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D2C Brand Spotlight: EDHEC Business School

Sonia Gastaud

Head of International Marketing @ EDHEC Business School

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It may come as somewhat of a surprise, but marketing plays an integral role in the education space. Traditionally, learning institutions relied on print media and word of mouth advertising. However, the digital media explosion means that most business school higher education applicants are digital natives and are primarily engaging in online interactions. It’s no longer just about delivering a message as far and wide as possible — it’s now imperative to incorporate personalization methods into your marketing strategies to build relationships and provide value to students. 

That's why EDHEC Business School — one of Europe's leading business schools — has built a robust marketing plan for its master programmes that involves everything from brand awareness campaigns to multi-touch attribution to ensure that suspects and prospects are fully supported during every stage of the student journey. 

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Image: EDHEC Campus de Lille; Antoine Belval

Prestigious Yet Down-to-Earth 

EDHEC Business School has been a top choice for business leaders, managers, and innovators around the world since 1906. Known for their vast portfolio of fantastic programs, including entrepreneurship, financial marketing, and artificial intelligence, they’re also notable for their diverse campuses spread across France, London, and Singapore. 

Crowned as one of Europe's top 15 business schools by the Financial Times, EDHEC's brand comes with a lot of prestige. However, EDHEC also manages to be seen as approachable because their marketing campaigns revolve around one critical factor — their students.  

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Thinking Outside of Applications

The EDHEC marketing department for master programmes is a mighty five-person team, responsible for positioning and promoting EDHEC’s list of master programmes to generate leads for the sales team. The sellers would then nurture these prospective students, convert them into applicants, and, ultimately, turn them into full-time students.

And while attracting applicants is the primary goal, it was important for our marketing team to think outside of the box. Yes, we want to receive a certain number of applications — but we also want our prospects, candidates, and students to be so well-nurtured and happy that they become advocates for the EDHEC brand.

To do this, our marketing team needed a digital and growth marketing strategy partner to help us focus on the student journey and increase our share of voice in the market. Cue AdRoll Growth Marketing Platform

Advice for D2C Marketers

With AdRoll, my team was able to take creative, calculated risks that led to attracting the right prospective students to their school. Some key learnings to take away include

  • Plan your marketing strategy around the flywheel model. While our departments’ main objective is drawing in applicants, it’s also a goal of ours to think beyond conversions. This means forgoing the standard marketing funnel in favor of the flywheel model, which focuses on keeping customers happy, driving referrals, and increasing sales.

    Start by asking yourself, “What happens to customers when the funnel ends, and the customer experience begins? And everything in between?” As you work down that train of thought, you’ll begin to see pockets of opportunity to increase customer delight, retention, and overall business longevity. 
  • Consider working with a third-party partner to free up resources and focus on innovation.  Sometimes, when you’ve been working on something long enough, it’s easy to lose the ability to identify your own blind spots. Working with a third-party partner can challenge you to see things differently, in addition to other benefits:

    • Third-party platforms are specialists in their particular field, so your business can benefit from high-level expertise without investing in developing it.
    • Third-party platforms have already built the necessary infrastructure to do the job, so you only need to “plug and play” to access them.
    • Third-party platforms can free up a lot of time, labor, and money that would otherwise be wasted in various rote operations. In my team’s case, AdRoll’s support meant more flexibility to experiment, leading to 8x more website traffic on some specific campaigns.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of brand awareness campaigns. It’s natural for businesses to experience high and low sales periods. In our portfolio’s case, busy periods are around the fall and spring during global student recruitment events. This means that between February and the end of June, we’re focused on brand awareness campaigns to maintain reach and keep our brand story alive.

    While brand awareness campaigns don’t have a financial value on their own, they’re an essential long term strategy that tells a story and drives incremental sales. They also allow us to reach an audience we’d never contact in hard-core lead generation campaigns. Again, think flywheel strategy. 😊
  • Make students (or your customers) the heart of your marketing campaigns. Rather than running generic ads, emails, and social posts, think about how to personalize your marketing efforts to resonate with your customers. Whether this means creating helpful blog content or sourcing customer stories for compelling social posts, putting your customer and their needs at the forefront is an excellent strategy for increasing sales and earning your audience's loyalty.
  • Use multi-touch attribution to highlight opportunities in target markets. It's challenging to ask executives for more marketing dollars when you can't accurately credit where conversions are coming from. This is where multi-touch attribution comes into play. Select a marketing platform with multi-touch attribution and reporting features to provide insight into how your marketing channels are working together to influence customers to convert. 

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