I was pleased to be featured in the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, particularly because they highlighted my marketing approach to the admissions process. Hopefully, the article serves to further illustrate some of the techniques we use as we start to craft a marketing strategy for our clients. The relevant text is reprinted below. You can view the full article on Entrepreneur’s website.
Stacy Blackman, 34, remembers well the lessons she learned as an online marketing manager at The Charles Schwab Corp. She launched her Los Angeles-based MBA consulting firm in 2001 to help applicants gain acceptance into the MBA programs of their choice, but after working at the well-known financial services firm for a year in 2002, she realized that marketing financial services was not so different from marketing people.
Blackman’s time at Charles Schwab coincided with the company going through a period of re-evaluation. Although entrepreneur Charles Schwab founded the company on the premise that the stock market should be accessible to all and that prices should be fair and ethical, this core value of the company was coming into question 30 years after its establishment. When held up against glitzier and more glamorous firms serving high-end clients, Charles Schwab, with its relatively low profile, was struggling to keep up. The company decided to stay true to its philosophy, however, and ultimately succeeded in positioning itself as the firm that was affordable and accessible to the common man.
“[Charles Schwab] turned what might be a weakness into [its] key strength,” says Blackman. Using the same philosophy, Blackman turns her clients’ weaknesses into strengths. If a client has been laid off, she puts a positive spin on it by showing his or her resilience, and she paints a bigger picture to artfully explain low grade-point averages. “It’s all in the perspective,” she says.
One key reason for Charles Schwab’s success: its awareness of the prices, promotions and services offered by its competitors. To grow her business and help her clients become successful, Blackman likewise keeps a careful eye on the countless number of applicants vying for acceptance letters. To help her clients differentiate themselves, she pushes them to dig a little deeper–to uncover an experience or skill that hasn’t been repeated by other applicants.
While at Charles Schwab, Blackman witnessed the extensive efforts that were made to get to know customers–to study what they expected from the call center and what types of ads they responded to best. Taking this to heart, Blackman stays informed by networking with admissions officers, students and alumni; researching programs; and maintaining an information database, all of which help her advise clients on how to best present themselves to schools.
“Schools are always looking to diversify their student populations,” says Blackman. “So [the key is] understanding [each] school’s needs and showing that you can be a solution.”