The Seven Essentials of Enrollment Management
In much of undergraduate education, enrollment management is where the heavy lifting for marketing takes place. It is the unit responsible for undergraduate enrollment revenue, which is usually the largest revenue stream for a private college or university. The marketing focus of enrollment management is on the “admissions funnel,” the model that visually describes moving prospects down through the admissions process and into the university’s enrollment.
Marketing as an organization in higher education provides branding and marketing leadership for the institution. While the functions of marketing may be decentralized, there typically is a central marketing department that is focused on supporting enrollment marketing units campus-wide, helping to drive prospects into and down the various admissions funnels at the institution through advertising, publications, and the Internet.
While I am a believer in an integrated marketing program for colleges and universities that combines enrollment and marketing leadership–I led such a program as chief marketing and enrollment officer–it is not usually the case in higher education. Enrollment management has the leadership role of driving enrollment revenue, with support from marketing. This common model elevates the position of chief enrollment officer and makes it vital for a college or university to have a healthy and effective enrollment management program.
After 20 years as a chief enrollment officer, I’ve come to believe there are seven essentials for a successful enrollment management program:
- RESEARCH: on best practices, your competitive set, who you are as an institution (your dashboard plus dozens of other data), trends, SWOT, etc., etc., etc.
- PLAN: marketing plans that cover mission, SWOT, goals, target markets, marketing mix, and action plans. (See Planning for Changes in the Market. Marketing. It’s More than Promotion. The Marketing Plan: Navigating Your Way.)
- SYSTEMS: Your organizational charts have to make sense. Your admissions, retention, financial aid, and records systems have to be efficient and effective, and they have to allow for communication with each other and with other units outside the enrollment management division.
- PEOPLE: Quoting Jim Collins, “Do you have the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off of the bus?”
- POLICIES AND PROCEDURES: You may have the right people in the right seats, and may have good systems in place in your departments, but if your policies and procedures are not student-oriented, your recruitment–and especially your retention efforts–will be impeded.
- PROMOTIONAL STRATEGIES: Do you have enough of a left brain to put into play the very best enrollment management, admissions, and marketing strategies, and enough creative right brain to find that something extra to put you ahead of the competition?
- STRONG LEADERSHIP: This is about being a strong leader on campus to represent enrollment management. It’s about securing resources for your team. Being a strong enrollment leader is more than just being effective with the six parts listed above. It’s about your enrollment leadership being more than the sum of those parts.
Of course, these seven essentials won’t be effective and productive if you have brand reputation problems, you have an inconsistent message and visual look, your academic programs are not competitive, your location is not appealing, etc. In the end, marketing higher education is much more than just promotional strategies, and is deeply impacted by the perceived quality of your institution, programs and people.