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MBA Preparation, Services

“Product development” precedes “personal branding” for successful MBA applicants

April 22 2010 By The MBA Exchange
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Many leading MBA admissions consulting firms promote the term “personal branding” as the focus of their services.

This suggests, somewhat naively, that admission success comes from self-packaging and self-promotion. “Personal branding” is actually a concept that has been around for the past 30 years, introduced in the book “Positioning: The Battle for your Mind”, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. While at first glance it seems like the ideal mindset for MBA applicants, the fact is that this is too good to be true.

There’s serious developmental work that needs to be done before an applicant can address branding. One must first address his or her background — personal, academic and professional — and how it satisfies the target school’s wants.

Ultimately, applicants must “brand” themselves. However, well before “brand development” comes “product development.” If the underlying product (i.e., the candidacy) is not optimized, then the brand (i.e., the presentation) is weakened from the very start and the customer (i.e., the business school admissions committee) is unlikely to buy (i.e., offer admission).

At The MBA Exchange we’ve done our market research. Through 14 years of experience of working with more than 2,000 past business school applicants, we know what sort of product admissions committees are looking for.

That’s why we focus first and foremost on understanding and improving the actual candidacy. We help our clients answer the following questions:

1. What are your immediate and distinctive strengths to be leveraged and showcased?

2. What are your apparent and underlying weaknesses that need to be understood, explained and, ideally, fixed?

3. What do your targeted schools expect to see in the candidacies that will get serious consideration for admission?

4. What have the schools historically found to be traits and attributes that differentiate otherwise equally qualified applicants?

5. What are the subtle, “fatal flaws” that can undermine a qualified candidate and thus could take you out of the running?

We then prescribe exactly what our clients can and should do to bolster the core candidacy. Once this product development is done, then we turn our focus to branding. Only then do we have a clear actionable understanding of what has to be done to present a candidacy that satisfies the schools’ selection criteria. We determine what needs to be done to make our client a preferred applicant — and that becomes the focus of the admissions campaign.

Our proven approach actually produces a stronger “personal brand” because that brand now reflects the power and uniqueness of the product behind it. Whether it’s consumer packaged goods or MBA admissions, a great product and a great brand is an unbeatable combination. The brand showcases the product’s most compelling features and benefits.

So, before succumbing to the appeal of a process that sounds too good to be true, we urge applicants to do it right. Develop yourself as a product and THEN as a brand. The MBA Exchange is here to help, starting with a free, confidential evaluation of your candidacy.