marketing

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Photo by Alexandra Schmeling .

The Yale School of Management has embarked on a new online marketing venture for its recently revamped MBA for Executives program.

Over the past two weeks, SOM launched an online recruitment campaign for its EMBA program, designed for individuals who have already spent several years working in various industries and now want to rise to positions of leadership.

The program will be expanded in fall 2014 fall to include concentrations in sustainability and asset management, in addition to the current healthcare concentration. In anticipation of this expansion, SOM is investing in an e-banner marketing campaign on a variety of websites to potential candidates for the EMBA program.

SOM’s advertisements now appear to targeted users on pages aspiring executives might frequent such as those of news outlets or businesses. The banners target people who have conducted Internet searches on related fields, such as other business programs or topics in health care, asset management or sustainability, said Nathan Williams, SOM director of marketing and public relations. These people are most likely to click on the SOM advertisements and possibly get in contact with a recruitment officer or attend an information session, he added.

“We’re not just blasting people with banners — we are targeting people who have expressed interest in one way or another,” Williams said. “[The people who see the ads] are in the mindset of someone who would take the next step.”

SOM Associate Dean David Bach said the newly expanded EMBA program is a perfect opportunity to experiment with this new kind of advertisement model. After seeing the results of this new campaign, SOM may consider extending it to the main MBA program, he said.

Although the strategy launched less than two weeks ago, Bach said his team is already beginning to see positive feedback. Bach said they recently received an email from a potential candidate who was attracted by the banners.

Williams said the campaign targets potential students based on both first party and third party data. When a user visits the SOM website, SOM collects first party data on the individual and places banners on subsequent websites they visit, he said. Third party data, however, refers to user information given to SOM by related websites, Williams said.

SOM’s new marketing method is more cost efficient than the previous form of online campaigning used for both the EMBA and main MBA programs, Williams said. Though SOM used to put advertisements on the radio and on websites such as Bloomberg and The New York Times, Williams said such efforts are not wise investments because, out of a million people who saw the ads, only about 1 or 2 percent would actually be a candidate for the EMBA program.

“The untargeted network model — that’s just not the way we are going to be doing business in the future,” he said.

Vani Nadarajah, director of admissions for Executive MBA and Global programs, said the targeted digital campaign will also help attract a broader and more diverse EMBA class.

Both Bach and Williams said they do not want these e-banners to be associated with commercial advertisements.

“We have to be very tasteful and very true to our brand and our position,” Bach said. “This is not selling a commercial product.”

Bach said the education industry is unique because schools are selling a product but are also selective about admissions. Thus, it is important to distinguish between making an effort to raise awareness about a program and its mission and making a sales pitch, he said.

Adam Wollowick SOM ’14, an EMBA student, said though the banners may seem commercial, the future benefits of this strategy will likely outweigh any costs.

“Everyone is selling, there are so many programs out there, so taking a little bit of risk and approaching it in this fashion [with the e-banners] is definitely worth it,” Wollowick said.

Wollowick added that if he had seen banners when he was thinking about applying to business school, he may have been attracted to Yale sooner. Another student, Shresta Marigowda SOM ’15, also said he would have appreciated the marketing efforts.

Marigowda said when he was applying to schools two years ago, he noticed that other universities were already using e-banners. SOM needed to start targeting users more on the web to keep up with the competition, he said.

“Every time I went to businessweek.com, or usnews.com, right on the top, a NYU banner came up,” Marigowda said. “They were definitely targeting me.”

Chris Cashman, director of public relations at Columbia Business School, said Columbia utilizes both online and social media outreach to market their programs. As online advertising is continuously evolving, it is important to stay up to date on current trends, he added.

SOM’s EMBA program was launched in 2005.

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