Bridging the Gap Between Marketing & Recruitment in Higher Education

Christina Diecidue

Marketing Project Coordinator

Ketchup and mustard. Bread and butter. Wine and cheese. What do all of these things have in common? They go together in pairs. One is better with the other because each one highlights the other’s strengths. And food isn’t the only area where pairs are common. We can go on and on with things that are better when they’re together.

In the business world, pairs count too. Consider that each company has many different branches, but they all come from the same tree. Even though many of these branches operate independently, each one is working toward a common goal that will benefit everyone. When these branches work together, it creates a stronger branche that further nourishes the tree. Unfortunately, many companies deal with communication issues that cause these branches to separate from each other, which hurts the end result.

For instance, marketing and sales departments are two teams that should work closely together to effectively sell products. They can make magic happen when they collaborate and share ideas. But they often struggle to work together and fail to see themselves as a unified team.

Why the War Between Marketing and Recruitment?

The same is true in America’s higher institutions. The marketing and recruiting departments are responsible for bringing in new students, yet there is a major disconnect between the two. They should be cohesive, but often times, they aren’t. You may notice the same situation going on at your school. Do you find that the marketing and recruitment departments are talking, sharing ideas and supporting one another, or do you find that they are largely operating independently?

Not only can you observe some of this behavior going on (overlapping duties, breakdown of communication, not asking for direction), but you can also ask the staff in these departments how closely they work with the other department. Usually, the responses go something like this.

  • Recruitment: We’re responsible for handling the important stuff like bringing in the students, filling the seats and collecting tuitions. This is what makes the college run. If the marketing department has any concerns, they should come to us because we know which students are coming into the school.

  • Marketing: We look out for the brand and the way it is perceived by prospective students. The brand’s image is more than just for incoming students; it has an impact on parents, staff, alumni, and the community. Though recruiting students is essential, the goals are often short-term and only reviewed on a year-by-year basis.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If you feel that your marketing and recruitment departments could be better unified, you’re not alone. Many higher institutions face this predicament and they’re not sure how to make a change. Before we discuss how to build a more tight-knit community, let’s go over the benefits to bridging the gap between marketing and recruitment and bringing in the best students.

Benefits of Teamwork

  • Achieve short- and long-term goals. The recruitment team is focused on the short-term aspect, which is getting the sale, or in this case, enrolling the student. The marketing team is focused on the long-term goal because they have to manage the brand in the long run. By working collectively, both short- and long-term goals can be met.

  • Share insight. Both teams see different sides of the sales and marketing process, and working together provides fresh insight. Recruitment can share what’s happening in the marketplace, what competitors are doing and what potential exists. Marketing can use this information to build a better image that attracts students in a targeted, positive manner.

  • Be the face of your institution. It’s not uncommon for recruitment to handle light marketing tasks, especially with the free tools that are available online. But sometimes, this can be outward and clue others in that you’re not working together. For example, imagine both departments setting up their own Facebook pages? Working together is good for your school and good for your image.

  • Create consistent marketing materials. If both departments are creating their own marketing materials to some degree, it’s possible that these materials will lack consistency. It’s very important from a branding perspective to have the same tone, font, colors, etc. that positively represent your school.

  • Improve communication. Each department in your institution is working toward a common goal, which is bettering your university. Practicing good communication not only benefits the dynamics inside your school, but also it helps with external relationships. After all, how can you expect your teams to negotiate with others if you can’t negotiate among yourselves?

  • Have a well-defined strategy. Rather than having your teams work in different directions, you can have everyone working toward a clear, well-defined strategy. This helps your university focus and follow a consistent plan.

How to Get the Two Sides Working Together

You’re probably sold on the idea of getting your marketing and recruitment teams to work together, but how do you go about doing so? Here are a few pointers to get you started, but don’t be surprised if it takes time to develop these stronger relationships.

  • Change the thinking. One of the main reasons why recruitment and marketing don’t mesh is because one thinks in terms of bringing in the leads while the other focuses on conversions. However, the college admissions process is far from black and white. Encourage both teams to work on nurturing leads and supporting dialogue between the college and students.

  • Discuss end goals. Recruitment and marketing have the same goal of growing the university, but they work differently to achieve it. Unfortunately, the end goal often gets lost because the two sides are so focused on doing things their way. Point out the goals that both sides share and the rewards that can be enjoyed if these goals are met.

  • Create the same student persona. Make sure both sides are selling to the same student persona. It’s a problem if recruitment is looking to bring in older students with demanding schedules while the marketing team is marketing to young students. They should be able to describe the students they’re going after, what challenges they have, and what their pain points are.

  • Hold regular meetings. Weekly meetings serve as an opportunity to get both recruitment and marketing together to discuss challenges, exchange ideas and share insight. Through these meetings, communication is enhanced and working together becomes more natural.

  • Utilize shared technology. It’s highly beneficial for recruitment and marketing to share the same programs so that they can see which leads were won, which were lost, and which were not really leads at all. This information helps the marketing department create efficient marketing materials and allows admissions to see which students are enrolling and which aren’t.

Colleges and universities are always looking for ways to better their campus, bring in more students and keep enrollment numbers up. Luckily, bridging the gap between recruitment and marketing is a cost-effective and relatively simple way to improve the school both today and in the future. There should be no war between the two departments. When working in unison, the end goals can be accomplished faster and more efficiently, and incoming students will experience a more positive application and admissions process.

About the Author: Christina Diecidue

Christina Diecidue is the Marketing Project Coordinator at SEMGeeks.  She holds a B.S. in Business Administration, with concentrations in marketing, advertising, and web design from Rider University.  Known to be a meticulous worker, Christina values each client's individual goals and works to meet their digital strategy needs accordingly.  With valuable knowledge in higher education, alumni engagement, and leadership, she provides an array of skills to the SEMGeeks team.  In her free time, Christina can be found binge watching repeats of Friends and spending time with her family.

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