Optimizing Your Higher Education Marketing Strategy


By: Christopher Tashjian Oct 15, 2016

Optimizing Your Higher Education Marketing Strategy

How can marketing officers maximize the return on their student recruitment efforts – in both volume and quality of inquiries – without spending more marketing dollars? Often schools are so determined to meet their enrollment goals they make the mistake of throwing money at increasing inquiry volume, when the problem could be at some other point in the “funnel.” And while there’s never a silver bullet there are strategies you can implement today, to improve your lead volume and quality. First start with a detailed assessment of the effectiveness of your higher education marketing, call center and enrollment counselors – that is, all of the components that make up a high-return inquiry generation system. This is critically important because all of the aspects of your recruitment “funnel” are interrelated and co-dependent, and in order to improve your process, you must first understand your process. Once you are comfortable with how your institution receives and manages inquiries you can begin to implement some of the strategies below to optimize your marketing campaigns, hopefully without spending more on marketing.

1. Utilize technology

Use a technology platform that provides visibility because inquiries that aren’t workable squander staff and financial resources.

Inquiry Management System

Solutions, such as an inquiry management system, exist today to screen out bogus or invalid inquiries in real-time preventing them from ever reaching your enrollment counselors. In addition, they help you monitor your campaign performance and identify any issues or trends you notice specific to a particular lead source. You can employ this type of technology as a gateway to automate and streamline your marketing campaigns, reducing costs across the entire recruitment process. Additionally, quality inquiry management solutions will help you:

  1. Focus on quality inquiries to avoid maxing out allocations on low-performing ones
  2. Inform vendors immediately so they can deliver valid, workable inquiries to your team consistently
  3. Provide real time feedback to vendors so they reduce the number of unworkable leads delivered, while also helping you meet internal goals.

2. Leverage the benefits of your customer relationship management (CRM) system

Train your admissions team to evaluate and disposition inquiries correctly.
Instead of lumping prospects into a “catch all” or “not interested” bucket, figure out why the prospective student isn’t interested and disposition them accordingly.

This can help you identify any communications gaps with prospects and allow you to adjust messaging and program descriptions to more accurately describe your offerings and better appeal to prospective students, while also preventing uninterested candidates from wasting your team’s time.  If you are having trouble convincing your team that this extra effort will pay off, remind them that correctly bucketing inquiries will help to identify potential front-end and back-end deficiencies that will improve processes over time making their jobs easier. Who doesn’t like an easier job?

These improvements will also directly affect your bottom line through higher conversion rates and decreased acquisition costs, not to mention the indirect benefits of happier employees and improved brand image.

3. Analyze the market

Are there niches that your programs can fill? Do your programs draw from a specific area or field?
With gainful employment regulations in effect, teaching marketable skills is critical to student success, as well as the success of your institution. Analyze employment trends in markets where you have a high concentration of students. Ask students and employers what degrees and certifications they would like you to offer.

Identifying gaps in your degree offerings and focusing on developing programs that are high-in-demand or ones that are unique or in low supply will increase your institution’s appeal, improve your enrollment counselors’ ability to enroll students and ensure your school is prepared for success in the highly competitive world of online higher education student recruitment.
A data-driven approach to online student recruitment is a win-win for schools and students alike.
Students get information about schools they actually want to attend, and colleges and universities maximize return on their inquiries. Effectively managing the funnel, increases both the volume and quality of inquiries while decreasing the costs of student acquisition.

Enrollment counselors are also likely to be more enthusiastic and engaged since they are focused on contacting students who actually want to hear from them instead of expending efforts on unqualified or uninterested inquiries. This boost in team morale will translate into a great first impression with the prospective student and improve their overall enrollment experience, creating a foundation for stronger relationships with your student. Not only resulting in higher student acquisition rates, but also higher student retention and graduation rates.

Remaining competitive requires that you optimize all of your resources, and schools that deploy these three strategies will have a better understanding of how their inquiry generation campaigns are performing and ultimately be better positioned for success.