Ok, we get it. We are all in unchartered territory and are being faced with a multitude of additional stumbling blocks related to new student recruitment. Enrollment management practitioners have historically counted on an abundance of test takers to have “raised their hands” by now to express interest. The spring of 2020 and the onset of COVID-19 caused a huge ripple effect across the enrollment management spectrum as standardized test dates and campus visits alike were cancelled. Along with relaxed testing requirements for admissions and scholarship qualifications, everyone has had to revisit strategic communication plans. But are you really being strategic or are you overdoing it?
A solid new student recruitment strategy incorporates a multitude of communication points across the lifecycle of the prospective student. Long gone are the days of blowing a mailing budget sending out large course catalogs (does anyone print these any longer?) now that everything is in digital format. As has always been the case, direct mail (just not catalogs) plays a vital part in the relationship building moments with the prospect and the family alike. The right mailing strategy can still garner a solid response rate among 18 to 22-year-olds and is a way to not so secretly interact with the entire family. (Everyone checks the mail!) Pre-COVID, there was a sector of the higher ed enrollment management community that considered direct mail to be a thing of the past.
Au contraire, mon frère…
It actually could take 18 to 20 variable communication touches before some prospects make their very first actionable step in expressing interest in a college or university, so a strong direct mail strategy has to be a part of the plan. If you have restructured or are restructuring your communication strategy without thinking of the challenges our new reality provides, what you have is a mess. If all of your communications efforts are in the digital arena even at the prospect level, “Houston We Have A Problem!”
In researching prospective communications both old and new, it is clear that some institutions have gone far beyond the grey area and are now operating in the overkill range. Optimizing your communication strategy is necessary for each stage of your enrollment funnel, so please understand that more is not always better. Our research shows that there are institutions that have sent 66 (and most likely more by the time you read this according to current schedules) emails to prospective students in under three months. By any definition, that is overkill. Think about it this way: what type of direct advertisement are you interested in receiving six or seven times a week for months on end? Remember this is the level of contact on top of the Zoom fatigue that we are all learning more about in our new recruitment reality. This is definitely a case of more not being better.
Please take a few moments to review your communication schedule and understand just how many touches you have and in what form those touches are taking place. There is no way that 66 emails in under three months is the strategic thing to do.