The college recruitment landscape has undergone another transformation and will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future. In the 1980’s and 90’s, we were worried about buying enough names, sending the right amount of mail, and making enough phone calls. Since the early 2000’s we have added such things as texting, digital advertising, and social media influencer campaigns (to name a few) — all while continuing to purchase as many names as we can to fill the top end of the funnel.
That trajectory is unsustainable; buying more names will not guarantee you the class you want. Students and families today are on a student decision journey and there are more efficient and effective ways to market to prospective students based upon real-time student behavior rather than post-time student-reported data.
The ability for enrollment and marketing leaders to work in an agile environment and recognize that every student’s journey is different is the key to future success.
Prospective Student Mindset
The college recruitment funnel, traditionally, has followed a linear path: from awareness to interest, to application, to acceptance, to enrollment. However, with the advent of technology and the rise of non-traditional students, this funnel has changed drastically. To get a better idea of who is going to apply and enroll, we need to look at different metrics than before.
Recent studies have given guidance into the mindset of Gen Z and how we can identify, convert, and enroll more of the right students.
- 96% feel loyal to a brand that they have built affinity for over time.
- 84% engage with marketing efforts from a brand that they are loyal to.
- 81% expect a personalized experience when interacting with your digital strategies.
The way we did things, even as recently as a few years ago, must change or we will continue to see enrollment fluctuations in this volatile market. Thinking beyond the number of inquiries, applications, and acceptances is now required to ensure your enrollment success.
Strengthening the Conversion Process
The student decision journey is comprised of a series of micro-conversions — including thousands of variables for every student and family. Communicating the right message at the right time is paramount.
To be successful, enrollment and marketing leaders must integrate a behavioral intelligence-powered, multi-channel, personalized, digital approach to effectively motivate prospects forward in the decision process. This requires a combination of email marketing, digital advertising, and print — all influenced by the real-time behavior of your prospects — to expand and strengthen the conversion process.
“To get a better idea of who is going to apply and enroll, we need to look at different metrics than before.”
What formerly was a simple funnel of high school juniors and rising seniors has now expanded to students who are entering their freshmen year. Building brand affinity for your institution must be done early and often in a personal fashion. When evaluating your enrollment cycle, consider:
- As a prospective student explores your institution’s website, visits your campus, and eventually applies, each of those interactions over the years must be weighed and examined as part of any recruitment plan.
- Affinity is not only measured over the life cycle but also must be measured weekly. Weekly interactions can help your counselors with their important work of creating those opportunities for personalized interactions.
- Your number of stealth prospective students must be measured and addressed.
- When employing a behavioral intelligence platform that measures activity and conversions, the most important part of creating that personalized journey is the ability to know who is on your website or interacting with other digital strategies.
- Knowing beyond the open and click who is interacting with you, when they are doing it, and what their true interest in your institution is paramount to success.
- Even tracking family member activities can give insights we have never had before.
The data is out there, how you harness it and use it to help students with their journey is more important than buying the next 50,000 names.
Measuring the Enrollment Journey
The importance of tracking engagement metrics rather than just traditional enrollment metrics can provide you with pinpoint accuracy when it comes to deploying additional resources. Engagement metrics include things like time spent on the college’s website, number of pages visited, and number of emails that have been interacted with.
By tracking these metrics, enrollment managers can better understand how prospective students are interacting with their college and adjust their recruitment efforts accordingly.
“The data is out there, how you harness it and use it to help students with their journey is more important than buying the next 50,000 names.”
In the end, your approach to measuring the enrollment journey and improving recruitment efforts is based on rethinking traditional funnel metrics, tracking engagement metrics, and focusing on personalized marketing. By taking this approach, enrollment managers can better understand how students are engaging with their college and can make data-driven decisions to improve their recruitment efforts and increase enrollment.
By Christopher Harris, Ed.D., Senior Enrollment Strategist, Capture Higher Ed