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Best Practices in Enrollment White Paper


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Best Practices in Enrollment White Paper

  1. 1. ®Best Practices in EnrollmentMarketing Management
  2. 2. ®B | PAGE
  3. 3. Best Practices in EnrollmentBest Practices inEnrollment Marketing ManagementTable of ContentsIntroduction ....................................................................................IIExecutive Summary ....... ..................................................................1Best Practices 1: Seek ‘Educated’ Prospects ..... ................................................4 2: Choose Quality Over Quantity...... ............................................4 3: Take Only What You Can Eat ..... ..............................................6 4: Understand Your Customers and Their Needs ..... ......................6 5: Choose Your Battles (and the Right Weapons) ..... ....................7 6: Make Important Resources Available Online.... ......................10 7: Use Your Website to Support Your Marketing Efforts ... ............10 8: Close the Loop ... ..................................................................11 9: Consider the Other Factors Affecting Conversion Rates ... ........12 10: It’s All About Relationships ... ................................................13Conclusion .... ...............................................................................14Appendix A: Data from the EducationDynamics eLearning Index........15Appendix B: Best Practices at Work.................................................16 I | PAGE
  4. 4. ® Introduction In 2009, 2.1 million students pursued a fully online degree program. That represents more than 10 percent of all higher education enrollments in the United States, and reflects a doubling of the number of students enrolled in such study since 2004. Perhaps more important for future planning is that the Sloan Consortium predicts 4 million students (likely to be 20 percent of all higher education enrollments) will enroll in fully online programs in 2014 or before. Attracting and enrolling students in online programs has become a competitive game, requiring strategy, skill and persistence. Those who have been playing the game for a while know which obstacles to avoid and the best practices to apply, although some have learned the hard way, primarily from their own mistakes and miscon- ceptions. These strategies extend throughout the lifecycle of the student acquisition process, from lead generation (e.g. garnering initial interest) through “closing the deal” and enrolling a student. This paper is designed to share the knowledge and experience gained from veterans in the field of online student acquisition through the eyes and ears of EducationDynamics, a pioneer in online marketing services for the post-secondary market. The information presented in this paper was gathered by tracking the behavior of prospec- tive students from one of EducationDynamics’ premier student resources, | PAGE
  5. 5. Best Practices in EnrollmentExecutive SummaryMore of Marketing Budget Moving OnlineAs the growth in online education has accelerated, so too has the use of the Web as the most popular mediumfor prospective students to research their educational options. In turn, online lead generation has becomeone of the most measurable and effective ways for colleges and universities to find and attract prospectivestudents. In fact, some of the institutions surveyed by EducationDynamics that are experienced in onlinemarketing have indicated that they are generating upwards of 80 percent of their leads (in some cases more)entirely online. This contrasts with the broader population of schools, many of which are still concentratingmuch of their marketing efforts on traditional media. In a recent EducationDynamics survey, 60 percent ofnot-for-profit universities surveyed indicated they spend up to 20 percent of their marketing budgets online,but the majority (76 percent) indicated they intended to increase that expenditure in the coming year. Still, thisstand in sharp contrast to for-profit colleges which often allocate 70 to 95 percent of their direct marketingbudgets to online activities and initiatives.Are You Competing for Students?In short, yes! In the past, most students used fairly well-knownand straight-forward criteria for selecting schools. Geography “… with most successfulwas among the most important considerations – particularly for colleges and universitiesadult students. Others included curriculum, prestige of the schooland cost. While many of those criteria remain today, in the world reporting a lead-to-of online education, universities must recognize that the criteria enrollment timeframe ofstudents use to evaluate their options have evolved. For example,geography, while still important, is no longer as significant a 40 to 60 days or less.”consideration as it was in the past, since virtual classroomsobviate its importance. Further, a large percentage of any giveninstitutions online students live in the area, but are drawn to theconvenience of online education. And to the working adult, aconvenient, flexible classroom schedule offered by one college or university may ultimately have more valuethan the prestige of another institution he or she might otherwise attend.Additionally, the “marketing cycle,” i.e. the time span that starts when individuals decides to continue theireducation and ends when they enroll in a school, is far more compressed in the online education arena, withmost successful colleges and universities reporting a lead-to-enrollment timeframe of 40 to 60 days or less.What does this mean for colleges and universities? Consider that the average prospective student requestsinformation from about four higher education institutions before making a decision. The university with themost aggressive marketing program will have contacted the individual, sent him or her information, answeredany questions, walked the person through an application, and possibly enrolled the person before the leastaggressive college has made initial contact.So what methods are the most successful institutions using to obtain the most qualified leads? When theyreceive a lead, how do these institutions respond to the lead — in what format and frequency? These are someof the questions that will be addressed in this paper. It will concisely and practically provide some proven bestpractices that will help those just getting started as well as those who have been marketing for a while, but arestill looking for a competitive edge. 1 | PAGE
  6. 6. ®ObjectivesThis paper may be used as a reference to industry best practices in enrollment marketing management. This isdefined as management of the process that is undertaken to attract and transform a prospective student, or “lead,”into an enrolled student.After a review of this document, you will better understand: • How to qualify and prioritize a lead • Effective communication procedures and practices • Success factors during the application process • Other factors affecting conversion rates of inquiries into enrollments • Examples of enrollment management strategies in practiceIt is important to keep in mind that this is a compendium of best practices from the institutions with whichEducationDynamics has had the pleasure to work, comprised of approximately 70 percent not-for-profit and 30percent for-profit institutions, and from research EducationDynamics has conducted. These recommendations mustbe considered in the context of your own institution’s processes, procedures, needs and resource limitations.Note: For the purposes of this paper, a “lead,” or inquiry, is any individual who has requested more informationfrom your institution by providing detailed contact information. Leads may be purchased outright, or obtained as aresult of offline marketing efforts, paid search campaigns, directory listings, banner advertising, prospects visitingyour school’s website, etc. The important point is that all direct marketing campaigns, if implemented properly, willultimately result in a “lead,” though as you will learn, all leads are not created equal. Accordingly, this paper assumesthat your school has an active lead generation program in place.Overview of the ProcessProspective students follow a fairly standard progression as they move towards enrollment: general interest inonline education, research/discovery of post secondary institutions and programs, decision to apply to one or moreschools and decision to enroll in a program. At any point along this progression, a prospective student interestedin your programs can fall off and become an enrollment at another institution. Understanding each of these phasesand the importance of effective enrollment management during this process is a key element to the success of yourefforts. This paper addresses the steps and processes applicable to recruiting beginning when a prospective studenthas requested information from your institution, though as the reader will see, it also addresses strategies to ensurethe “right” individuals are requesting information.The Qualification ProcessGenerating leads is the first step in the enrollment process. The number of leads a university generates is often afunction of the marketing budget and enrollment goals. But having a large number of leads to pursue, even at a lowunit cost-per-lead, is not necessarily the optimal method of achieving enrollments. The reason? The cost of followingup with a lead is often as high as, or higher than, the cost of acquiring the lead.Not All Leads Are Created EqualAside from institutional factors (e.g., your program type, cost and some of the other factors discussed above), thequality of a lead is often determined by factors not connected to the school or its programs.The quality of a lead is typically driven by the combination of a) the mindset of the individual and b) the process thatindividual followed prior to inquiring. Through prospective student activity on, EducationDynamicshas developed the Lead Source Quality Matrix (next page) to help communicate this concept. On the horizontal 2 | PAGE
  7. 7. Best Practices in Enrollmentor “Traffic Source” axis, a spectrum exists, ranging from what we deem“Active Users,” those who are actively seeking information about onlineeducation, to “Passive Users,” those who were not necessarily looking foronline education opportunities, but were perhaps not averse to consideringthem. Often the source of your leads is astrong determinant of where a user fallson this axis. For example, if your institutionwere to buy a mailing list of names, it isunlikely that most of these “leads” wereactively seeking information. Similarly, aprospective student who filled out a leadform because he or she was promiseda free iPod or a “$10 Off Your NextPurchase” coupon, would likely fall intothe “Passive User” category.On the other hand, someone who wasactively looking would tend to be morehighly qualified. For example, this personmight have done a Google search for“Accredited Online Degrees” as a firststep in the process.The vertical, or “User Experience Axis,”describes the type and depth of information a person received beforeinquiring. When users receive less information, they are more inclined toinquire, because they have many unanswered questions. However, this willoften result in a higher volume of less qualified leads. We refer to these as“Uninformed Leads.” For example, if a master’s in Civil Engineering programrequires an individual to have a PE license, individuals who are informed ofthis requirement and realize that they do not meet it will not waste your timeor theirs by inquiring.Additionally, when prospective students are given more choices, they willultimately make a more informed decision. For example, a lead looking for aCriminal Justice degree who viewed only two programs would make a lessinformed decision than one who viewed 12 programs. We refer to theseas “Informed Leads.” This relates to the forthcoming Best Practice #1: aneducated prospective student is a more qualified prospective student.So why don’t all colleges and universities exclusively generate “Active Users/Informed Leads?” Well, they probably would if they could. However, theuniverse of these leads is somewhat limited, and the competition for themis fierce. As a result, they typically require higher cost-per-lead payouts toobtain and even then are not always available in the quantity desired. Somehigher education institutions have addressed this by focusing improvementson their enrollment management process, essentially allowing them tocost-effectively work leads that fall into other categories. This being said,very few institutions have been able to find success in working the “Passive/Uninformed” leads regularly. Marketers are cautioned to avoid leads in thiscategory. There are many of these available, and they are inexpensive, butthe back-end costs are extremely high. 3 | PAGE
  8. 8. ® Best Practice #1: Seek “Educated” Prospective Students If your prospective students have little or no information provided to them before inquiring, they are more likely to request information to gather more details. On the surface, this may seem like a good method to generate interest. The unfortunate consequence of this is that you may pay for leads that are not well qualified and that will ultimately convert into enrollments at an unacceptably low rate. By ensuring that your prospective students have sufficiently educated themselves about your institution and programs before inquiring about them, you are taking the most important step in qualification. Here are just a few ways to do this: • At the minimum, make sure that any vendor from which you acquire leads, regardless of the media, has advertised your institution and programs specifically by name and to a targeted audience. Prospective students who are interested in “general information about online education,” for example, are usually not well qualified. • Make sure that the publishers or vendors you have hired to collect leads for you adequately represent your university and your programs. Providing only the name (and/or logo) of your institution, or the name of your program(s) with little other information may provide branding opportunities, but it will likely result in a higher volume of less qualified leads. • Be aware that your needs will evolve over time as you learn more about characteristics of a qualified lead. Identifying pre-qualifying factors that contribute to success in conversions is critical. Work with lead vendors that can meet your initial requirements, and make updates to your programs, lead collection process and forms as needed. • Ensure that advertisers do not incentivize users with special promotions or sweepstakes to fill out forms. Leads who provided their contact information because they thought they were going to receive a free iPod are incredibly unqualified. A somewhat unintuitive exception to the guideline of providing more information is that, occasionally, a college or university may prefer to withhold certain information from a prospective student until the he or she becomes a lead. For example, some higher education institutions whose tuition and fees are far above the average would prefer not to share this information with prospective students until the prospective student becomes a lead, because they would like the opportunity to discuss fees in the same context as financial aid opportunities. Best Practice #2: Choose Quality Over Quantity Best Practice #1 pertains to how much information you should ensure the potential student receives before becoming a lead. Best Practice #2“You can use your focuses on how much information your organization needs to collect as part of the inquiry process. It is important that you ask sufficient qualifyinginquiry forms to filter questions on your inquiry forms to help filter those prospects who do notthese prospective meet your institutions’ requirements and qualifications to avoid wasting time on unqualified prospective students. For example, you may wish tostudents and ensure that reject students requesting information on master’s programs who haveonly the more qualified not yet completed their bachelor’s degree. Or you may have found that a particular type of student does not convert to enrollments well (e.g.,leads move through the international students, students under 20 years of age, etc.). You can useprocess.” your inquiry forms to filter these prospective students and ensure that only more qualified leads move through the process. That being said, you need to determine the appropriate number, types and restrictiveness of questions on your inquiry form, as every additional question you add reduces4 | PAGE
  9. 9. Best Practices in Enrollmentthe probability of someone completing an inquiry form. For example, you may find that it’s “nice toknow” the gender of a prospect, or would like a person’s home, work and mobile phone numbers,or even the individual’s employer, but many prospective students find they are uncomfortableproviding such detailed information prior to initial contact. Try to limit your inquiry form questionsto only those essential for preliminary screening and making initial contact with the potentialstudent. Other information can be obtained during the follow-up process.With all this in mind, it is important to realize that if you are buying inquiries on a cost-per-lead basis,as you add constraints/filters to your forms, you will probably pay more for each lead. For example,if you ask a vendor to accept inquiries only from prospective students aged 23 and over, you maybe asked to pay 15 percent more per lead, as 15 percent of that vendor’s potential audience will beexcluded from inquiring. Expect that your total aggregate direct expense for lead acquisition willlikely be no less with higher qualified leads, but that the benefit you will obtain is achieved duringthe subsequent enrollment management process, as your “back-end” requirements will be lower.Example:A) You purchase leads from an education search portal. Youadd questions on your inquiry form that filter those prospectivestudents who have statistically converted into enrollments “Keeping an accurateat a lower rate. As a result, you receive 50 highly qualified tab on the costs relatedleads at $40/lead, costing $2,000. They enroll at a rate of sixpercent, or three total enrollments. to acquiring a student isB) You purchase leads from a career site, specifically individuals critical to yourwho have expressed a general interest in education. You have decision-making process.”a very simple inquiry form and add no filters or restrictions toyour forms. You receive 200 lower quality leads at $10/lead,costing $2,000. They enroll at a rate of 1.5 percent, or threetotal enrollments.Both lead marketing efforts yielded an outcome of three enrollments. Should you be indifferent?The answer, in most cases, is no. Example A is preferred by most schools.Why? The lead cost is only one factor associated with creating an enrollment. The cost of applyingyour limited resources to these leads must also be considered. Each of these leads requiressome level of follow-up on your part. Other costs incurred include initial and subsequent phonecontact, brochure/CD-ROM preparation and mailing, and two-way email correspondence, amongother activities that have direct and indirect costs. So even though the direct cost associated withacquiring the leads is comparable in Examples A and B, and the end result of three enrollments isthe same, the total costs in example B can clearly be far more expensive.How much more expensive? Unfortunately, though measurable, many colleges and universities donot measure accurately or even at all. In a survey conducted by EducationDynamics in conjunctionwith the Aslanian Group, only 24 percent of the individuals responsible for the marketing of theiruniversity’s programs responded that they actually knew their average cost-per-start (total costincluding direct and indirect costs). Keeping an accurate tab on the costs related to acquiring astudent is critical to your decision-making process.For most institutions with limited resources, it is easy to see why fewer, higher quality leads area great way to maximize the efficient use of your internal resources while achieving the highestenrollment rates possible. 5 | PAGE
  10. 10. ® Best Practice #3: Take Only What You Can Eat Before jumping into lead acquisition, it is critical to determine the level of marketing activity your institution has the capacity to handle. How many enrollments do you want? How many enrollment counselors do you have? How many prospective students can those enrollment counselors actually manage in a day, a week, a month? Are those enrollment counselors prepared to sell? In the highly competitive market for students, enrollment personnel must not only be responsive, but must be prepared to quickly and easily address the questions that prospective students may pose. Today, many institutions respond to a prospective student the very same day they inquire. The institution that reaches a lead first has a measurable advantage in converting him or her to a student. Most colleges and universities experienced in enrollment management consider a lead to be “cold” (not worthy of aggressive pursuit) if initial contact has not been made within seven days of inquiry. If your organization has, for example, only two enrollment managers, you should arrange to generate enough leads to keep them busy. But if you generate more than they can handle, they will be unable to keep up with the pace, and you will ultimately have paid for leads that prove unworkable. Best Practice #4: Understand Your Customers and Their Needs Prospective students interested in online education are becoming more knowledgeable about the range and perceived quality of online offerings available. Institutions face a much more discriminating audience. This more competitive and complex environment is forcing institutions to pay greater attention to positioning and differentiation. The important questions to ask yourself are: • What makes our offering different from the other institutions offering a similar program? • How much does that point of differentiation matter to the prospective student? • What is the most effective way to communicate our points of differentiation? • How can we most effectively motivate individuals with factual, yet persuasive information? To address a particular prospective student’s needs, it is important to understand their typical motivations, as well as the factors they tend to consider when selecting a college or university. Most prospective students fall into one of four “camps” of motivation, particularly if they are adult learners. They tend to be seeking: • Career advancement • Career change • Personal enrichment • Regulatory or workplace job compliance Within each of these categories, the factors that prospective students consider will vary, but usually include: • Cost (tuition/books/fees)6 | PAGE
  11. 11. Best Practices in Enrollment• Availability and form of financial aid• Accreditation• Schedule flexibility• Reputation of school• Number of calendar starts per year• Curriculum delivery method• Credit transfer policy• Requirements for completion• Required campus attendance• Ease of processTailoring your message to address these motivations and accentuating areas where your institutionstands out can be instrumental in attracting qualified leads. Many marketing services companieswill help you with your messaging and assist you with the design of Web landing pages as partof their lead acquisition services, but when your institution ultimately follows-up with an inquiry,it is important to determine very quickly which attributes are most important to the prospectivestudent, and then address those specific needs.Best Practice #5: Choose Your Battles (and the Right Weapons)This practice deals with the concept of prioritizing leads, and employing distinct tactical methodsof following up with them. There are a number of methods of communicating with prospectivestudents, and a good communications strategy will employ one or a combination of several ofthese.PrioritizationAn important aspect in designing follow-up procedures is to “In today’s digital age,understand how to internally qualify or rank incoming inquiries. prospective students wantThis is important because depending on the number of leads yougenerate, you likely do not want to apply the same enrollment fast responses, as well asmarketing strategy to all of your leads. Best practices mandate that the knowledge that theyhigher qualified, or “hot,” leads follow a different path than others. are perceived as valuableThe manner in which a student has learned about your highereducation institution can be a great predictor as to where they are and unique customer...”in the decision-making process and how interested they truly are inyour institution. Often this information, along with an initial contact,will help you properly “bucket” your leads into the appropriate process.For example, a prospective student that has visited your website or an education portal and hasspecifically requested information from your institution calls for a more intense, close-contactresponse, including phone interaction and possibly the mailing of printed materials. Contrast thisto a list of names your institution may have purchased, none of whom has specific familiarity withor an expressed interest in your programs. These individuals may only merit an introductory emailuntil further interest is expressed. 7 | PAGE
  12. 12. ® Follow-up channels The methods used to communicate with inquiries fall into four primary categories: telephone, email, printed material and “other” methods including on-site live chat, discussion forums, etc. Awareness of these communication methods is not revolutionary, but the efficient and effective use and interactivity of them is a science few have mastered. In today’s digital age, prospective students want fast responses as well as the knowledge that they are perceived as a valuable and unique customer to the institution, not merely a name or number. Telephone. Many colleges and universities that have had success in generating enrollments will call the prospective student either immediately after an inquiry is generated or within the first 24 hours after generation. This is an effective way to welcome the prospective student and acknowledge the need for customized assistance. It also provides an opportunity to gauge the interest of the prospective student, which will dictate his or her classification (hot, warm, cool, not interested) and appropriate follow-up procedures. Other institutions simply use the call as a means to introduce themselves, verify a prospective student’s email and postal address, and determine if there are any preliminary questions that need to be answered. It is often a good idea to prepare scripts for enrollment personnel, so you can ensure that you gather the appropriate data to make future interactions meaningful and productive. A classic mistake that many universities make is to mail an information packet to the prospective students and then wait for the prospective student to take the next step. It is critical that direct, two-way contact be made with the individual, either before information is sent, immediately after or both. Email. Successful email follow-up has several components: timeliness of delivery, customization of message, useful links, effective call to action and deliverability. Customization — With email being the least expensive and easiest form of communication, institutions that use tools to automate the process based on known variables (program of interest, student’s name, inquiry source, etc.) have an advantage over those who use non-sophisticated forms of email. Any system you use should be able to pull information from your lead data and allow you to customize a response with little manual effort. Timeliness — Ideally, an email welcoming the prospective student by name and providing several links to help continue researching important information about the institution and programs is generated immediately when an inquiry is added to the database. Then, at a pre-determined interval, follow-up emails will help sustain a relationship with that lead. Ideally, this process should be automated to minimize the amount of manual labor and time required. Useful links — Important links to contain in email communications include: 1) a continually updated FAQ section of the university’s website, 2) an online application (for future reference), 3) the university’s online education section and/or specific programs and 4) links to any “community” features such as blogs and Web forums. Call to Action — Always help prospective students understand the next steps in the process. At a minimum, provide them with a phone number they can call to communicate with a real person if they have any questions, as well as links to an online application. Deliverability — Even the most effective email communication is worthless if it never reaches its intended recipient. The proliferation of unsolicited email has resulted in SPAM filtering systems that will often “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” It is very possible that the emails you send, if not consistent with legal and proper delivery practices, will end up in someone’s junk8 | PAGE
  13. 13. Best Practices in Enrollment email folder and never be seen. Worse yet, your email server can be mistaken as a source of SPAM, affecting all emails sent from it, not just your marketing emails. There are many resources written on the topic of building successful email marketing campaigns. Readers should consult or other widely available online resources.Print. Though it can be costly and slower, some prospective students desire printed materialto review at their leisure. Indeed, printed materials often have a powerful influence over aprospective student’s decision-making process. However, due to the high production and laborcosts associated with preparing and shipping printed materials, this form of response should alsobe reserved for those leads that have been identified in yourprocess as higher quality or higher probability enrollments. Analternative for those that are not considered highly qualified, butwho still desire printed materials, is to publish your marketingmaterials electronically in PDF format and have it available on “Communicating with athe institution’s website. If using this method, email can besent along with a link to the PDF document in place of mailed prospective student at thematerial. But do not make the mistake of assuming that a right time with the rightbeautiful brochure in the form of a PDF is a substitute for printedmaterials. The fact is, most individuals ultimately print these message is a combinationmaterials at home, and when they do, your well-designed color of art and science.”brochure will likely not appear nearly as nice as you intended.Other methods. There are other methods of follow-up that canhelp educate prospective students and move them closer to theapplication phase. Online open houses, “webinars” or chat sessions, for example, are great waysfor prospective students to speak directly to professors and admission staff. Typically, a two tothree percent invitation-to-attendance rate is achieved and should be taken into considerationwhen staffing such events as one person can only handle between 15 and 25 students at onetime. This method isn’t optimal as a stand-alone option, but can be beneficial as an added formof follow-up and information sharing. Much the way “triggers” are used to automate telephone,print and email notification, they can also be used to help your school automate the process ofcommunicating open houses and other similar activities with prospective students.Communicating with a prospective student at the right time with the right message is a combinationof art and science. It is helpful to map out a logical and effective follow-up strategy that can bedeployed and tested over time. How will you communicate with a lead in the first 24 hours? Howabout during those critical first three to seven days? Scheduling which emails, physical mail andcalls are going to be integrated into your follow up campaign upfront will make your enrollmentmanagers much more effective.As you implement that schedule, it is important to test various combinations of outreach todetermine which provides the best return on investment. Does a post card on the third dayincrease your enrollments by any margin? These are the kinds of questions you will want to askyourself (and answer through analysis) as you proceed. There are companies that offer testedand proven communications programs, EducationDynamics’ own Enrollment and RetentionServices provides software that monitors, manages and measures prospective students’ levels ofengagement throughout the enrollment process to increase conversion. 9 | PAGE
  14. 14. ® Best Practice #6: Make Important Resources Available Online The Application Making an online application available improves the chances of moving an inquiry to the next stage of the enrollment process. In some cases, your call counselors may be able to walk the prospective student through an application on the first call. Remember that getting a prospective student to an application is not the last step. Make sure the applicant successfully fills out the application and respond to the student as soon as possible. With outsourced applications or an in-house system that does not help prospective students through sticking points, your application completion rate will not be as high as it could be. Any issues a lead has while completing the application can be turned into relationship-building exercises. Deploy a “smart” online application, which allows you to monitor your prospective students’ progress and help when necessary. For example, a good online application system will notify a counselor whenever an application has been started and then abandoned prior to completion. Apropos to this, make sure you provide a mechanism that allows the prospective student to fill out some of the application, and then come back later to complete it if necessary. This is especially important if you are using a long application. Once the application is complete, a quick review and determination (accept/reject) on your end is a key factor in enrolling the student. Depending on the program, it’s likely that the prospective student might complete applications at multiple institutions. All other factors being equal, the college or university that provides the fastest turn-around stands a better chance of enrolling the prospective student. Other Resources Making other resources available online also improves your chances of converting a lead. Organizations implementing best practices in this area will make resources available, including applications for financial aid, credit transfer requests and even course directories and syllabi. In order of priority, resources that help the prospective student understand the experience are important, but should be considered secondary to resources that will help the prospective student move through the decision-making and enrollment process quickly and efficiently. Best Practice # 7: Use Your Website to Support Your Marketing Efforts Many universities have difficulty leveraging their websites for direct marketing purposes. This usually happens for one or more reasons: “Then you can optimize and allocate more budget • The marketing staff does not have control over the website or its content where your cost per • The university’s website is extensive, supporting a wide range of enrollment is lowest, and constituents, including prospective students, existing students, alumni and others less budget where cost per • The programs being marketed, as well as relevant resources, are enrollment is highest.” scattered (e.g., across departmental websites or sub-pages), and more than likely lack consistency in messaging and information.10 | PAGE
  15. 15. Best Practices in EnrollmentIt is for this reason that many marketing departments choose not to send paid traffic (such as paid searchengine traffic) to their institutions’ websites. There are simply too many opportunities for a prospectivestudent to get “lost.”Notwithstanding the above, an institution’s website can be used to support the marketing function, primarily ifits use is advocated after a lead has been generated. Once an enrollment counselor has made direct contactwith a prospective student and obtained an understanding of the prospective student’s specific needs, thecounselor can refer him or her to individual pages on the site that are of specific help, including informationabout the program, information on financial aid, information on credit transfer or student blogs and discussionforums. A prospective student trying to find these items on your website unassisted may have difficulty. Butwith the help of your admissions staff, it becomes a breeze. Also, you do not have to worry about the prospec-tive student getting “distracted” or lost, because you have already established contact.Best Practice # 8: Close the LoopInevitably some of your leads will convert into enrollments, and others won’t. No marketing channel orprocess will convert 100 percent of your leads into enrollments. But by carefully examining the characteristicsof those who do convert, you can optimize your recruitment program, placing more effort and budget intoareas that have proven successful. One of the easiest analyses you can perform is a review of theperformance of your lead sources. For example, you may employ several unique marketing channels togenerate inquiries, and several vendors within each channel. These may include paid search engines, email,display advertising and cost-per-lead marketing. By comparing the enrollment rate and cost-per-channel, youcan determine an average cost-per-enrollment for each channel and vendor. Then, you can optimize andallocate more budget where your cost per enrollment is lowest, and less budget where cost per enrollment ishighest. The two simple examples below demonstrate this approach:Example 1: Paid Search ChannelAssume:• 1,000 paid search clicks to your website at a cost of $4 per click• 10 percent of these clicks become leads (100 leads)• 6 percent of these leads ultimately become enrollments (6 enrollments)Totals:• Total Cost = 1,000 clicks x $4 = $4,000• Total Enrollments = 6• Cost Per Enrollment = $4,000/6 = $667.00Example 2: Cost-Per-Lead ChannelAssume:• 150 leads generated at a cost of $40 per lead• 8 percent of these leads ultimately become enrollments (12 enrollments)Totals:• Total Cost = 150 leads x $40 = $6,000• Total Enrollments = 12• Cost Per Enrollment = $6,000/12 = $500As you can see, by calculating a cost per enrollment, you can compare two distinctly different marketingchannels, as well as multiple vendors within a channel. In truth, the more accurate analysis is a little moreinvolved, as you must consider indirect costs as well, which may include campaign setup and follow-up costs(mailing, phone, etc). Nevertheless, one can easily see how a relative comparison of marketing channels canbe used to optimize a recruiting effort. 11 | PAGE
  16. 16. ® Best Practice # 9: Consider the Other Factors Affecting Conversion Rates Despite your best efforts in enrollment marketing management, there are often factors you have less control over that contribute to any one institution’s success rate in building enrollments. Although many of these may be outside of the enrollment manager’s control, it is important to note them here, as knowledge of these may be beneficial. Among the most significant are: • The type and uniqueness of programs being offered • University factors (branding/awareness, tuition rates, delivery format, loan or finance options, quality of instructors, speed of application approval, program start dates, accreditation) • The competitive strategy of other institutions Type and Uniqueness of Programs Offered The type of program offered can impact conversion rates due to the number of higher education institutions offering similar programs. Put simply, more “popular” programs (for example, an online M.B.A.) tend to be offered by more colleges and universities. This leads to a dilution of students applying to available programs. We have found that institutions offering programs in new areas where even limited demand exists, or target highly-specialized concentrations within popular programs (for example, an Information Systems Degree with a concentration in Internet Security), will have less competition for potential students, thus increasing the likelihood of higher conversions. Universities should consistently evaluate their programs and consider the deployment of unique programs and specializations. EducationDynamics has utilized its in- quiry data to create a research tool known as the EducationDynamics eLearning Index®. From anonymous aggregated data collected from the hundreds of thousands of students who visit each month, the EducationDynamics eLearning Index provides insight into student interest and demand, market saturation and online education trends. Appendix A contains some examples drawn from the EducationDynamics eLearning Index that illustrate changing demand in the marketplace. Institution Factors Institution factors are those that are specific to each college and university, which the enrollment manager can seldom influence. However, if any of these factors work in your institution’s favor, a good marketing or enrollment manager can use them to differentiate your university to a prospective student. Brand Recognition — Universities with higher brand-name recognition will tend to attract more interest at a lower cost than institutions with less “brand” awareness. Prospective students may convert to enrollments at a higher rate at a “well-known” institution, because a level of implicit trust exists thanks to brand awareness. Remember that often brand recognition has been achieved at a very high cost over a long period of time, and this cost can’t easily be allocated on a per-student basis. Tuition and Fees — Another important factor is the price of your program versus other com- peting colleges and universities. From an enrollment management perspective, it is worth taking the time to research your competitors and be able to explain to prospective students why your programs might cost more (e.g., state of the art delivery systems, 24-hour ac- cess to courseware, loan and financing options, etc.), as well as ensure that any discussion around tuition and fees includes information about financial aid availability. Instructors — Your instructors, their credibility and their credentials can play a significant role in12 | PAGE
  17. 17. Best Practices in Enrollment influencing leads. Their availability to prospective students to answer questions as part of the enrollment process can provide a competitive advantage to your school. Accreditation — Accreditation is of critical importance to many higher education students. Many in the education world deem regional accreditation to be more prestigious than na- tional accreditation. But most students don’t know the difference. So if your institution has regional accreditation, it might be worth providing an explanation of the difference to a pro- spective student. To those prospective students seeking other than a higher education de- gree, including certificate programs and stand-alone coursework, accreditation may not be as critical. Calendar — Institutions that offer rolling start dates (many start dates throughout the year) and quick application approval/denial are often able to capitalize on prospective students’ initial enthusiasm and thus convert at a higher rate. For example, a prospective student who finally decides to take the plunge into furthering his or her education may be more influenced by a university that has rolling eight-week starts than one that has only two or three semester starts per year.Competitive Strategy of Other SchoolsEven if the programs you offer directly compete with a limited number of institutions, successis not guaranteed. Other universities might have more significant budgets allocated to acquiringnew students or more effective processes in place for converting leads to enrollments. Otherorganizations may “tolerate” a higher cost-per-enrollment than your institution, creating furthercompetitive barriers. If your programs compete with other colleges and universities’, it is moreimportant than ever that you try to restrict your inquiries to only the most adequately pre-qualified.Best Practice # 10: It’s All About RelationshipsIt takes a tremendous amount of work – and money – to garner interest in your programs andtranslate that interest into an enrolled student. The key is to ensure that you are not welcomingthem in the front door just to have them crawl out the window. It is critical to manage the entirelifecycle of a student from lead to graduate, particularly an online student who may not have thephysical support that comes with a campus-based education. Throughout the student lifecycle,there are continuous “windows of vulnerability” that must be overcome. Solid communicationsefforts can ensure that a lead and a student remain engaged throughout the process. If you havehistorical retention data for your programs, evaluate the data to determine points of weakness. Forexample, most institutions see a student drop off rate in the first year. Knowing that will allow youto put together a first-year retention program that monitors and manages student engagement.Today, there are a tremendous number of communications tools available to build and maintainrelationships with students from online communities, such as Facebook, to regular emailcorrespondences, to blogs that enable students to express and find themselves in yourcommunity. Again, these retention tools can be developed by your institution or bought off theshelf from organizations that have spent the time and effort to build proven programs, such asEducationDynamics’ Enrollment and Retention Services. 13 | PAGE
  18. 18. ® Conclusion The key to successfully matriculating students is having a well devised and precisely executed enrollment campaign. Your responsiveness, awareness of prospective students’ needs and the crucial impressions left at each touch-point with them can ultimately affect those prospective students’ decision to apply to and enroll at your school. Throughout this document, we have outlined best practices in recruiting used by some of today’s leading educational institutions. Many of these practices can be applied through the proper planning and execution of marketing (lead generation) campaigns, combined with a well planned and timed enrollment management strategy – all of which should be supported by powerful enabling technologies. Insti- tutions that adopt best practices and dedicate a sufficient level of internal resources can achieve great success on their own. Appendix B provides examples of best practices in action for three of EducationDynamics’ clients. In many cases, colleges and universities do not have the human resources, technology or know-how to execute on lead generation and conversion ac- tivities effectively. In these cases, outsourcing of key activities may be the best course of action. Fortunately, in response to demand, a wide variety of a la carte and turnkey service providers exist, including organizations focused on lead generation, outsourced call centers and marketing communications services and technologies, among others. In a survey conducted through at an Aslanian Group conference, 88 percent of those re- sponding to the question indicated a likelihood of outsourcing part of or all of their enrollment process. Whether outsourcing or building the enrollment management competency on campus, it is critical to take the time to sur- vey the post secondary enrollment management landscape to define best practices for your institution, and to avoid the potential pitfalls.14 | PAGE
  19. 19. Best Practices in EnrollmentAppendix AData from the EducationDynamics eLearning IndexTable 1: eLearning Index Ranking by Subject Subject 2010 2011 Bachelor’s in Psychology 2 1 Master’s in Counseling 1 2 Master’s in Psychology 3 3 Bachelor’s in Business Administration 4 4 Master’s in Nursing 5 5 Associate’s in Early Childhood Education 8 6 Master’s in Special Education 15 7 Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education 9 8 Associate’s in Religion -- 9 Master’s in Health Administration 11 10For both 2010 and 2011, it is clear that online degree programs in the fieldof psychology are in high demand – at both the Bachelor’s and Master’slevels. Bachelor’s of Business Administration have also consistently remainedin high demand. The largest year-to-year growth was seen in the Associate’sin Religion degree. In 2010, this degree was not among the “top 20” onlinedegrees; however, in 2011, it is the ninth most popular degree. Demandfor online Master’s programs in Special Education have also seen significantyear-to-year growth, having advanced from number 15 to number seven. 15 | PAGE
  20. 20. ® Among all four degree levels, online Master’s degrees were in highest demand – representing nearly 38 percent of all inquiries on eLearners. com in 2010. This is closely followed by online Bachelor’s degrees, which represent nearly 32 percent of demand in 2010. Interestingly, although by some accounts Associate’s degrees comprise the largest currently available collection of online degrees, there is even greater demand online degree programs at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels – representing an opportunity for every institution able to mount new online degree programs at these levels. Appendix B Best Practices at Work The following presents an overview of several actual higher education institutions, the programs they offer, the enrollment management methods they are using and the enrollment success they have achieved. Please note that all of these colleges and universitieis use computer-based enrollment management solutions to implement their respective strategies. Institution A Regionally accredited Higher Education Instituion offering bachelor’s and master’s level programs; expensively priced public institution with high brand awareness. Enrollment management process: This university uses a “nine points of contact” method of following up with students. Once an inquiry is received in-house, an email is automatically generated and/or material is sent. De- pending on the success or failure of the first call, a mix of calls and emails is initiated. If after nine contacts the prospective student has not enrolled, he or16 | PAGE
  21. 21. Best Practices in Enrollmentshe is grouped into another category and then receives periodic emails fromthe school notifying him or her of upcoming events, changes and news. Notethat this institution is in the process of assigning different classifications toits inquiries based on interest level and will soon begin deeper customizationwith messaging applicable to each group.Institution BState-recognized, non-accredited Higher Education Institution offeringonline certificate, bachelor’s and master’s-level programs; aggressively pricedprivate for-profit institution with medium brand awareness.Enrollment management process: Immediate “welcome” email to inquiryassigning a counselor (with contact info) and also containing links to anonline application, live chat with an advisor and a link to online catalog (nomaterial mailed). All prospective students are called within three days ofinquiry receipt. After the call, inquiries are assigned a follow up “level” thattriggers one of several follow-up paths; for example:a) If “hot” they will be called again at a time suitable to the student; printedmaterial will be sent on request in addition to links to downloadable (PDF)information.b) If “cool” they will be emailed again in one week, then monthly for a periodof one year.Institution CAccredited Higher Education Institution offering online certificates,bachelor’s- and master’s-level programs; moderately priced private for-profitinstitution with high brand awareness.Enrollment management process: Because the institution has high brandawareness, it typically receives thousands of unqualified inquiries per month.The organization segregates leads by lead source, using historical conversionrates to classify sources as “high,” “medium” or “low.” Focusing on the“high” category, the institution sends an immediate welcome email, mailsa packet of information within two business days and calls the prospectivestudent within five days (unless the prospective student responds soonerto the written materials or email). For the “‘medium priority” group, theinstitution focuses on an aggressive email campaign sending up to fouremails within the first two weeks, as well as mailing a single, full-colorpostcard. In each email there is a call to action with links to the organization’swebsite and application form. “Medium” candidates are provided with linksto .pdf versions of the institution’s printed materials. Those in the “low”category also receive email communications, and can only request writtenmaterials by first speaking directly to an enrollment advisor. If prospectivestudents from any of the lower two tiers were to show significant interest,they would be moved to the higher qualified group where they would receivethe same type of communication strategy as those in the “high” category. 17 | PAGE
  22. 22. ® If you have any questions about this white paper, EducationDynamics’ Web properties and and/or additional best practices in enrollment management, please contact Howard Mandel at 201.377.3020 or EducationDynamics ®EducationDynamics is the proven leader in helping higher education institutions find, enrolland retain students. For over a decade, we’ve proudly served the postsecondary communityby working diligently with schools to solve critical challenges and achieve organizational goals.Our mission is to help colleges and universities meet and exceed their recruitment, enrollment,and retention objectives by guiding students through their higher education experience andassisting educational administrators advance their institution. We have worked hard to earn andmaintain our industry leadership through a deeply-rooted philosophy of serving our partnersbest by serving students first. This commitment has been at the heart of our success sincewe began and continues today as we support more than 1,200 colleges and universitiesnationwide.About®The website is one of several high visibility, high-quality prospecting toolsoffered by EducationDynamics. Since 1999, has been successfullyconnecting learners to online education, including online degree and certificate programs,specialized career training and a variety of online courses. For prospective students, provides a powerful search engine for users to find thousands of onlineprogram offerings, as well as educational evaluation tools and financial aid resources. Forcolleges and universities, the website offers a low-cost, performance-basedmethod to provide national exposure and increase enrollments in their programs. For moreinformation on, visit is a network of leading websites that connects prospective students withcolleges, universities and online learning programs. Established in 2003, EarnMyDegree.comserves as a one-stop directory for undergraduate and advanced degrees, as well asprofessional certificates in a variety of fields from business to healthcare to’s team of marketing experts, designers and copywriters have a proventrack record for optimizing marketing campaign results to increase qualified leads. To learnmore, visit | PAGE
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  24. 24. ® If you have any questions about this white paper, EducationDynamics and/or additional best practices in enrollment management, please contact: Howard Mandel Executive Vice President of Sales 5 Marine View Plaza, Suite 212 Hoboken, NJ 07030 Phone: 201.377.3020 Fax: 201.377.3081 © 2011 EducationDynamics. All rights reserved.