Increase Yield: Develop a Sustainable Communication Plan

Liz Kistner - Monday, October 27, 2014

How does your institution map out a set of ideas to reach desired strategic goals? By throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks? Instead, develop a sustainable communication plan for admissions and retention that incorporates short-term and long term tactical plans to understand which channels are driving your ROI and what levels of engagement create purposeful action with your prospective students.  

Short Term Plans 

1. Set Strategic Goals:
 -- Build a quantifiable prospect journey that scores engagement behavior to better qualify prospects and gauge interest in the respective academic programs.  
-- Gauge channel effectiveness via metrics such as cost per acquisition and conversion rate to optimally determine budget mix. According to the GMAC 2011-2012 Prospective Students Survey among the top communication channels that impact student interest in a school are its website, admissions professionals, and the school's brochures/publications. What level of effectiveness are you seeing for each channel and how are you measuring it? 
2. Student Retention Plan: 
Analyze current plan(s) and relate it to best industry practices. Understand if current methodology resonates well along with the channels used coupled with the timing of each touch point and ideal channel composition for multiple touch points. Create different segments depending on where a student is in the lifecycle and craft a communication message for each.  For example, if a student is in the preliminary stages, create and test targeted campaigns to understand key motivators, program choices, and behaviors (improve career, curriculum, flexibility, financial mix, and preferred study destination) that advocate the additional benefits of furthering their education.
3. Student Recruitment Plan: 
Conduct analysis of current plan and relate it to best industry practices. Track and monitor all channels used, website content, and tracking links. Evaluate current analytics strategy and tools used to gauge the engagement and online behavior of a prospective student. Based on results create dashboards critical for funnel management. 
It is important to be cognizant of: 
-- Phone inquiries- how many are received and where did callers hear about your university 
-- Online inquiries- stealth candidates: where did they come from; how are they engaging, what content is most appealing to them? Does the content tell us anything about their interest level and timing horizon to complete an application? Is your university receiving inquiries from search and what are the triggers, what is the quality of traffic? 
-- What is the least costly and most effective channel and how can you shift budget dollars to those channels? 
Gathering intelligence will be critical to ensure that you have a good understanding of the current state of ROI for the initiatives and this will set a baseline to then track future progress. Developing a short term tactical plan will result in a higher engagement rate, in turn, getting more students or reaching the required allotment of students per program. Lastly, it will allow you to qualify the quality of traffic.
NEXT MONTH: Long Term Tactical Plans for Admissions and Retention