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The higher education conference season is well underway – both eduWeb and NACAC have already taken place, with HighEdWeb, and AMA Higher Ed, among others, still to come – and what's become clear is that communicating with prospective students is becoming increasingly complex, multi-channel and, importantly, measurable. Here are a few themes that came through loud and clear at eduWeb and NACAC – and that you’re likely to hear repeated if you attend a higher ed conference this fall.Your Website is Only One Part of the PuzzleWith the increasing adoption of CRMs and marketing automation tools – not to mention an increased use of paid search and social media advertising – colleges and universities are engaging with prospects in new ways, using new tools at different parts of the decision-making journey. All of this adds up to a need to look at the student journey holistically – through the experiential lens of the prospect, not the structural lens of the university. Gone are the days when marketing teams were the lead generation operation and the admissions teams were the “closers”. Increasingly, they have to work together on strategically developed and collaboratively executed enrollment management plans that rely heavily on seamless technologies, visible data and consistent, compelling messages. (It’s also interesting to note that there are many more “enrollment management” departments – combining marketing and admissions functions – than there were just a few years ago.)Defining and Designing for the “Why”Speaking of compelling messages, we all know that prospects, particularly on the undergraduate side, are applying to more and more schools and increasingly getting information from sources other than the university itself to inform their decisions. So this means that the opportunities that colleges and universities have to tell their story unfiltered by others must successfully and compellingly answer that all-important question: “Why should I choose your school instead of all the others?” The prospect wants to know what your school cares about, what kinds of things they’ll learn and do while they’re there, what it will be like as an alum and whether their investment will ultimately pay off in a whole host of ways. And if they can’t answer those questions about you in mere moments, they’ll move on without a second thought. So the onus is on each college and university to take a hard look at itself and clearly define what it is and, importantly, what it isn’t, then build digital experiences that bring that differentiation to life.Making Sense of All the DataAs mentioned above, the enrollment management process is increasingly being driven by systems that address a prospect’s specific needs at specific moments in their journeys. But what to do with all of the data that is produced by these interactions? What are the indicators of real interest in your school? When are the key moments when a decision can be influenced? What interactions will add real value to your university’s bottom line? At eduWeb there was a whole track devoted to data and analytics, and the theme that ran through all of the sessions was that you have to start with clear goals – what specifically you want to achieve and why – well before you start looking at the numbers themselves. Discussing, setting and committing to clear objectives will help make all of the other conversations – from which CRM you should choose and how your website should be architected to how often you communicate with your prospects and what stories you should write – much easier. And it was clear, both from the speakers and the people who attended their talks, that this idea is beginning to really take hold in higher ed. EduWeb and NACAC are in the books, but there are still a lot of great opportunities to see where higher ed marketing, communications and enrollment are headed in the coming months. Book your ticket now.Contact Matt Cyr: https://www.theprimacy.com/industries/Education