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“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 (August 2nd). He happens to be the Director of Enrollment Marketing at a small institution...and he shared some of what was going on in his day to day. Along with a few stories about his growing family, he mentioned how VPs were freaking out, people are worried about budget 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 that 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 - I wonder 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.

The worry I internalize (on behalf of campus enrollment and marketing leaders) is that in the craziness of late summer - especially in the pandemic season that we have been in for the past two cycles - we get too caught up in the final push(es) of the cycle that we neglect the changes that are necessary to realize 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 different conversion areas and what tactics just need to be optimized.  

In order to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you (I don’t know what your August is like), here are three minimum benchmarks that you should adhere to as a way to measure your progress...and your marketing partners (the companies you are using to help with your marketing, branding, website efforts). This is especially important if you are facing an August like the one I described above - which, for the record, I hope you are NOT!

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 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 (somewhere), 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, the conversion metrics, and really digging down 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 this August.  

3. Watch out for any instance of 0%.

When I was a Director of Undergrad Admissions, one of the things I HATED (emphasis intended) was getting renewal phone calls from vendors who 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 0% change that was brought about by the work of the provider, I suggest you raise concern and/or move on. Or, another way to think about it is that 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, well…it might be time to change vendors.  




We've all heard Albert Einstein's famous line:

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



In closing, I do hope that your August is looking good with lots of 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 2022 will be here before we know it!

And 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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