Practise what you teach - it's good business

August 12, 2010

They have already faced criticism for promoting a culture of greed and recklessness that precipitated the global economic crisis, but now business schools have been branded "laggards" in their own use of the techniques they teach.

A critical study by the UK's Association of Business Schools finds "a few schools excelling and the others falling behind" when it comes to building relationships with their students. The institutions could learn from Tesco and Boots, it adds.

The study, carried out by Vicky Robinson, head of marketing at the ABS, found that 80 per cent of the schools studied do not employ a customer-relationship management system to organise their efforts when marketing to students and alumni.

Describing student-relationship management as the "holy grail", Ms Robinson's research concludes that its use is still in its infancy in business schools, despite lecturers' expertise in marketing.

After polling all 117 members of the ABS, the study found that most business schools still take a mass-market approach to student marketing. "The view is still held that a marketing approach is not applicable to higher education institutions," it states.

The schools understand the importance of niche marketing, but consider it too expensive and time-consuming, it says. They are also thwarted by a lack of data and inaccurate databases that make prospective and former students difficult to contact.

"Business schools can be said to be laggards in adopting this marketing paradigm and may be able to learn from those who excel in different industries such as Tesco and Boots," says the report, How do UK Business Schools Maintain Loyalty Amongst Undergraduates? A Relationship-Based Approach.

"The way students expect to receive information is changing ... They expect a lot more information 24/7 and want to filter out the 'noise' from mass untargeted messages."

The study concludes that business schools must practise what they preach and adopt strategies to target "customers" - students and alumni - with personalised and relevant information.

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