Help! My university is struggling to meet its enrollment targets…

College/University Presidents, Enrollment directors, recruitment and marketing managers – does this sound familiar? Here are some of the common ‘gripes’ I hear and am offering my response. Please feel free to add/comment.

My brand positioning doesn’t seem to connect with my audience. How is my institution differentiated? What is the core message that will connect with my target audience?

We often tend to look inward – how old is my institution, how many programs do WE have?

What is more important are the intangible things an institution can offer: YOU get a sense of belonging, a promising future without financial uncertainty through provision of solid graduate outcomes. If it comes down to two universities, chances are the one that supports the graduate in getting a full-time job will have the upper hand.

Always keep the student (and parents) interest and concerns above all in your value story. YOU vs WE.

I am working so hard but am struggling to meet my enrollment targets…

Clay Christensen, Harvard Faculty and leading authority on Higher Education recently announced that 50% of HEIs in US will go bankrupt by 2050.

If the enrollment strategies and campaigns continue to dwell in the past this is likely to happen sooner rather than later not just in US but globally as well.

The investments and the enrollment outcomes are often misaligned as many HEIs have very rudimentary measures of efficiency, outcomes, trends that are often not tracked over time.

If you do not optimize your time, institutional budget towards the most effective and efficient channels/campaigns you will continue to “word hard but not smart”.

Remember – what gets measured, gets done.

My prospects are not engaged…

Where do my prospects come from? Which geographies? Which channels? What demographics?

Domestic and international students need to be engaged in different ways – outbound/inbound digital marketing and agents is critical for international while open days, events, career/college fairs, personal counseling are important for domestic.

For each of the prospect cluster understand the channels and frequency with which they should be engaged.

Engagement measurement through A/B testing, constant results measurement require automation and ‘real time’ reporting.

My enrollment strategy and operations are not aligned…

How often have we heard that the marketing department did not generate the quantity/quality of leads or vice versa the admissions department responsible for lead conversions did not do its job?

Organizational accountability for an integrated enrollment strategy and operations is critical to alignment

Each channel and campaign must be measured on reach, response, engagement, conversion and ROI

Only then can you optimize your channel efficiency and resource allocation.

I have no/partial control on the website/social media…

Organic leads through the website (research indicates that website is the most cited source of information for prospects) are the most valuable – yet often – enrollment departments do not have design, authoring, testing and optimization access/control

Simple, easy to find enquiry forms are a powerful tool

User Experience needs to be constantly tested and improved

Enrollment Marketing should be accountable for the specific website and social media pages aimed at prospective students (and not necessarily the whole website).

My targets are being raised and my budget is being reduced. Help!

Welcome to the real world. As David Ogilvy, the advertising guru, once famously said: “Half of advertising money is a waste. I just don’t know which half”.

That was perhaps true in the era of print, TV, radio advertising where reach, frequency, impact were the fuzzy measures of campaign success.

With enrollment marketing budgets moving to digital channels – by some account over 80% – we certainly have the ability to know the ‘wasteful half’.

Eliminate waste by ‘testing before investing’ in digital campaigns – even if they are with 3rd party affiliate lead generation partners. Measure engagement, conversions and ROI constantly and ruthlessly and you will find that you can actually ‘do more with less’.

In summary –

– Position your brand in line with your target audience (You vs. We)

– Embrace digital and automation

– Measure and adapt constantly

– Integrated strategy and operations

– Do more, with less.

Best wishes and I hope to see your university not just grow but thrive.


Dr Ajay Shukla

I am the Owner of this educational search portal to facilitate the students to pick up the desired programs.

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