The best admissions yield piece ever?

To higher education marketing pros, April & May is “yield season.” It’s the culmination of all their marketing and relationship-building efforts to convert a suspect to a prospect to an applicant to an admitted student.

Yield is the percentage of admitted students who actually decide to enroll. This is a big deal in enrollment marketing – having knowledge of where the yield percentage might fall provides a target of how many students the admissions office needs to, or is willing to, accept. Tracking the tuition deposits as they begin to trickle in is a daily process for admissions, and is why the final piece of marketing communications – the admissions yield piece – is so important.

Over the years I have seen all kinds of yield tactics from fact sheets to multi-page brochures. They all seem compelled to give the prospect ‘one more reason’ to consider their school. (As if two years of curated courtship through the admission process has managed to somehow leave something out.)

I learned a great lesson about admissions yield a few years back when North Central College decided to go forward with an idea I had for a book that communicated only what people loved about the college. No information about programs, no facts about student-faculty ratio, nothing about financial aid. In fact nothing “institutional” at all. Only actual voices – of students, faculty and staff.

“i speak” was, and is, a 100-page book full of impressions, emotions, and photographs. Think Twitter and Instagram – dealing with a single topic and delivered in a single volume at yield time. At a time when everyone else sends ‘one-more-reason-you’ll-like-our-college-type’ tactics, “i speak” delivered what I call “thud factor” (the sound of the book being dropped on a table). It was phenomenal success – the most successful marketing piece North Central has ever done (their words, not mine). “i speak” upped their yield percentage by 3% and is credited with delivering 53 additional students.

Why did it work? In my opinion, it resisted the trap of telling prospects the ‘one more thing’ they didn’t want to know anyway, and it simply reintroduced them to everything they had already experienced and loved about the college in the first place. Plus…this book was seen as a gift, not a marketing piece. (After three years, many upperclassmen I spoke to still have it on their bookshelf.) Not surprising that we’re doing it again for yield season 2013.

The lesson for everyone? Know your brand well enough, and respect your audience deep enough to not be compelled to “sell” at every juncture. Relax. Let them see you at your best. This is a book that smiles at you and embraces you – exactly what a prospective student experiences when he or she visits North Central.

Enjoy this advanced peek, by way of a few select spreads, of the upcoming second version of the 100-page “i speak.”

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Learn more about Elliance’s higher education marketing and branding services. And, if you would like to see ‘i speak’ for yourself, contact us. You may just think it’s the best admissions yield piece ever.