AreyoumymotherWe knew intuitively that Gradschoolmatch is a good idea. But what is Gradschoolmatch? By making it easy for people and graduate programs to connect before application deadlines, Gradschoolmatch solves a difficult problem faced by over a million prospective graduate students every year, and also by the tens of thousands of graduate programs they want to attend.

We’ve been so busy developing this service that we haven’t really spent much time thinking about how to classify what it is that Gradschoolmatch does. It feels innovative. It allows for a kind of marketing, but in a way that is so simple and precise and effective that it doesn’t seem like marketing. So what is this kind of service called? What do people call this method? What is Gradschoolmatch?

In a world of markets, graduate school is a pretty strange one. First, the majority who go to graduate school only acquire a single graduate degree in their lifetime. They only need to find that one perfect program. The degree only has value to that person. It can’t be sold. There is no aftermarket. Other than the market for funeral caskets, off the top of my mind I can’t think of another that self-limits on the customer side quite the same way as do graduate schools.

Second, universities that offer graduate degrees obviously want to produce graduates. But they don’t allow just anybody who wants one of their degrees to have it. Almost every program has a limited capacity. Many programs turn away perfectly suitable candidates.

Both sides, in fact, operate on highly personal and unique sets of filters to decide which of the options they’re considering is the best. At the end of the cylce, students don’t apply to many graduate programs; graduate programs don’t accept a lot of students. Graduate school is a double-sided market where each side must declare their value proposition to the other, and both sides of the cohort are imperfect. Both sides can, and do, choose to accept or reject the other.

This latter point is really important. Imagine entering a store with the intention to purchase a product after performing considerable due diligence, only to have the attendant explain that you lack the qualifications to own it and therefore can’t have it. Had you known better, your time and effort would have been better spent researching products offered by different stores. Even so, the same store owners who reject you as a customer invest considerable resources to ensure that many like yourself, if not you exactly, continue to walk through that door. They bet that a handful of them from time to time will meet their qualifications and be allowed to make a purchase.

That’s just a weird market.

Add to that the fact that there are tens of thousands of graduate programs with very unique academic offerings spread out all over the place. Then there are the millions of people with highly specific academic interests and curiosities who are even more distributed and scattered. From the perspective of any one individual working in this space it looks like two big haystacks, two small needles.

The graduate school market is one that conventional mass marketing has never really served well, not just because both sides are scattered all over the place, but also because of the highly specific filters everybody within it operates under.

For these reasons, graduate school has always been a market that operates largely on word-of-mouth.

No amount of conventional mass-marketing is ever going to change that. But it turns out that the method we’ve arrived at on Gradschoolmatch has some real possibilities, allowing for word-of-mouth to happen at scale. And that has a name we had not heard of until recently: Gradschoolmatch is Intent Casting.

Intent casting is rooted in the idea that democratized technology is more effective and efficient. A new paradigm of highly selective marketing, particularly on the internet, is approaching rapidly. By installing ad blocking browser extensions and embracing Do Not Track options, fewer and fewer internet users are willing to tolerate intrusive and nonspecific advertising or the private data consumption that drives these practices. Intent casting is the willingness of a person to share only some information about themselves, in the right forum, in ways related specifically to some future purchasing decision they intend to make.

In these forums they are discovered by those with a product to sell, who then lay out their value proposition directly. Provided a simple method to find those who have the intentions to purchase, sellers will spend fewer resources trying to create demand where little exists, and more on explaining their value proposition to highly targeted potential buyers…who have declared their intentions.

On Gradschoolmatch there is a bit of a twist since both programs and prospects intent cast. Each must convince the other of their value. Each declares their intentions in their profiles; students indicate their academic backgrounds, work histories and future interests, whereas programs declare what they offer and what they look for in prospects. Both sides of the market can find each other easily and precisely. After that, it is simply a question of reciprocal value propositions.

Gradschoolmatch strips away the veneer of wasteful mass marketing and poorly-targeted and ineffective click-a-thon arbitrage. Historically, these methods have polluted this specific marketplace to such an extent that the internet hasn’t ever really been the effective resource it should be for prospective graduate students seeking out guidance from programs. Neither has the internet been a useful tool for specialized graduate programs to market to prospects.

What is Gradschoolmatch? It is #intentcasting. Intent casting can penetrate where social media cannot, by bringing academic experts into the influence networks of prospects for a decision process that critically depends upon expert word-of-mouth; on good questions and helpful advice.

To finally know the name what we do makes me feel like that bird that searched and searched before finally finding its mother.