What Makes for a Killer Enrollment Contact Strategy?

By: Chris Gilmore Apr 02, 2018

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The most crucial step to reach and capture student attention lies in your contact strategy. In fact, setting the tone for your relationships with potential students throughout the enrollment lifecycle lends itself to how they expect to be communicated with during their time as a student. If you want to retain students, you’ve got to the find the right ones for your institution – and you need to do it fast. That’s why it’s important to consult with someone who has experience not just with test-driving a contact strategy; a truly savvy strategist also troubleshoots and optimizes to maximize every opportunity. Some enrollment contact strategies are better than others. This post can help you understand how to recognize the difference and create the best plan to achieve your goals. You can also download the free eBook “Enrollment Marketing Management: Learn How to Convert Prospective Students into Enrollments.”

A solid contact strategy efficiently communicates with and responds to student inquiries. But a resilient and vital one does much more.

To break through and make that difference with your prospects, it’s important to set focused goals for your business. Here are your 3 crucial focus areas:

  1. Provide a quick response to the curious student
  2. Help them understand who you are and your value to them
  3. Motivate students to take action (i.e. enroll or apply)

Sounds simple enough, but we know these are challenging missions. We’ve worked hard to understand how this works and it’s never been easy; this competitive higher education market only means it’s that much more crucial to implement an effective and evolving contact strategy. In fact, according to the 2017 Higher Education Digital Marketing Trends report from EducationDynamics and Aslanian Market Research, students make enrollment decisions FAST. That means you’ve got to be faster and more effective to get their attention. Here’s How We Know

  • Nearly half of undergraduate students and 57% of graduate students ultimately chose the first school to respond to their inquiries.* That means being first to respond can make the difference between capturing the flag and just waving it on a windy day.
  • 68% of students made a decision about where to attend within a month-long search. So, you’ve got a brief opportunity window from start to finish to make your mark in the mind of a prospective student.*
68% of students made a decision about where to attend within a month-long search. So, you’ve got a brief opportunity window from start to finish to make your mark in the mind of a prospective student.*
What questions SHOULD you being asking as you build your contact strategy:

What do students like? They like direct contact, personalization, and feeling as if they’re interacting with an actual person. Gen Z and Millennials in particular want to matter as an individual. More than anything, they want their specific interests to be addressed directly in your response and what you offer. So, ask yourself these questions about your contact process:

  • Who’s your audience?
    • Probe and collect data for Age, Background, Degree Interest, and Priorities
  • What message are you trying to convey?
    • Focus on your defined goal for that stage of contact – Respond/Apply/Enroll
  • Why should they care about your message?
    • Clearly express your value (i.e. Convenience, Authority, Service, Price) – where you excel
  • How will you reach them?
    • Incorporate different platforms and Customize/Craft individual responses in all cases. Examples: Email/Phone/Text
  • How often and for how long will you engage them?
    • Create a timeline for each specific strategy and customize across all categories. Timeline example:
      • Student fills out a particular form
      • ASAP unique call and email to them
      • Day 3 new call and new email
      • Day 5 tailored call, unique email
      • Day 7 follow through email
What KPI’s should you be tracking and optimizing against?

This answer is unique to every institution and campaign, however there are a few that everyone should be tracking to improve your contact strategy. Here are a some popular key performance indicators:

  1. How many new contact list members are there?
  2. What is the positive contact rate for these new leads generated?
  3. What is your email-open and click through rate?
  4. How long does it take between first contact and application submission?
  5. What else can you think of?

In other words, define your success by your data — keep a collective obsession in your business culture about how you’re doing. Make it a data obsession, based on the numbers flowing in and improving those numbers onward and upward. Keep track of benchmarks and adjust them with an eye on driving them forward with adjustments that reap improvement. With these tools and practices in mind, you can develop the best contact strategy for your enrollment goals.

Remember to stay on top of your numbers and never forget what makes your institution unique so you can shine the spotlight on what you have to offer – and what matters most to students. By attracting students who are most suited to you, you have the formula for a win-win situation.

  Download the full eBook here: “Enrollment Marketing Management: Learn How to Convert Prospective Students into Enrollments” * Clinefelter, D. L. & Aslanian, C. B., (2016). Online college students 2016: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: The Learning House, Inc.