As we continue researching trends in higher ed, we’re finding the most effective admissions offices are circling back to Ye Olde Relationship Building Techniques. As a group who’s worked in this industry for 34 years, we get a chuckle out of the ever-changing tides. In many ways, seeing patterns emerge in enrollment habits is like watching bell bottoms come back around.
In the 1980s, The Parish Group was among the first organizations to find value in producing materials to aid relationship building between prospective students and colleges. During those first days, we hand-folded materials and had fun thinking completely out-of-the-box with ideas that were brand new and untested. In the decades since, we’ve all embraced technology and moved into a world of IP-targeting, geo-filters, and hashtags. And while technology is an immensely useful tool in successful recruitment, it falls flat without relationship building at its core.
This cycle in particular, we’re seeing success from schools who opt for personalization. Some institutions can afford to wow students with a mailed box of goodies, fitting the unboxing trends while standing out in the academic marketplace. A student who receives an unexpected box of gifts will feel any range of positive emotions towards the school: thankful, impressed, indebted, interested, proud. Gifts speak to students in a unique way and work to build necessary relationships, but they come with a hefty price tag. Good thing gifts are only the bonus way to influence relationship building and not the bedrock!
Regardless of what your school is willing to spend in student gifts, the key way to adopt a personalized approach in relationship building is to truly connect with each student. This job, when done well, will land in the hands of each admissions counselor, but remember that relationship building is part of a cultural expectation. Removing irritants in the enrollment process (even from offices beyond admissions!) and approaching each student conversation with a look into their file to best “remember” them and understand their needs is worth way more than a box of stickers and sunglasses.
Here are some concepts to consider as you work toward increasing your student yield:
- Understand (and log!) what’s stopping each student from paying the enrollment deposit. This assumes that every admissions counselor has a list of their students and knows which have been accepted but haven’t deposited. See to it that counselors make a point to contact these students (email/phone/text/social media) individually to understand any personal roadblocks and concerns at this stage.
- Listen to counseling staff as they share recurring concerns. It may be that students have difficulty reaching the billing office or a significant number haven’t received full financial aid information. Any recurring reason is worth attention to solve.
- Utilize student-given information to build interest. Most CRMs allow export of student data to segment very particular sub-markets. For instance, you could generate an email (or print campaign) that speaks toward the business school and basketball for one student while merging information about art programs and the student government association to someone else. (If you need help with this, let us know! This half-bulk/half-personalized merged communication is very effective.)
- Have a considerate culture. Imagine a non-deposited student calls your office, interested in scheduling a tour. In one universe, your employee answers the phone, works to get them scheduled, and hangs up. They technically did their job and answered the immediate student need. But in another universe, your employee answers the phone while pulling the student’s file up in your system. They see that they’re coming in from another state, haven’t visited before, and plan to major in math. They expand the conversation to not only include scheduling a tour, but meeting with a math professor, staying in a recommended hotel with a discount, and visiting the fan favorite ice cream joint while in town. That conversation matters and it will make a difference in student yield. You must set expectation and motivation for each employee to have informed, considerate conversations with students.
Keep pushing! We all know how much muscle it takes to push through this part of the year. Take comfort in knowing that the inexpensive habit of truly caring for students is the best investment you can make for yield! Need a hand with staff training, CRM expertise, or call campaign strategies? Give us a shout!