8 1/2 Common Errors in the Student Recruitment Process
Apr 12, 2016
A few weeks ago, while having coffee with a former co-worker,the subject turned to our consulting work tied to the student recruitment process – specifically the common errors in the student recruitment process. Here’s what we came up with – let us know if you agree or have some modifications to suggest.
Your Student Recruitment Process. As we reported, too many colleges are failing to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to leads. Your prospective student lives in a world where [a] they submit a web form and [b] they are immediately served a ‘thank you’ page filled with relevant information driven by the data they just submitted, [c] they immediately receive an auto email filled with relevant information driven by the data they just submitted, and [d] they receive a phone call within 60-minutes/same business day.
Solution: In this day and age of technology – and for the money you spent on it – there really is no excuse for failing to offer a ‘thank you’ page and an auto email response. And it really shouldn’t be too much to expect that when a potential student submits a web form that informs you that they are interested in “Program A” starting “Term A”, that your responses (thank you page and auto email) offer relevant content based on that insight.
As for the phone call within 10 minutes – we consider that one a luxury item that really needs to be tested in order to determine if it pays for itself. And that assumes you have the resources to implement this tactic consistently and effectively.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt. II. There is an over-reliance on email and a lack of understanding and leveraging of the individual’s prepared channel for communications. There is no qualifying and prioritizing of leads so that resources can be better leveraged (efficiency) for greater effectiveness.
Solution. You’re dealing with Millennials – and some of them don’t like email and prefer text. Some even respond well to direct mail. And when you’re talking about a $50,000 graduate program that the individual is paying for out of their own pocket – a phone call sure can help build trust, engagement and a speedy transfer of accurate information that helps the individual select one over the other. So know your audience and their channel preferences – then test, measure and determine if the action is delivering acceptable returns.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt. III. As we reported, too many colleges treat every lead the same – which leads to the wrong message and offer being sent to a significant number of your leads. So when a potential student is interested in [ex] the cost of education and you respond with “world class faculty”, you’re going to lose the opportunity to enroll some of those potential students.
Solution. What we’ve seen here is that the technology could perform the task but doesn’t because the human element hasn’t made the time to sit down and create the processes along with the communications/content. For many, it’s one of those “If I did X now, I wouldn’t have to do Y and Z – but right now Y and Z require all my time so I never get to X.” Prioritization is the key here. For additional insight, check this out.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt. IIIa. As we reported, too many colleges fail to clearly address how the program of interest aligns with the potential student’s wants, needs, and expectations. An example would be when a prospective student asks how your MBA program will help them achieve their career goals and you respond, not with a question that will help you better understand their career goals, but with the following:
The MBA is designed for full-time working individuals. Courses are offered in the evenings and on Saturdays, allowing students to complete the program without interrupting their careers or excessively disrupting their personal lives. An online course option is available. Classes for the 57-credit program are offered in Location A, Location B, and Location C.
Solution. This should be addressed before the program and courses have been designed because you should be developing new programs and courses based on the potential students’ wants, needs, expectations, professional goals. But if that work wasn’t done upfront, then marketing/enrollment need to understand their audience well enough to be able to get the answers they need from the Dean, Program Director, faculty. Then use that insight to create the messages/content you need so that the potential student is consistently receiving the relevant information they need to make a wise decision.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt IV. You push them all to “Apply Now” which produces [a] many potential students go to other colleges because they come to realize that you’re not listening to them or answering their questions and [b] a lot of applications being started but not being completed or submitted. And both of these impact your performance metrics – the first shows that leads are not converting to “Start Application” phase, and many are failing to complete the Application phase.
Solution. Suggesting they “Apply Now” immediately after receiving the completed web form from a new lead that expressed a desire to start in a semester set in the distant future is probably not the best course of action. Heck, doing that with any new lead probably isn’t the best course of action. You need information to determine if you feel they will succeed – and they need information in order to determine if they want to pursue a degree at your institution. Invest the time upfront to make an informed decision together – you will be amazed at how that impacts recruitment, retention and referrals.
Let me explain. Many potential students come to you with questions and doubts and concerns. And you should look upon all these potential students with the wisdom that comes from your data – specifically the traits and factors that successful graduates share and those that fail to graduate share. Together, you share information until both parties determine that the individual and the institution/program are a strong match for each other. If that 2-way benefit doesn’t exist, changes are pretty strong that it will end in withdrawal/drop out/failure to graduate.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt. V. You fail to learn from any of the above in order to improve performance based on past mistakes. When was the last time you surveyed leads that failed to start the application or that started the application but failed to complete it?
Solution. Market research – because everything you do should be centered around test, measure, analyze, modify and repeat. Click for more details on how.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt. VI. The first two questions the potential student asks is “How much and how long?” You fail to give them a hard number for “How much” until it’s time to register for classes. All along the way, you point them to a calculator that gives them an “…estimate of how much students similar to you paid to attend…” Nothing is more infuriating than asking a question and not get an answer.
Solution. Answer their questions and stop dancing around trying to avoid it because you’re concerned that once they learn the truth, they won’t be able to handle the truth. Your prices are your prices – if you are scared that they will chase away too many potential students, fix it. But don’t avoid answering the question – that just makes matters worse.
Your Nurturing Process, Pt. VII. During a recent project, the Vice President for Enrollment Management told us that they lost a lot of enrollments to the fact that their audience wanted online courses but the college insisted on offering only classroom courses. In another project, we were told that the primary objective was classroom students so online courses offerings were slim to none. During the nurturing process, this prevents you from enrolling students – and when a student’s situation changes and they need the flexibility, they leave because you don’t offer it to them.
Solution. Either offer what your audience wants and needs, or get a new target audience.
Your Student Recruitment Process, Pt. VIII. New students are ignored once they have been accepted and registered for classes that don’t start immediately – or, in other words, there is a gap between your Nurturing Process and your Student Retention Process. We have seen some situations where students are accepted and register for class as much as a year before their first class starts – and they don’t receive any communications for 10 – 11 months when “Reminder” emails start going out asking the student to order their text.
Solution. Develop a process that allows you to communicate with the individual across the entire scope of your relationship – no gaps. That first encounter will come when they decide it’s the right time to contact you and, we suggest that the last time is at their grave because they will have a lifetime of personal education needs and they will refer others to you over the course of their lifetime. (And then there is advancement!)
Dudley Stevenson, founder and CEO of DWS Associates, has over thirty-five years’ experience in consumer marketing, business-to-business marketing, and direct marketing, including developing, planning, and implementing go-to-market strategies. He's also the author of "Marketing Direct: Breaking Through The Clutter." Working with organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, he and his team have helped clients such as IBM, Sony, Neiman Marcus, Arizona Highways, Marshall Field & Co., Mrs. Field’s, UNICEF, and Patagonia implement successful direct marketing programs. A longtime member of the Direct Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association, Stevenson is also a sought-after speaker. He’s given hundreds of presentations and workshops on marketing and direct marketing. His “Marketing Planning 101” workshop alone has reached more than 100,000 marketing and sales professionals.