EMBA Marketing – Class XV
Take Home Exam
3 October, 1999
A2. Market Segmentation: Analyze the characteristics and sizes of the potential market
segments for the URI EMBA program. Recommend a targeting strategy.
Market segmentation is defined as the identification and profiling of distinct groups of
buyers who might require separate products and/or marketing mixes. A market segment is a
group of actual or potential customers who can be expected to respond in approximately the
same way to a given offer.
The potential market segment for the URI EMBA segment would encompass, on the
broadest scale, all individuals possessing at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-
year university. The market segmentation effort is performed here to increase the university’s
ability to target precisely. It can execute this process at any of four levels: segments (isolating
broad segments within a market), niches (narrowly defined groups whose needs are not being
well served), local (local customer groups), or individual (customized, one-to-one marketing).
Additionally, segmentation can be performed with mass marketing.
In the case of the URI EMBA program, market segmentation should be performed in a
niche, local hybrid form. An EMBA program “provides experienced business people,
entrepreneurs, and professionals an opportunity to earn a valuable MBA degree without
significantly disrupting daily work responsibilities (University of New Orleans EMBA Web
Page).” This market is readily characterized as a niche because it arose to fill the void of the
distinct desires of business professionals. The niche is fairly small (URI EMBA classes have
averaged under 20 students throughout its existence) with only a few competitors. These area
competitors (Bryant, Providence College, Salve Regina, UMass Dartmouth, and URI
Kingston/Providence) offer a normal MBA curriculum that can be fulfilled through a
combination of daytime and evening classes.
The segmentation effort should also have a local flavor. The URI EMBA has historically
drawn in individuals from the Southeastern New England (southern Mass, Rhode Island, and
eastern Connecticut) geographic region. Because of its scheduling and teaming requirement, the
EMBA program is best suited to individuals who live within driving distance of the Alton Jones
campus and their group members.
Concerning the patterns of market segmentation, consumer preferences may be clustered
in that distinct preference groups exist in the market. URI has chosen to position in the center
and appeal to all of the cluster groups (KMBA – day, PMBA – night, EMBA – weekend).
The next step in the market segmentation process is to identify segmentation variables
that apply. Major segmentation variables for consumer markets fall into four categories:
geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral. For the EMBA program, we may
consider a combination of these variables (with general target characteristics listed in
parentheses). However, geographic variables, such as region and region size should be
overarching since we are pursuing a local segmentation.
Relevant demographic variables encompass age (21+), gender, income (usually above
$50,000), occupation (professional and technical, managers, proprietors, officials), education
(college graduate), religion (consumers with weekend religious requirements are not a valid
target), and social class (focus on middle and upper class). Pertinent psychographic parameters
include lifestyle (work and education-oriented) and personality (ambitious, motivated).
Lastly, appropriate behavioral variables are occasions (a life decision or career change),
benefits (those that seek more lucrative and prestigious careers), loyalty status (URI alumni),
buyer-readiness stage (from aware to intending to buy), and attitude toward product (seeking
enthusiastic, positive buyers).
The segment attributes described above could be collected from survey or census data for
the applicable Southeastern New England region and then analyzed to create a profile of the
EMBA market segments. These segments would be characterized as mostly residing in Rhode
Island, mostly male, professional, income above $50,000 per year, career-oriented, highly
motivated, and well informed.
In terms of segment size, significant research would be required to estimate the number
of potential consumers. A quick review of Rhode Island Census data from 1996 indicates that,
for persons age 25 and over, the number of individuals with a bachelor’s degree is 88,634. Of
these, 51,526 persons have attained a graduate or professional degree. In terms of occupation,
58,154 individuals were employed in executive, administrative, and managerial occupations.
Further research would be required to obtain information for adjacent areas (eastern Connecticut
and southeastern Massachusetts) and to refine the sizes of the actual segments.
Although there may be over 50,000 consumers that have a few of the segment
characteristics, more specific data will be required from the other variables in order to obtain a
more realistic estimate of segment sizes. This data could be acquired in a number of ways. One
suggestion is to contact the region’s largest employers (both private and public) to solicit input
on the desires of their business professionals. Additionally, other firms can be solicited based on
the historical participation of their employees in the program. In fact, the pools that make up the
market segments should come from the private and public sector, with the emphasis on those
entities that have been traditionally involved in the URI EMBA.
The result of the segmentation effort is that the market segments developed must be
measurable (in terms of size, purchasing power and desired characteristics), substantial (large,
homogeneous, and profitable enough to serve), accessible (easily reached), differentiable (from
those pursuing regular MBAs or other graduate degrees), and actionable (an effective program
can result). The resultant segments (with sizes decreasing in the order listed) extracted from the
above candidate pools would contain:
Those individuals desiring a graduate degree but are unsure as to the field to pursue.
Those individuals wanting a MBA, but unsure which form to pursue.
Those individuals wanting to enroll in an EMBA program exclusively.
With the market segment opportunities identified, it will be necessary to decide which of
these to target. In evaluating these segments, two factors must be examined: the overall
attractiveness (in terms of size, growth, profitability, etc.) of the segment and the objectives and
resources of URI (can URI offer superior value?). Without detailed data, it would appear that
each market segment is attractive. It is a common belief among many business and technical
professionals (and their managers) that a graduate degree is needed for career enhancement.
Additionally, data extracted from the Human Resources Department at the Naval Undersea
Warfare Center indicates that the number of employees pursuing MBAs has increased over 300
percent since the mid-1990s.
The factor that URI must address is related to objectives and resources. Obviously, the
institution can compete on all MBA levels, but will see increased competition in the future,
especially with the emergence of distance learning programs that have no regional requirement.
With these factors addressed, the recommendation is to assume a product specialization
strategy for target market selection. The EMBA program will serve as the product that URI sells
to each target segment. Through this strategy, URI can build a strong reputation in this specific
product area. The major risk to this approach is the threat of the distance-learning element.
Additionally, although this approach competes with URI’s other MBA programs, the desired
market share should not significantly impact the profitability of those programs. The URI
EMBA brings several strengths that can be capitalized. These include the setting (the Alton
Jones campus is exceptional), the integrated curriculum, the use of technology, the tailored
schedule, and a group of dedicated, competent faculty.
URI should attempt to operate in supersegments (set of segments with some exploitable
similarity – individuals seeking graduate degrees) for efficiency and to avoid being at a
competitive disadvantage to those universities that may target the same supersegment.
Lastly, it is suggested that, although a supersegment approach may be warranted, URI
should only focus on one segment at a time beginning with the EMBA portion. Not only will
this invasion plan keep competitors off-balance, but it will also enable the EMBA program to
solidify its primary market target. A long-term plan should be constructed and executed to
effectively time the targeting of each market segment.
In summary, the characteristics of the potential market segments include demographic,
psychographic, and behavioral parameters that combine to develop the EMBA customer profile.
The resultant segments consist of (1) individuals desiring to pursue graduate degrees, (2)
individuals interested in MBAs, and (3) individuals focused on EMBA curricula. The relative
size of each of the segments decreases, respectively, since the second and third segments may be
considered subsets of the previous segment. Estimated sizes must be obtained from detailed
market research, possibly in the form of surveys distributed in the private and public sector.
Each of these market segments appears to be attractive in terms of being the focus of a
targeting strategy. Additionally, URI, based on its current offerings, seems to have the resources
to undertake this targeting effort. Lastly, it is recommended that a product specialization strategy
be applied to each segment (beginning with the EMBA group) to build URI’s reputation as a
choice provider of the EMBA product. This strategy will have an increased likelihood of success
if URI uses its traditional linkages with segment group employers to generate partnership
arrangements that make the EMBA product more desirable for employees. Targeting the MBA
and general graduate degree segments as part of a long-term plan is key in ensuring future
growth and profitability. This is especially accurate if the demand for graduate business degrees
is indeed high.
B3. Advertising and Promotion: Analyze the current advertising and promotional strategy (all
media, including the Net, as well as personal contact methods) of the URI EMBA program.
Develop and analyze at least a couple of other promotional strategies and recommend a
strategy that you think will enhance program size and reputation.
Advertising and promotion are elements of the marketing communications mix and also
are key components in an institution’s ability to effectively communicate it product capabilities
to potential buyers. Advertising provides a pervasive public presentation that, while somewhat
impersonal, can be amplified. Promotion encourages communication, focuses attention, provides
incentive, and creates a distinctive invitation.
URI’s current advertising and promotional strategy includes print media, the Internet, and
personal contact. Traditionally, the EMBA program has advertised in the Providence Journal
section during the spring-summer recruiting period. This multi-column advertisement
summarizes the program’s features (“the curriculum of the Executive MBA Program is designed
to develop competitive skills in decision making and leadership.”).
Internet advertising is accomplished through the College of Business Administration web
site. Under the MBA Degree Programs link, Executive MBA links are provided next to the
Kingston and Providence MBA sections. A separate MBA information page is also provided,
with a link to general EMBA program information. This page
(http://www.cba.uri.edu/Graduate/Programs/EXECUTIV.HTM) provides the crux of the web-
based specific advertising for the EMBA program. It contains the program description, time and
location, program fees, financial aid information, and other links. These other links include
information on the Alton Jones campus (a competitive advantage), the state of Rhode Island
(another competitive edge?), and other relevant MBA information. The page also provides
access to the current Class XVI site for an “operational” view of the program. Lastly, the
university promotes its membership on the EMBA council.
Personal contact promotion is achieved through networking and informal communication
performed by EMBA alumni and faculty. No formal program is in place for direct one-on one
marketing. URI provides a web page link to MBA and EMBA alumni and their email addresses
(if available). This provides prospective students with a path to contact alumni directly in order
to solicit their input on the program. During the past summer, I was contacted by a member of
Class XVI (who got my name off the Class XV list). At the time, he was only considering the
program as an option. We had extensive discussions about all facets of the program (technical,
administrative, and personal) that aided him in making his decision to apply.
Lastly, URI and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center have a partnership in which the
Center funds the tuition and fees of two of its employees annually. The Center conducts its own
application, interview, and selection process to choose its program nominees. There are no
promotional discounts provided by URI for this arrangement. It does not appear that the
university maintains any promotional agreements with any private sector firm.
In considering a strategy that will help to enhance the URI EMBA program size and
reputation, all common communication platforms should be considered. In addition to
advertising, sales promotions, public relations, personal selling, and direct marketing can all be
considered. Here, it is recommended that advertising, promotion, public relations, and the
continued informal use of alumni/candidate contact is maintained to promote the program.
Once the target market is identified and buyer motives are known, the institution can
proceed to address the five major decisions needed for an advertising program. These are the
five Ms: mission (objectives), money (how much to spend), message, media, and measurement
In setting the advertising objective, prior target market decisions, market positioning, and
marketing mix strategies must be considered. URI wants to position itself as the choice provider
of the EMBA product by informing and persuading prospective students that the knowledge and
skills they develop in the accelerated EMBA program will provide them with an instant
competitive edge in the marketplace. And, this edge can be gained while continuing to work in
one’s current job.
The advertising budget must be considered carefully because it is treated as an expense
that reduces the institution’s “profit”. Factors to address include the requirement to build
awareness, reach unknowing consumers, and respond to competitor activities. Advertising
frequency should be high during the recruiting period when potential students are evaluating
their educational options and should be less during other periods. Determining the actual
advertising budget will require a comparative analysis that weighs the amount spent with the
estimated resulting influx of students (and tuition).
The development of the advertising message must pass through four steps: generation,
evaluation and selection, execution, and social responsibility review. In generating the message,
several options will be considered, but it is critical that the message conveys the benefit of the
product. In this case, the message should reflect the objective/mission: that the URI EMBA is
the choice for those considering an accelerated degree without disrupting their current jobs. The
message should emphasize the integrated curriculum, the use of technology in the classroom, and
the rustic environment at Alton Jones that is conducive to learning. The message should also
include “expert testimony” from EMBA alumni who confirm how the URI EMBA has enhanced
In evaluating and selecting a message, it is important to ensure that there is a focus on
one core selling proposition. Some research should be performed to identify which type of
appeal will be well received by the target segment. If the message has desirability (the setting
and the program is attractive), exclusiveness (the URI EMBA is distinctive among Rhode Island
institutions, Suffolk, in Boston, and the University of Connecticut are the nearest EMBA
competitors), and believability (based on alumni testimony), success can be achieved.
Message execution determines the impact in how the message is stated. The current
EMBA advertising (newspaper and web) is quite straightforward and does not assume many
risks in terms of style, tone, words, and format. Since the university is considered to be a
conservative institution, it may be difficult to vary much in these areas. However, even a minor
change in approach may be beneficial. Headline/large print headings such as “URI EMBA
makes a difference” can be an attention grabber.
In terms of social responsibility, we must ensure that the message fits within the social
and legal norms of URI.
Once the message is reviewed and finalized, the advertising media must next be
considered. Selection of these media is dependent on reach, frequency, and impact. Obviously,
URI should continue to pursue newspaper advertising because of its ability to reach the local
market. The EMBA program should consider (if it hasn’t already) advertising in major
Connecticut and Massachusetts newspapers to extend its reach in the target segment. To
capitalize on the demographic angle, URI should also consider advertising in various magazines
and periodicals that are read by the target audience. While this may exceed the reach beyond the
target market, the additional exposure may prove beneficial. Market research and cost-benefit
analysis should be performed on advertising in this medium.
The Internet may prove to be the most profitable medium given the explosive growth in
its utilization. The EMBA program should implement some improvements to its web advertising
through ensuring that the various net search engines locate the EMBA page and in possibly
developing some partnership arrangements with web portals. Although this again will extend the
reach beyond the target area, the costs of implementing these improvements may not be
To evaluate the effectiveness of the advertising media chosen, measurements are
required. Data can be collected from program applicants (“how did you hear of the program”),
web counters, and unique information in each medium that is relayed to program administrators
(e.g., “call 555-1212 and ask for Joe”).
In addition to advertising, the university can attempt to include sales promotion as part of
its marketing strategy. This approach differs from advertising’s offer of a “reason to buy” in that
it provides an “incentive to buy.” Promotion in this case would deviate from the standard type
used in private industry. Here, the URI EMBA would attempt to develop partnerships with the
target region’s major employers (both in the public and private sector). Similar to the existing
NUWC arrangement, the employer would provide a continual stream of students to the EMBA
program. In return, the program could offer discounted tuition and fees. This would provide
value-added for both entities: URI would maintain a core student base and the firms would be
able to fulfill the training needs of its employees. It is recommended that this approach be
performed gradually in order to evaluate its viability in terms of program growth and reputation
Public relations may be considered in that it provides the program an opportunity to relate
to its potential customers and the public at large. It is recommended that the URI EMBA
program sponsor various applicable events to publicize its product. These events can include
business fairs, seminars by business practitioners, forums on business topics, etc. This effort can
be performed in conjunction with the other MBA programs at the university. While this may not
distinguish the EMBA program, it does distribute the cost. This public relations approach can
build program awareness and credibility. As with advertising and promotion, the results of this
effort must be measured (through increased enrollment).
Lastly, the direct interaction between program alumni and prospective students must
continue to be facilitated. Since this is essentially a “free” service, it is suggested that the EMBA
continue to list alumni names and email addresses on its web sites as well as bring in alumni to
EMBA recruitment open houses. Since alumni will be perceived to be unbiased and believable,
there is an advantage inherent in their communication with potential customers.
In summary, the recommended strategy is to pursue a combination of advertising
(newspaper, magazine, Internet), promotion (alliances with employers), public relations
(sponsorship of relevant events), and informal alumni contact with potential students. The
advertising objective should be established up front and should capitalize on the major benefits
and positive qualities of the EMBA program. Alumni testimony should be a significant part of
the strategy in order to show the results of the program in terms of career enhancement. The
performance of each of these channels should be measured to determine the effectiveness in
adding value to the program in terms of growth and reputation enhancement. Lastly, the EMBA
should attempt to leverage university efforts where applicable. However, the URI EMBA
program must ensure that these joint efforts don’t blur the distinctive characteristic of its product.