College of William & Mary Targets MBA Leads That Are Ready to Talk Enrollment

February 10, 2016

In higher education marketing, context is critical. Where your ad shows up and the content that surrounds it impacts the quality of your leads, the mindset of the audience reading your content, and ultimately the reputation of your school. That’s why the College of William & Mary found LinkedIn to be an ideal place to market its MBA programs and target the right type of students for its business school.

“Leads from LinkedIn are ready to talk about enrollment,” said Lendora Johnson, Marketing Account Manager for the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, College of William & Mary. “You rarely find anyone who won’t return a call or email.”

Reaching a specific audience

William & Mary knew it needed to find two fairly specific audiences for its respective programs. For its Executive MBA program, the college was in search of working professionals whose employers are willing to pay for them to obtain an MBA. And for its part-time Flex MBA program, William & Mary wanted to reach individuals with work or family commitments who need the flexibility of a part-time MBA program.

“These programs fill specific niches, and LinkedIn gave us the kind of hyper-targeting capabilities we needed to get in front of well-qualified prospects,” Johnson said.

And Johnson and her team at William & Mary decided to use LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates to fully leverage that unique, granular targeting. “Sponsored Updates allow us to get really targeted in terms of location, career types, and specific companies, so it’s a good way to make sure we reach the right people with our message,” she explained.

It’s worth taking a peek behind the scenes at some data to see what Johnson means when she describes Sponsored Updates as a “good way” to reach a segmented, higher education audience.

  • William & Mary’s average CTR is more than 50 percent above LinkedIn benchmarks, and the college's top-performing campaigns exceed benchmarks by more than 4.5 times.
  • Average engagement rate is over 51 percent above LinkedIn benchmarks.

Increasing applicant diversity

The marketing team at William & Mary’s Mason School of Business also knew it needed to increase the diversity of the applicant pool.

For instance, Johnson and her marketing team turned again to a Sponsored Update campaign for the Flex MBA program to focus on increasing the number of female applicants. They designed the ad to help address the “glass ceiling” issue for women in business by:

  • Featuring testimonials from female program participants and graduates.
  • Including messaging focused on enhancing work/life balance with flexible education models.

Within days of launch, the campaign had already resulted in five highly qualified leads.

The school has also aimed to increase the local geographical diversity of its applicants — a challenge many graduate schools face with campus-based programs. With its “Beyond the Beltway” campaign — designed to reach an audience outside the immediate Washington, D.C. area — William & Mary seems to have found an efficient way to extend its geographical footprint.

“There are an abundance of MBA programs in the Washington, D.C. area, so by extending our targeting outside of the area of Hampton Roads and Richmond, Virginia, we’ve been very successful and have been able to maintain a reasonable cost per lead,” Johnson said.

The flexibility to test and tweak campaigns

From Johnson’s perspective and experience, another advantage of using LinkedIn to drive leads for William & Mary’s MBA programs is the ability to manage budgets and test performance quickly and without wasting time and money -- a crucial requirement for any higher education marketer.

Sponsored Updates, Johnson said, are “a really good way to test different things without committing to a fiscal year’s worth of creative or an extensive contract. This form of advertising allows you to experiment and figure out what works.”

In the context of William & Mary’s efforts to use LinkedIn’s granular targeting to reach niche audience segments, the ability to deftly optimize and test a paid marketing campaign is critical to keeping costs manageable and lead quality consistent.

Making marketing easier for higher education

Johnson and her team at William & Mary are like so many higher education marketers across the world. With their MBA programs, they need to reach highly targeted audiences with very specific messaging. Competition for MBA candidates is fierce and the stakes are quite high for marketers tasked with finding quality leads and applicants.

In the face of those challenges — with the power of LinkedIn’s targeting and Sponsored Updates — Johnson feels that “LinkedIn makes everything that a marketer does so much easier.”

View the full case study to learn more about how the College of William & Mary reached highly qualified prospects for their MBA programs.

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