Old Ways Don't Open New Doors
Jul 23, 2017
We get so focused on ‘getting things done’ that we tend to forget or just keep on postponing the important work of stepping back and looking at the ‘bigger picture’. And it’s that ‘stepping back’ that can help you become more effective and efficient at achieving your enrollment goals.
Change happens inside your institution and in the world around us every day – and that means that what worked so well yesterday might not work at all today.
Co-workers come and go. Colleagues at our service providers, vendors and agencies do the same. The economy changes. The government passes new legislation. Society views and habits shift. New technology is developed and available that allows us to do more or – in the worst case – it allows us to do the same things with a challenging learning curve that eats up a little extra time and sanity.
But you know this. You live it every day. And I don’t have to make the case that if you’re going to achieve your enrollment goals, you need to figure out how to get the correct answers to some important questions.
ASKING TOUGH QUESTIONS IS GOOD – GETTING THE RIGHT ANSWERS IS BETTER
Here are just a few of the questions you need to be asking and answering if you are going to achieve your enrollment goals.
How could we be more effective and efficient? Do we have the necessary resources (internal and external, human, financial and technology) to achieve our institution’s goals?
Have we identified and defined our audiences as clearly and accurately as we should? Are our audiences still in need of the same things, for the same reasons, that we uncovered the last time we evaluated their wants and needs?
Are our media choices still the most effective for our audiences – or have their preferences changed? Are our messages and offers the most effective for when we communicate them or are we saying the wrong things at the wrong time?
Do we have efficient processes in place to get the work we need to do quickly, accurately, affordably? Do we have efficient processes in place to help our audiences quickly, easily get the accurate information they need to make informed decisions regarding moving forward with our institution or going elsewhere? And when our audiences do decide they want to move forward with us, do we have efficient processes in place for them to do so?
A WORD ABOUT ‘AUDIENCES’
What we have seen is that the primary focus is the “traditional” student and the adult/post-traditional student tends to get left-overs.
Few institutions have dedicated resources for adult/post-traditional audiences and the level of experience of internal and external human resources tends to lean heavily in favor of “traditional”. The focus is on a different segment with different wants and needs, different selection criteria and decision-making processes. And the result is the adult/graduate programs suffer.
Taking it a step further, communicating with audiences other than prospective and current students tend to suffer as well. Faculty and staff might not get the attention they deserve. Community leaders might also suffer from infrequent, inconsistent communications – and that can significantly hamper your institution’s ability to succeed in many critical areas such financial support, enrollments and more.
On a recent project, we visited the site of a mid-sized public university and realized that the information in certain areas was incorrect – and had been that way for more than 5-years. No wonder their enrollments were down double-digits! And morale was low. Turnover was high.
WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
The answer is a marketing communications assessment. This assessment looks at current practices and helps identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.
Now, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking “Great – one more thing to add to my ever growing ‘To-Do List’. How am I going to find the time to get this done?”
One option is to approach the assessment as you would approach eating an elephant – focus on getting down one bite at a time until everything is completed. Chances are you have asked many of those questions mentioned earlier – and that you have the data necessary to answer them. The challenge is making the time to gather the data, analyze it and develop recommendations for modifications and improvements.
That said, when you realize all that work you just finished might not be as effective as it should be, you can start to identify activities that you can push to the side so you can get the answers you need.
But for those of you doing this for the first time, the better option – in my humble opinion – is outsourcing. And before you roll your eyes at this recommendation and mumble something about “…not having the budget…”, keep the following in mind.
Right now, you are investing precious limited resources in things that are not producing results that cover the investment.
The key to making this investment in outsourcing your marketing communications assessment is making sure it generates an acceptable return with the resources you direct towards this work from under-performing activities.
Since the assessment should be a regular event, require the vendor to design the processes your need to capture, store and analyze the right data moving forward. Then have them train you on how it works and how you can handle your own assessments moving forward.
Then figure out how many incremental enrollments this work must produce to pay for itself – and ask yourself if you think this is realistic. Do this and you will be generating greater returns on your investment, and you will be seeing greater returns on future activities moving forward.
If you have questions or would like to discuss this further – give us a call at 651-315-7588. Remember, we offer a complimentary consultation so we’re happy to make this the focus on that service for you!
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.