Student Relationship Marketing in UK Business Schools
IN UK BUSINESS SCHOOLS
(Masters in Marketing Management, Distinction)
Vicky Robinson, Chartered Marketer, MA, MCIM,
• To assess ABS members’ usage of relationship
marketing techniques and the associated
• To review the current thinking on relationship
marketing within business schools in the UK
(changing technologies impact (i.e. Web 2.0)
• To benchmark members marketing strategies
and compare and contrast levels of
sophistication and deployment.
Student /Customer Relationship
Group Discussion on the Definition of WHAT
IT MEANS TO YOU AND HOW YOUR SCHOOL
IS ACTIVE IN R M
HIGHER EDUCATION MARKETING AN
“In this dynamic, competitive environment the future
success of educational establishments rests on the
ability to differentiate themselves and build
meaningful relationships not only with existing
students but with potential students as well. To achieve
this, internal systems need to be maximised to their
full potential through the integration and use of
internal CRM/relationship management which can pull
together disseminated pieces of information from all
types of databases and sources.” (King, 2006).
“Involves creating, maintaining and enhancing strong relationships
with customers and other stakeholders. Increasingly, marketing is
moving away from a focus on individual transactions and towards a
focus on building value-laden relationships and marketing
networks. Relationship marketing is orientated more towards the
long term. The goal is to deliver long-term value to customers and
the measure of success is long-term customer satisfaction.
Relationship marketing requires that all of the company’s
departments work together with a marketing team to serve the
customer. It involves building relationships at many levels –
economic, social, technical and legal – resulting in high customer
Kotler et al, Principles of Marketing, (2008: 382).
Key questions that were asked
• Do members employ a relationship marketing strategy?
• Do they have a database/relationship marketing strategy
unique to the school, if so how useful is this?
• How these systems are used to move the student through
their life cycle and the loyalty ladder?
• Are the systems they are using effective in terms of
providing the information they need to target
• Are these systems integrated across the university or
indeed through the students’ life cycle?
• Further research could investigate whether UK business
schools are representative of UK higher education.
A paper by Hammond et al (2004) carried out research into US business
schools and examined the effects on performance of the use or non-use of
‘selected marketing planning activities and the nature of relationships on
The findings showed that:
• Schools of business that extolled excellence in their teaching were more
likely to employ enrolment/student relationship management plans (and
• Schools that recognised research excellence were much more likely to
employ an advertising campaign as a means of recruitment; and
• Schools that were more service orientated were far more likely to employ
university and business school enrolment management plans, university
marketing plans and also to use relationship management with their
• It will be interesting to see how this maps against UK business schools and
schools of management.
Self completion survey
Key benefits from a case study from Newcastle Uni.
• 25% increase in firm acceptances (postgraduate)
year on year
• Faster decision making
• Streamline administrative processes
• Positive feedback from students re their
• Ability to plan university budgets.
Customer vs. Student Debate
How do you view students?
Roper and Campbell (1998)
made no apologies for
commenting that most
institutions were not good at
devoting time to telephone
enquiries, sending out
appropriate information in a
timely manner or indeed
replying to prospective
students with relevant
information – all elements of
good customer service and
indeed relationship marketing.
Remember, the “customer is
always right”. So if these
imagined ‘customers’ want
credentials, why not just
become a diploma mill and sell
outright what they really want,
and never mind trying to get
them to put something in their
shopping cart? That, after all,
is the logical endpoint of a
race to the bottom as
educational institutions try to
please these ‘customers’ in a
Shift from Transactional to Relationship Marketing
There is a marketer in all of us! Empower all staff to embody the customer
Key in relationship marketing is moving the consumer/student through the
rungs of the Loyalty Ladder and through the Student Lifecycle.
Four interviews were carried out at the following institutions:
• London South Bank University Business School
• Manchester Metropolitan University Business School
• Birmingham City University Business School
• Nottingham Business School (backed up with a follow up
The recipients were all shown the Ladder of Loyalty Model and
the Student Life Cycle Model, They were informed that the
interview would be based around these models and their own
student relationship marketing plans.
Analysis and Findings of Online
• The remainder of the membership not already
targeted by the telephone or face-to-face
interviews were contacted, 110 in total, emails
were sent via the Dean’s office with a link to the
• The response rate was 37 which equated to:
33.63 % of the total sent out via email – the total
number of respondents including telephone, face
to face and online was 51.48% of the total ABS
• It is interesting to note that the
majority of the people
completing the survey were
business schools Deans (35.1%,
13 respondents) followed by
(16.2 % each/12 respondents
each) followed by thirdly, the
Head of School (13.5% with 5
Please indicate which region your institution is based in.
East Anglia 5.4% 2
East Midlands 10.8% 4
Greater London 2.7% 1
North 8.1% 3
North West 10.8% 4
Northern Ireland 0.0% 0
Scotland 13.5% 5
South East 18.9% 7
South West 8.1% 3
Wales 2.7% 1
West Midlands 2.7% 1
Yorkshire and Humberside 16.2% 6
answered question 37
skipped question 0
The ABS membership covers the UK, the most responses were gleaned from:
The South East (18.9 % equalling 17 responses); followed by
Yorkshire and Humberside (16.2 %, 6 responses); and
East Midlands and North West both 10.8 % 4 responses each.
The fewest responses from the online questionnaire were gained from Northern Ireland
which shows a nil return, however there are only 2 business schools in Northern Ireland and
one took part in a telephone interview.
How many students do you have on your business school database (prospective,
<500 5.6% 2
<1000 16.7% 6
<2500 13.9% 5
<5000 8.3% 3
> 5000 55.6% 20
answered question 36
skipped question 1
Current Database Contact
73 % of respondents said that they do have a strategy,
additional comments stated that this was not often
formalised, was not integrated or that S/CRM systems were
Additional comments below from respondents:
The University has not had a unified CRM database, so
activity has been ad hoc and disjointed, we are now devising
a university-wide system for use, in place by October 2010
New marketing director who is developing this.
In part, although some of our activities have a narrow focus.
Not something we've considered.
Under development at university level with bus school input.
We do have one based on our partnership strategy: includes
all stakeholders, including important industry partnerships.
The strategy is as yet still in its early days.
I think the nearest we have to this is our conversion
campaign with applicants but we do not really call it a
relationship marketing strategy - we are also thinking about
how we are going to develop this with key business
We don't have a standalone relationship marketing strategy.
27 % stated that they did not have a
relationship marketing strategy – it is
hoped that the findings of this survey
and perhaps further studies into the
effects of relationship marketing on
students in business schools will be
able to leverage marketing
managers more in this area.
Do your own marketing professors advise your own marketing teams on
(relationship) marketing strategy?
Do your faculty marketing Professors advise your own marketing teams
on (relationship) marketing strategy?
It is interesting to note that over 75% of recipients said no to this question,
¾ of the total sample. It was noted earlier that some schools do pass plans
in front of Professors. Some respondents commented that it would be
contentious to include this in the process and that this could cause rifts
between practitioners and the academics!
Nearly ¾ of the responses indicated that the business schools does not have a
unique system just for the school’s contacts.
Are the systems linked through an overall integrated/networked CRM system allowing you
access to all records across the business school?
Yes 20.6% 7
No 79.4% 27
answered question 34
skipped question 3
From the responses earlier we can surmise that business schools in the main
do not have their own CRM/SRM systems which is therefore why a high
percentage (nearly 80%) do not have access to an integrated system.
Benefits of Current System
If you have an integrated system please can you indicate the main benefits that your
system provides (in order to help you market/manage your institutions communications
Enquiry Management information (through pre-application)
Application Management information 18.2% 2
Application Administration information 0.0% 0
Registration/Endorsement information 0.0% 0
Academic Enrolment information (module/course enrolment)
Up-to-date information 0.0% 0
Demographic Information 9.1% 1
Psychographic information 0.0% 0
Personal contact details 0.0% 0
Student history 18.2% 2
Ability to cross/up sell other courses 0.0% 0
answered question 11
skipped question 26
If you have a relationship marketing system/database that you use to
specifically target and track students on could you please say how long this
has been in place for. If not please indicate any plans for this to be
introduced or any other relevant comments in the box provided.
<2 years 55.0% 11
<5 years 10.0% 2
5+ years 35.0% 7
Other (please specify) 8
answered question 20
skipped question 17
A high number of respondents skipped
this question, comments can be found
•We don't have a system
•Database to be running by 2010,
partially operational now
•Currently tracked through different
systems for different reasons/stages
•database will be used for this
•The same system has been used to
follow up on undergraduate
applications for many years
•Not BS specific - central would
own/manage if there were any plans to
•We have used Facebook hitherto
rather than a database, but one is now
being organised centrally for the
Usability and Effectiveness
Please can you highlight how easy your system is to use (usability) and also how effective you think it is (satisfaction) regarding targeting and
communicating with your students throughout the student life cycle. 1 being low 5 high.
Answer Options 1 2 3 4 5
Usability 2 4 11 4 1 22
Effectiveness/satisfaction 4 3 9 6 0 22
answered question 23
skipped question 14
•Further comments can be found below:
•We don't have a system. SITS is a disaster
•The key barrier for us is volume of UG applications, making any form of meaningful
relationship management difficult
•Not a direct user so cannot comment
•It's easy to use as our central teams do this for us but the tracking and reporting is
•I have given low scores as we have not fully implemented the system as yet so thorough
testing has not been carried out
•Integrated but still could be slicker
•We have only just developed our alumni database and presumably our student records
system will feed directly into it. I am not in a position to answer this question.
•This is a new system - first academic cycle.
The main barriers shown to be coming out of the survey findings are:
• Current systems are disjointed, i.e. lack of integration across the university/schools
• Data is collected and logged in erratic ways
• Data and leads are lost due to bad data management or systems that are not up to
• cleanliness of data is an issue
• The ownership of the data, and data protection issues i.e. Alumni Office holding
the database and access to the queries
• A lack of top level support for integrated systems to be brought in (due to
management changes, finances, other priorities)
• Cost to implement
• Time taken to bring in the systems whilst carrying out one’s normal day-to-day
• C/RM is maybe seen for the corporate world and not for HEI’s.
• Employ a relationship marketing plan as a crucial part of the overall
strategic plan of the school – relate this back to key objectives.
• Support and embed the relationship marketing strategy as part of the over
arching integrated marketing and communications plan.
• Audit current systems in use and how effective/easy they are for
marketers use for reporting and targeting campaigns.
• Ask the students what communications they want and how they rate the
current strategy – focus groups or a student marketing lead person.
• Have dedicated points of contact for the student and make it easy for
them to communicate with you – log this in the system.
• Build and nurture long-term relationships (using the loyalty ladder and
student life cycle models) mapped against systems and campaigns.
• Benchmark against other business schools.
• Mystery shop against other schools to see what communications and
methods they use for relationship marketing.
Level of database integration
•79% of those surveyed have a non-integrated system
•73% do have a specific relationship marketing plan.
•Tactical rather than strategic, relying on staff to compile reports from disjointed systems
•Clearly it would be beneficial in terms of loyalty for future strategy to be based around
an integrated SRM system that is strategically supported by senior managers allowing
practitioners to have more control over campaigns and data – the student would thereby
benefit from a closer relationship creating brand loyalty and allegiance.
•This would mean heavy investment and is by no means a simple task but would lead to
more effective and efficient data capture and as a few schools are excelling the
benchmark would be to lead in this field.
•As mentioned previously, lots of schools are carrying out SRM but not using software to
enable this and thus creates an administrative burden to already stretched marketing
Dissemination of Findings
• Dissemination to all ABS Members
• Submission of findings to several Marketing
Journals and the Chartered Institute of
Marketing the Marketer.
• THES published an article
• Findings to the CIM HEI MIG group.