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Enrollment Marketer

Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Students

“Just A Typical August in Higher Ed” and 3 Benchmarks to Remember

Jamie Gleason

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. He happens to be the Director of Enrollment Marketing at a small institution, and he shared some of his day-to-day with me. He mentioned how VPs were freaking out, people are worried about budgets, and not making the enrollment goals that were set for the cycle. He concluded his dialogue by saying, “Ya know, just a typical August in higher ed.”

I was struck by two immediate thoughts when my buddy said this during our call: 


First - How discouraging - what he has come to expect as par for the course in the month of August is a worried campus culture and frazzled response to performance deficiency. 


Second - What changes and ideas are being proposed and/or made (short- and long-term) in order to overcome the challenges in the next cycle?

Breaking Out of a 'Status Quo' Mindset

On behalf of campus enrollment and marketing leaders, I internalize the worry that starts to set in during the craziness of late summer. We get too caught up in the final push(es) and end up neglecting the changes that are necessary to create future improvement. Subsequently, the same leaders might proceed into the next cycle without taking a good look at what marketing methods didn’t produce an adequate ROI, what the breakdowns were in conversion areas, and what tactics need to be optimized.  

In order to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, here are three minimum benchmarks that you should set for yourself and your marketing partners as a way to measure your progress. This is especially important if you are facing an August like the one I described above!

1. Factor in the concept of N+1.

I am setting the bar pretty low with this statistic, but at the very least, you should expect some growth. Now, I am leaving this open - this might be in the form of enrollment growth, it might be an improvement to the discount rate, it might be an expansion of content, etc. But, if you look at your digits and details and don’t walk away with some objective growth, there is a deep need for change.

2. Keep 10/10 on your radar. 

This is a reference to October 10. This is about the time when the student census is complete and everyone in your institution will start to permanently shift their gaze to the next cycle. Make sure you don’t pass 10/10 without looking back to analyze and evaluate the work of your team, and the conversion metrics, and really digging to understand what can be improved. If you pass 10/10 and don’t do this, there is little hope that next August will be much different than the current.  

3. Watch out for any instance of 0%.

When I was a Director of Undergrad Admissions, one of the things I disliked was getting renewal phone calls from vendors whom I had contracted with. Now, the calls are easy and nice when you can actually think of something that the vendor has added. But, if you look back and see zero percent change that was brought about by the work of the provider, I suggest you raise concerns and/or move on. Or, another way to think about it is if you don’t see that vendor making a substantial difference in how you are working or if there is a vendor or tool that might be able to do it better, it might be time to change vendors. 

Albert Einstein once famously said:

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


In closing, I do hope that your August has positive momentum, high deposits, and all the budget you planned for. If not, take a look under the hood to see what adjustments and benchmarks are missing the mark. And don’t delay - fall 2023 will be here before you know it!

Speaking of benchmarks, you'll find a plethora of comparison points across email, event, and content marketing tactics as well as digital advertising in our Deep Dive report below. 👇


Deep Dive: 2021 Enrollment Marketing Benchmarks Report - Download Now

Topics: Enrollment Marketing, Content Strategy, Student Recruitment

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