When we look at the enrollment cliff and the shifting demographics related to population movement, one thing is for sure: climbing our way out of this will require a fundamental shift. You can no longer “root” your efforts in what was successful in the past. Enrollment management and marketing are now a true art and a science.
Utilizing data is essential to identifying students and driving applications. That’s the science. The art comes in creating affinity, awarding scholarships and executing the intangibles of recruiting students.
Not only is there the enrollment cliff, but as a world we are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and families face a variety of challenges including short-term financial instability. This means prospective families, in which most parents are Generation X and Millennials, are more connected and influential than ever in the enrollment process.
Meanwhile, a college education continues to get more expensive as its true value is called into question like never before. Budgets on campuses are also under scrutiny. In many cases, we spend more than ever before on enrollment and marketing efforts and yet for the last decade we have seen a decrease in undergraduate enrollment.
Now more than ever we need to be better stewards.
Multi-Channel Digital Strategies
When it comes to enrollment management budgeting, there are two allocations that are crucial to your success — digital marketing and counseling staff. The first allocation involves the budget you assign to multi-channel digital strategies for lead and application generation. Your digital strategy is the Swiss Army knife of your enrollment marketing — small but powerful, and capable of performing several different functions.
The best thing about digital strategies is that they increase what marketing professionals call, “speed-to-lead.” And while that marketing term is true for sales, in the world of recruitment, I like to refer to it as “speed-to-relevance” … because, as an enrollment leader, you are creating a long-lasting relationships with families.
The other advantage to digital strategies is that they are as nimble as you are. That is, if you have the focus and data to help drive where you should dedicate your spending.
- Do you get better conversions with social media digital advertising? Or the Google ads you are pushing forward?
- How often do you measure your campaigns? Are you able to compare past and current campaigns?
- Who is interacting with your digital assets? Are you able to nudge them in real time through the enrollment process?
These questions and others must be answered daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Student engagement ebbs and flows throughout the enrollment journey. Your ability to review spending, optimize messaging and choose the right communication channels requires constant attention and measurement.
And guess what? Google Analytics is good but doesn’t give you everything you need. You need a platform that measures affinity for each student and helps predict application development and enrollment outcomes. Yield is now the name of the game. It’s time to accept that.
The second big budget expenditure — and, in my opinion, your most important — is your counseling staff. Successful enrollment and marketing leaders have successful admissions and marketing teams. The team can make or break your enrollment goals for the year.
While I agree with some of the accountability concepts expressed in a recent opinion piece, the very fact that we are in a more competitive atmosphere than ever before is going to cause inherent pressure to reach individual territory and enrollment goals. It has always been that way, and a certain amount of accountability is warranted.
However, and this is a big however, you must ask yourself this question: “Did you put your team in the best position to be successful?” Your strategic thoughts on how and when to use your “talent” should be the focus of your efforts and not an afterthought.
The best way to create momentum within your team is to give them the tools necessary to be successful. Sure, you can give them a CRM that tells them who applied, who’s been accepted and who is getting that next drip email. We used to do that with green bar printouts before CRMs.
Everyone has a communication plan that consists of phone calls, texting, email, letters, postcards and social media interaction. But do you and your counselors understanding the true needs of the students and their families as they make their enrollment journey? Can you answer the question: “Who has been engaging with any of my digital assets over the past 24 hours, week, or since they were freshmen in high school?”
If they can’t quantify affinity and prescribe attribution to what is being communicated, how can your counselors be successful? Call everyone? Text everyone? Why not call and text those who engaged with you yesterday, when they spent 20 minutes on your website looking at financial aid options. Stop wasting the most precious budget item you have — time.
Give your counseling team what they need: actionable data that lets them engage with families in a personal yet professional manner, where the needs of your prospective students are met along with the goals of your counseling staff.
In these tumultuous times, the merging of data and personalization must be the focus. When you look up that enrollment cliff, do you have the tools you and your team need to begin the climb?
Capture’s behavioral intelligence platform provides the data, calculations, solutions and services you need to deliver the personalized and relevant messages to those students and their families who are engaging with you. The platform provides a level of data that focuses your digital strategies, reduces wasteful spending and gives you better results. In addition, the platform provides student level affinity data to your admissions team, which allows them to provide a level of customer service that Gen Z has come to expect.
Enrollment marketing recruitment is in an evolutionary phase right now. Those who can adjust how they communicate value and create lasting relationships with their prospective students and families will traverse this enrollment cliff and reach their goals. The fundamentals of funnel development are changing. Your focus must now be on the endgame — not just hitting inquiry, application, and acceptance goals.
“When you look up that enrollment cliff, do you have the tools you and your team need to begin the climb?”
This concludes Part 3 of our blog trilogy, Climbing Gear: How to Scale the Enrollment Cliff. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them.
At Capture, we help higher ed institutions make personalized, data-driven, timely and measured connections with prospective students. Our platform, solutions and services let universities identify, convert and enroll students who will thrive at their institution. We’ve got the climbing gear to get you over the enrollment cliff.
To find out more, reach out to me or any of Capture’s industry specialists today.
By Christopher Harris Ed.D., Senior Enrollment Strategist, Capture Higher Ed