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How European Business Schools Respond to Increased Competition

By Jane Armstrong April 25, 2018

globe imageIf applicant numbers are anything to go by, things are looking bright for European business schools. According to the Global Management Admission Council, two-thirds received more applications in 2017 than in 2016. The general upward trend across Europe is driven largely by international applications – more than 90 percent of this year’s candidates come from outside their chosen schools’ home countries.

Changes in consumer behaviour, however, mean that institutions can no longer rely on traditional methods or systems for engaging candidates. This generation of students expects personalised communications delivered via their channel of choice, across the entire student life-cycle.

This means that European business schools are faced with both a challenge and an opportunity. How do they continue to increase brand recognition and compete for students locally and abroad? And how, after converting candidates, do they deliver a connected experience from the moment they apply to the day they graduate, and beyond.

Driving Engagement for the Near and Long Term

Business schools are responding by leveraging technology to provide a more targeted and integrated approach to student recruitment and engagement. Using data and insights, institutions can identify select prospects from a growing applicant pool, based on defined institutional criteria, and tailor their marketing and recruitment activities to the unique needs and interests of prospective students. In effect, they’re narrowing their focus on a widening pool – concentrating on attracting the ­right candidates.

This customised approach doesn’t just attract better students in a more efficient and cost-effective way; it also provides a foundation for future engagement for business schools to deliver personalised experiences across the entire student lifecycle.

According to Forrester, there’s a strong correlation between personalised journeys and satisfaction: institutions that replaced generic communications with personalised journeys saw an average 36% increase in satisfaction scores.

As far as prospective and current students are concerned, their university’s brand is the sum of every individual interaction they have with it. Now technology is making it easier for schools to optimise every one of those interactions – delivering the right message to the right individual, at the right time, and across multiple channels.

Let’s take a look at two European business schools that are doing it successfully today.

ESSEC – Building Relationships with International Candidates

One business school that’s building its international brand is ESSEC. The school has notable reputation in France, but in the past has struggled with international recruitment.

“To increase our visibility and attract new audiences, we must deliver the right message at the right time, while positioning ourselves as the #1 training provider,” says Samuel Vinet, Project Director at ESSEC.

ESSEC leveraged marketing automation, creating targeted campaigns to improve recruitment for three of their MBA programs. With new contact forms and bespoke journeys, the business school captured more – and better quality data – on potential applicants, enabling them to enhance prospect engagement. By scoring prospective students in real-time, ESSEC can focus on the most promising candidates with targeted communications based on their behaviour.

The most impactful campaign translated to a 239% increase in prospect conversion – with no additional marketing expense.

“Our goal is to establish a lasting relationship with students, bringing them real personalised advice, while demonstrating our ability to support them throughout their studies.” shares Vinet. Read the full story here.

IESE – Experience Starts with Understanding

With campuses in Barcelona, Madrid, New York and Munich, IESE has to manage data on 250,000 prospects, students, alumni and fundraisers across departments and continents. The lack of consistency and integration across legacy systems was preventing IESE from giving candidates (and enrolled students) a seamless student experience.

Aniya Iskhakava, Programme and Marketing Manager at IESE explains: “We used to have no way of knowing what materials other departments might have sent, so there was a lot of duplication.”

Unifying their CRM wasn’t enough – to achieve a centralised view IESE had to integrate their CRM with the school’s website, campus management and learning management systems. This integration delivered a double benefit – for the school and for the candidates, as Iskhakava shares: “We’ve eliminated those data siloes which not only improves efficiency for us but also means a better experience for potential students.”

Building on that foundation, IESE is using this data-driven understanding of prospective students to nurture candidates with timely, targeted messages. And, the benefits don’t end on enrolment day, as the school leverages the connected infrastructure to increase engagement throughout the student lifecycle. Read the full story here.

1-to-1 Journeys at Scale

In today’s competitive landscape, an increasing number of European business schools are moving towards personalised engagement to give them an edge. Attracting and recruiting students, means identifying the right candidates, a targeted approach, and creating 1-to-1 marketing journeys with tailored messages across multiple channels.

And the most successful schools are using technology platforms beyond recruitment, leveraging insights to understand the behaviours behind every candidate enrolled to deliver an optimal and personalised experience throughout the student lifecycle – more efficiently and effectively – to meet institutional goals.

If you want to learn more about how leading business schools are targeting and engaging students, watch – “How Business Schools are Transforming the Way they Engage, Recruit and Retain Top Students” with Emmanuel Iatrino, Director of Digital and Data – ESSEC and Sara Strafino, Senior Market Development Manager – Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®).