When Marketing & Admissions Collide: How To Drive College Enrollment

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

Colleges and universities realize the importance of branding and marketing. Many have made greater investments in building a brand that can be differentiated from its competition. Though many higher institutions have made larger investments and have even hired on marketing leadership from the corporate industry, they still struggle to see  a boost in undergraduate enrollment.

Many barriers may be responsible for a lack in enrollment, but one that we want to focus on is the disconnect that is often seen between higher education marketing agencies and admissions departments. In many cases, we see marketing departments focusing on institutional goals like branding and social media campaigns, while admissions does the work of seeking out students and driving revenue.

Two heads are better than one, so how can more higher institutions bridge the gap between marketing and admissions with the goal of increasing college enrollment?

Rethinking the Admissions Process

Though we are living in a digital age, the undergraduate enrollment process hasn’t changed significantly over the years.

What has changed is the way prospective students retrieve information. Rather than digging through books and magazines at the library, they can learn about student life and program information online. They can fill out online forms and receive information in their inboxes rather than their mailboxes.

Aside from the way information is obtained, the engagement process is largely the same. The student makes an inquiry, receives information and goes through a slow engagement cycle of campus tours, snail mail and in person meetings. This is why the marketing and admissions departments often find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum. To fix this barrier, your higher institution needs to embrace full digital.

Starting the Conversation: How to Align Marketing and Admissions

The purpose of going digital is to provide more transparency into the admissions funnel and a better investment of resources. How can you create a digital strategy that both your marketing and admissions departments can benefit from? We cover this below.

Define a Common Business Goal

Both your marketing and admissions departments must agree on a common goal, which is to reach students and increase revenue. Define what this means exactly for your college or university. For example, do you plan to boost college applications by 5 percent?

Establish Data Tracking

Marketing and admissions departments need to know how well their recruitment campaigns are working. Thanks to detailed tracking, you don’t have to make any assumptions. Put data tracking in place from beginning to end. How many clicks did the campaign receive? How many applicants were created?

Make Real Time Adjustments

There’s no reason to wait after-the-fact anymore. Both groups should analyze the data more frequently so they can see if their efforts are working. This way, they can review information in real time and make adjustments to ensure a more successful campaign.

Rolling Out the Changes: How to Begin Implementation

Any type of change in strategy is a big deal for higher education institutions. There’s a lot going on, especially during peak enrollment periods, so you need to have a game plan for how you’re going to implement these changes. The best advice is to start small.

Below are a few tips for getting started with collaboration between your marketing and admissions departments.

  • Talk Numbers. Help your groups visualize prospect behavior. You can access some of the data you need from your analytics program. It helps to see where enrollment could be increased. Presenting data also initiates conversation and gets the two groups talking.  

  • Map the Student Journey. Talk to students to get a better understanding of the typical student journey. What type of content is important when? Based on this feedback, develop a website and content that better meets these needs.

  • Set Conversion Goals. Your digital marketing team should set up clear, measurable conversion goals on campus visit forms, lead generation forms and applications. This way, you can begin measuring the impact of your admissions funnel.

No new strategy is going to develop overnight. But, you can start the conversation and begin implementing changes that take full advantage of digital and help marketing and admissions work together.

Planning Ahead: What Benefits You Will See

When you can see into the marketing and admissions funnels, your institution can make decisions in real time. This will make better use of your resources and put you ahead of the competition. Let’s explore a few of the benefits that you will see by creating collaboration between your two teams.

  • Save Time. With the proper data in place, you can prioritize which prospects should receive the most attention. Data also prevents repeated messages from going to the same student.

  • Save Money. Why spend money if your campaign isn’t working? By measuring the impact of your campaigns, you can allocate your budget wisely.

  • Test Ideas. When your marketing and admissions departments work together, it improves communication and collaboration. This leads to better ideas.

Marketing and admissions teams have a lot in common: they are both set out to drive college enrollment. By embracing digital, you can make these two teams more transparent and open up the lines of communication. Marketing will be more goal-focused and efficient at using data, while admissions will be more adaptable to working in real time.

 

About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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