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Eduvantis Study Shows Many Business Schools May Be Unknowingly Narrowing The Top Of Their Funnel

You’ve worked so hard – perhaps paying per click or buying links – to get a prospective student to your website. The last thing you want to do is make it difficult for them to “raise their hand” and express their interest, right?

For years, Eduvantis has been “secret shopping” MBA programs and documenting best practices for getting prospective students to the bottom of business program funnels.  We recently analyzed nearly 300 Part-Time and Online MBA programs nationwide to establish the most current and thorough data set available on lead capture and nurture practices. Over the next few weeks, we will share our findings, and share recommendations for how you can get a greater “Return on Interest.”

In Part 1 of this series, we analyze what should be the most straightforward part of the process: the RFI form.

Why Won’t You Let Me In?

Most schools rely on traditional marketing channels to drive prospective students to their website.  This not only provides prospects with relevant details about their program of interest, but it also allows prospective students to “raise their hand” and signal they are interested in learning more. The catch is that the typical user only spends a few minutes on a homepage.  To gain a prospect’s information, your RFI form needs to be visible and strategically placed.

We found that 9% of the top PT and Online MBA programs don’t have an RFI form easily found on their program page, wasting critical opportunities to grow the top of the funnel – think about all the lost leads!  So, while it may be obvious, our first recommendation regarding RFI forms: have one.

I Have to Do WHAT to Request Information?

Next, we focused on the ease of inquiring.  If a prospective student has to scroll or search for your form, or click through multiple links just to request more information, your chances of losing that lead drop like a rock. A majority of institutions aren’t currently following this best practice. In fact, only ~20% of the PT programs and ~35% of Online programs we inquired into embedded the RFI onto their homepage.

MBA page at Regis University
University of Wisonsin-Madison’s MBA page

Our second recommendation – Embed the RFI on the program page – may seem tricky to pull off, but trust us that the effort is worth it.  We’ve seen it pay dividends for our clients and it will for you, too.

Ease of accessing PT and Online RFI forms – clicks to form:

bar graph showing ease of accessing part time and online MBA RFI forms

Looking at the forms themselves, we found that the total number of fields averaged 11 for PT programs and 9 for Online programs.  Both are too high.  When marketing graduate business programs, we’ve found conclusively that more requested information fields result in a lower RFI completion percentage.

Let’s break down the requested fields a bit further. Nearly 62% of forms require students to input their program of interest. That’s way too high! If the form is programmed properly, that is not necessary and presents a potential barrier to entry. We saw higher-ranked programs skip this request, for the most part, potentially signaling a more sophisticated programmatic experience to prospective students.

We found that 40% of programs require students to declare their preferred start term (helpful, but not essential), 34% require a Zip Code (why, exactly?) and 16% require students to put in their home address (it’s unanimous at Eduvantis that we do not give out our address unless it’s absolutely necessary – there’s no unsubscribe button!)

We also found a few interesting differences between fields that were required by Part-Time MBA programs vs. Online MBA programs.

 Part-Time ProgramsOnline Programs
Phone #24%56%

Contacting a prospective student by phone may be the prospects’ preferred way of communication, so we’re not against having it optional. The requirement for nationality, however, was a bit of a head-scratcher, especially for Part-Time programs. At this very early stage, why is it necessary to gather this information?

Our third recommendation is: only ask for what you need to engage with the prospect. In our experience, that’s their name, email, and, optionally, phone number.

I Can Choose Whether or Not to Jump Through These Hoops?

We hear that excess fields are put on the inquiry form for two reasons: 1) they are required to create an entry into the CRM, and/or; 2) recruiters want them so they can be more effective.  For the former, if you are working in Slate or Salesforce (or likely any other CRM), we are confident that you can create an inquiry entry using just a name and email address; however, if you cannot eliminate fields, our suggestion is to split your form into two steps. It makes the form look smaller, easier to complete, and, ultimately, improves conversion rates.  For the latter, while more information about a prospective student can be extremely helpful, if you’re not using it to provide a more customized experience, then the additional fields are unnecessarily narrowing the top of the funnel.

To summarize, Eduvantis recommends:

  1. Always have an RFI form. Otherwise, you’re letting the most captive audience slip away.
  2. Embed the form on the program’s homepage (above-the-fold, if possible,) so it’s front and center for prospective students to see and use.
  3. Keep it simple – ask only for what you need: remember, your goal is to bring students into your funnel as seamlessly as possible.

For our readers, we suggest you take a moment right now to visit your key programs’ webpages and focus in on how easy it is for a prospect to inquire, keeping our recommendations above in mind.  And if you are curious about how you stack up relative to the other programs in our study, or want specific advice on what you should be doing differently, please reach out to us. Lead capture is a critical element of reaching enrollment goals, and we do not want to see your funnel suffer unnecessarily.

Next up is part 2 in this series, where we will analyze the critical 48 hours after RFI submission, and how programs are engaging with prospective students during this crucial window. As a sneak peek, ~9% of programs did not send an email after an RFI was submitted. We hope your university isn’t one of them!