You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
THE GAMBLER by KENNY ROGERS
The song’s title and words to the chorus have more relevance to B-School graduate program managers than most of us care to admit. First, every new program start involves gambling or risk taking. And, paraphrasing the words from the song, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and you’ve got to know when to fold ‘em.” Knowing when and how to fold a program is a major challenge for B-School deans and program managers as shown by the media coverage of the recent announcements by Tippie and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A respondent to my reader survey expressed it this way, “My biggest challenge is knowing when to shut down a program.” While it is a challenge, I believe “knowing when” starts with clearly defined performance criteria and reporting. When done right, there should be no surprises.
Basic Sales Funnel
The basic sales funnel provides a starting place to illustrate what I mean. Typically, the recruiting and enrollment process starts with visitors to the program’s website. The basic principle is that more visitors will lead to more information package requests which leads to more applications, etc.
Each step in the sales funnel is a leading indicator of the next step’s performance and the overall funnel’s performance being one of several leading indicators of a program’s overall performance. Monitoring the numbers of each step over time provides significant insight into the marketing and enrollment process and the viability of the program. For example, if landing page visits decrease by 10%, then it is likely there will be a decrease in package requests, applications, etc. If negative trends surface over multiple recruiting cycles for a program, especially if each step of the sales funnel is showing negative trends, this could be an early warning that something is wrong, and the program is at risk.
Reporting frequency and report content is a personal preference. But, when I was a program director, I received a weekly report on each step of the funnel. While our focus was filling the next intake (short-term), today, given the volatility of enrollments I would compare end of cycle numbers with previous end of cycle numbers to see what trends were evolving (long-term). If each part of the sales funnel is trending down, then it’s likely a program issue. If only one or two parts are trending down, then it’s likely a marketing recruitment issue. Let the numbers suggest something is wrong. Let further investigation show what actions are needed, including program closure.
Join the Conversation
Question: Do you receive reports that let you monitor your sales funnel? If so, what information do you receive and how often? Click here to share your response or email me at RGAlsup@MBANewsDigest.com if you prefer to respond without sharing.
Content written by Rodney G. Alsup and published by the MBA News Digest.