WHO IS THE TYPICAL CANDIDATE for graduate management education (GME)? How can business schools target the candidates who are right for them—not based simply on demographics, but also on the personality traits and motivations of potential students?
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) recently partnered with market research agency IPSOS to help schools do a better job of connecting with potential students by identifying market segments based on career aspirations, information-gathering behaviors, and degree motivations. GMAC and IPSOS conducted an online global survey during the first quarter of 2016, targeting respondents between the ages of 20 and 45 who had applied to a GME program within the past 24 months. Delivered in 11 local languages and netting 5,900 responses, the survey captured information about the respondents’ needs, motivations, personal values, and lifestyles.
“You cannot pigeonhole people based on broad demographic criteria,” says Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s CEO. “For too long we have been saying, ‘Chinese candidates think that way,’ or ‘American candidates think that way.’ GMAC’s segmentation survey captures universal needs that drive behavior and avoids cultural bias.”
The survey identified seven segments of GME candidates and determined what percentage each one represents of the global market:
1. Respect Seekers
(27 percent) pursue graduate management education because it will give them status, help them become role models, and make their families proud. School selection is influenced by friends and family as well as alumni success.
2. Global Strivers
(14 percent) want to explore the world, gain international exposure, work in other countries, and improve their managerial skills. They are looking for degrees that are recognized by global employers.
3. Career Revitalizers
(13 percent) want to push their careers to the next level and take control of their futures. They seek out schools known for high-quality faculty.
4. Skill Upgraders
(13 percent) are strongly motivated to improve their leadership and other specific skills; they want to become recognized experts in their fields. Their school choices are influenced by their employers.
5. Impactful Innovators
(12 percent) feel they need the leadership and business skills to bring their great ideas to life and help them make a social impact. They are looking for specific programs that meet their unique needs.
6. Socioeconomic Climbers
(11 percent) want to earn more money, improve their status, and give their children a better future. They look for schools with excellent academic reputations.
7. Balanced Careerists
(10 percent) want to earn more money, gain stability, and have more fulfilling careers, but they don’t want school to disrupt their lives. Thus, they look for institutions that allow them to commute from home.
The survey also takes a closer look at how those segments are represented in the U.S., India, and China. For instance, Respect Seekers account for 27 percent of GME candidates around the world, but 43 percent in the U.S. At the same time, Global Strivers are underrepresented in the U.S., accounting for only 5 percent of the candidate pool. By contrast, in India, Global Strivers constitute 29 percent of the candidate pool, and Career Revitalizers only 1 percent. In China, Career Revitalizers make up almost half the candidate pool at 49 percent; Global Strivers are only 4 percent of the market.
GMAC leaders believe schools can use the findings of the segmentation survey to refine their recruiting efforts so they can target the students most likely to thrive at their institutions; schools also can design programs most suitable for their student bases.
GMAC is continuing to mine actionable insights from the survey and plans to incorporate the segmentation model into its annual mba.com Prospective Students Survey. In the future, business schools that subscribe to GMAC’s Graduate Management Admission Search Service (GMASS) database will be able to purchase the names of prospective students who belong to specific segments.
Visit www.gmac.com/segments to download the white paper “Connecting with the Core Motivations of Business School Candidates.”
This article appeared in print in the March/April 2017 issue.