The Covid pandemic has changed the landscape of enrollment management. Counselors aren’t able to travel to schools and meet prospective applicants face to face. Many students aren’t visiting colleges and aren’t able to take SAT and ACT tests. So how does a college enroll students in the absence of travel, the ability to purchase College Board lists or meet students face-to-face?
Here are 10 tactics for growing enrollment in these challenging times:
1. Abandon Traditional Student Search Models. Hunt Like Sharks. Don’t Feed Like Whales.
The era of buying prospects names, spamming them, seeing who sticks, and praying some convert is over.
Tell stories of successful students and alumni; let like-minded prospects find them. Embrace new digital methodologies based on micro-segmentation, machine learning, big-data algorithms and affinity groups. Think right-fit, admission pipes and inverted admissions funnels, not traditional admissions funnels.
2. Hold Scholarship Essay Competitions
Shift existing scholarship dollars to support a national Scholarship Essay Competition. Use owned, paid, and earned media to attract prospective students.
3. Create Story-based Virtual Tours
Create a virtual tour that combines the best of still photography, student/alumni testimonials/quotes and a sense of place and culture. Use the testimonials/quotes to convey your school’s culture, not as a way finding device. Don’t show a dorm as a physical space, tell the story of a dorm friendship that endured for many years.
4. Develop a “Future of Work” Microsite for Guidance Counselors
Create an information-rich microsite aimed at helping high school guidance counselors convey how your college is preparing students for emergent careers. Tap your faculty, alumni, financial aid and career counseling staff to prepare the guide. Use owned, paid, and earned media to promote the guide to school counselors, students and the media.
5. Amplify Your College Blog and Publications to Achieve Google Page 1 Rankings
Invest in a more robust content mix for your college academic blog, developing a deep archive of student and alumni stories that can be used by your enrollment counseling team. Prioritize stories of audiences that drive institutional revenue.
Infuse your stories with targeted search engine optimization keywords to realize regional, national and international Google page 1 rankings.
6. Energize Influencers, Referral Networks and Reliable Feeders
Befriend high school college counselors, principals, teachers, and corporate/government training leaders. Wholesale student streams provide a solid foundation to supplement your retail one-on-one recruitment.
7. Invest in the Marketing of Signature Program Portfolios
Lead with strengths. Market distinctive programs where you have an indisputable competitive advantage.
Fight the temptation to start new me-too programs. No one has realized prosperity with me-too commodity offerings.
8. Invest in Smart Paid Advertising
Avoid democratic budget allocation. Target right-fit prospects where they hang out. Leverage machine learning, reliance on algorithms, and micro-segmentation techniques but balance them with your judgement. Embrace data-driven decision making. Measure what matters, watch what you see, see the unseen — but also trust your instinct and gut. Take bold action once you gather the insights from your data.
9. Augment Integrated Marketing with Timely Follow-up and Outreach
This trifecta is the holy grail of higher education enrollment and marketing. You take one out, and success will elude you. Don’t let automation get in the way of personalized and timely follow-up. There are no short-cuts for old-fashioned relationship building.
10. Leverage Tools, Technologies, Process and Imagination
Adopt CRM and marketing automation, but not to replace the essential relationship building work that needs to be done to win the hearts and minds of prospects. Imagination, passion and purpose — not process — is what prospects ultimately buy and are buying into.
In a nutshell, during the pandemic, enrollment managers have to be creative, smart and strategic.