About project

Period: December 2019 – Present

Client: University of Pennsylvania

Subject: Milken-Penn GSE Ed Biz Comp

The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition, held at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, is a prestigious competition that celebrates and supports purpose-driven education ventures seeking to address systemic inequities through innovation. Our task was to increase both national and global brand awareness and diversify the applicant pool through targeted email campaigns, paid marketing, and strategic messaging.

Our Task Was

  • Convert existing subscribers to applicants through targeted email campaigns
  • Grow awareness of the Competition among non-community members and drive applications from well-qualified education ventures through paid marketing and strategic messaging
  • Design digital, social, and email marketing collateral and guide website rebranding


To achieve our goals, we developed a comprehensive strategy that included:

  • Conducting user research to understand the needs and motivations of potential applicants and optimize the application process accordingly.
  • Creating a referral program that incentivizes current applicants to refer their friends and colleagues to apply to the competition.
  • Hosting networking events to bring together past and potential applicants and encourage collaboration and innovation.
  • Building partnerships with industry associations and trade groups to promote the competition and expand its reach to relevant audiences.
  • Developing a content marketing strategy that leverages mediums such as podcasts, webinars, and e-books to educate and engage potential applicants.
  • Implementing A/B testing on the competition website to optimize design, messaging, and user experience.
  • Creating a scholarship or grant program that incentivizes the most innovative applicants to apply and contribute to the education industry.


Our efforts have led to impressive results, including notable achievements such as:

  • A 167% increase in annual applicants since 2019
  • A 41% email open rate during 2023 application period, well above national averages for nonprofit (25%), education (23%), and marketing (17%) email campaigns (stats via Mailchimp)
  • Over 218,800 impressions on LinkedIn during 2023 application period with a 1.15% average click-through-rate, almost triple the LinkedIn Sponsored Post CTR average (0.44% via LinkedIn)


The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition’s comprehensive marketing strategy, which included market research, content marketing, social media advertising, email campaigns, partnerships, and influencer collaborations, successfully increased brand awareness and drove record numbers of applications. The competition’s optimization efforts through user testing and retargeting campaigns improved the website and application process, showcasing the power of strategic marketing in generating impact in the education industry.