Why Closing the Student Enrollment Pipeline Is Key to Campaign Success
There is no more exciting time for a student recruitment and enrollment department than launching a new campaign. It’s when we get to put all those great ideas, creative strategies and renewed energy into action. However, launching a campaign isn't just about the new.
The post-campaign stage is often overlooked but is important to make sure you effectively close and evaluate your most immediate efforts. Moving on without analyzing or measuring results may cause you to miss holes in your process, repeat mistakes you could have easily addressed and rob you of valuable intelligence you can use to grow better.
Properly closing your campaign will determine your success just as much as your planning. Following a repeatable and scalable process will make your department more efficient, create transparency and keep everyone on the same page. Measuring and analyzing your campaign's data will provide your teams value adding insights into your prospective student profile, recruitment channels, and budget. Most importantly ,it will direct you in how to run the next campaign and what to avoid.
Open Your New Enrollment Campaign Pipeline
Before you close out all your leads, you'll need a place to put all the leads you'll be deferring to your new campaign. It’s important to immediately initiate your new campaign pipeline. Identify the opportunities you're planning to continue perusing moving forward. Start from those closest to closing and begin creating new deals for each opportunity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT edit your existing deals, we'll explain why in the next section. It’s important that you begin populating your new pipeline with all of your existing opportunities.
Here's where a good CRM system is a powerful tool as it will help you to filter deals based on a number of fields like deal stage, closed lost reason, etc. Your contact records will maintain their previous deal history.
>>>READ: Getting More of Your CRM to Increase Enrollment<<<
Win, Lose or Draw, Close All Leads in Your Enrollment Pipeline
At the end of every campaign, your enrollment pipeline or deal board should look relatively the same. All your leads will fall into one of two main buckets:
- Closed Won - These are the prospective students that your team has enrolled and will be attending.
- Closed Lost. These are the prospective students that didn't enroll.
No leads should be left in limbo at a preceding stage (i.e.: qualification, started application or application review.) If they didn't enroll, they should be moved to closed lost. Your organization may break down your Closed lost leads into more specific categories like:
- Closed Lost/ Competitor
- Closed Lost/ Deal Gone Dark
- Closed Lost/ Unqualified
- Closed Lost/ Rejected
It’s important to keep in mind that campaigns are for a predetermined amount of time measured against the SMART goals you've defined at launch. Once the campaign is over, every lead that was a part of it must be reconciled against those goals and must have an outcome. This step is crucial yet often overlooked. The mistake schools often make is to keep their enrollment pipeline open after the campaign populated with a perpetually qualifying leads that are held in limbo.
>>>Get Your Free SMART Goals Template <<<
While it might sound logical, it actually stunts growth. Every enrollment cycle is different, impacted by many factors that can skew data. Without closing your campaigns, you are neglecting recruitment's efforts in the pipeline and measuring success simply by the enrollment team's ability to close them.
This is illustrated in the calculus behind early decision. Yes, by offering it as an incentive, a school can hit its enrollment numbers, but it also shortens your enrollment cycle which saves recruitment budgets. If your competition has a shorter cycle, they're not only beating your enrollment team to prospective students but expending less money recruiting them freeing up budget to pursue different markets.
Closed loop enrollment campaigns help you to better align your recruitment and enrollment efforts, measure your success against your SMART goals all in effort to recognize bottlenecks and friction in the enrollment process.
Conduct an ENCRUITMENT Meeting
If you've never heard of encrutiment, its ok. Its a play on the inbound marketing terminology, "Smarketing" which is defined as the alignment between your sales and marketing teams. Much the same way, you should schedule encruitment meetings at the completion of your campaign to bring the recruitment and enrollment teams together to discuss problems and collaborate on solutions.
The objective of these meetings is to have measurable goals that each team agrees to hit so there's mutual accountability. Your agenda might look something like this:
- Identify. Use the first 5-10 minutes of your meeting to jot down challenges your teams had with the previous campaign.
- Brainstorm. The bulk of your time should be dedicated entirely to brainstorming and solving the problems you identified in the previous agenda item. Don't focus too much on what elements aren't working, but rather brainstorm ideas for fixing them.
- Assess. Not every fix is immediate, so it’s important to understand what you can take immediate action on and what needs to reviewed as part of more comprehensive strategic planning.
- Align. Delegate tasks to be completed in the immediate future to ensure the success of the upcoming enrollment campaign.
Here are few tips to help make the most out of your encruitment meetings.
- Stay Focused. The vast majority of meetings are useless and a means for inefficient people to justify their professional experience. Encruitment meetings should be highly focused. As such, they should include no more than a dozen people so that everyone can add value.
- Ditch the Suits. There is nothing more counter-productive to creativity and solution-based brainstorming than having the bosses in the room. Most executives think their presence will help massage the productivity out of a meeting, but it likely has the opposite effect. Often times, the challenges that are discussed in these meetings are systemic or process defects initiated by these same executives. You're less likely to get honest feedback if there's even the slightest fear of retribution.
Rule of thumb: If the individual would delegate the action items, they can be uninvited.
- Add an Outlier. We're big believers in diversity of thought. Consider adding different voices from outside the department, who's opinions you value. By including as set of "fresh eyes," you get an honest perspective that can identify issues or solutions that you may be too close to see.
- Everyone Speaks. There's no point in having an attendee, if they don't provide input. It is the responsibility of the encruitment meeting leader to make room for everyone to speak of equal duration. Let attendees know upfront that you want them to contribute. If someone isn’t participating as much as everyone else, the leader should free ask for their thoughts on this.
Treasure what You Measure
I am always surprised by how many schools don’t actually take the time to measure the results of their campaign. By using your campaigns as simply a tool to reach a student quota, you’re forfeiting the ability to learn from each progressive iterative campaign and accomplish long-term scalable and sustainable growth. As institutions of learning it runs counter to everything you represent. Taking the time to develop a process of measuring and analyzing campaign data is essential to better understanding your prospective student, your recruitment tools and how to best leverage your budget.
I get asked all the time for my opinion on effective student recruitment tools and invariable my answer is some variation of “it all depends on your goals.” There is no one single right answer to marketing. It's unique to your situation. What’s right for your competitor may not be right for your school because while competing for the same students, your goals are often very different and thus success is defined differently.
Don’t confuse results with success
Goal setting is vital because without benchmarks, specific metrics and growth targets, you can confuse success with progress. All campaigns are designed to produce results but a successful campaign delivers on the promise of generating desired ROI, proportionate to the time, energy and financial resources you’ve allocated to it. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating progress but always remain goal oriented and measure your efforts against those goals NOT your starting point.
You’re probably saying to yourself:
- “When are we going to do all of this?”
- “Our enrollment campaigns run adjacent to each other and oftentimes, concurrently. This doesn’t leave us any time to do close campaigns.”
- “Even if we have a great campaign, the boss puts pressure on us to replicate those results and improve our numbers.”
- “We operate in a ‘what you have done for me lately’ atmosphere.”
These are all fair criticisms of taking the time to close campaigns properly. But what if I dold you that taking these steps will actually increase your campaign investment 10x? Would you take the time? Developing and refining your student enrollment campaign closing process will not only give you a score of your previous campaign but provide a blueprint moving forward giving you direction and clarity on your audience, marketing strategy and methodology. By analyzing your campaign you can gather prospective user data like insights on demographic, geographic and behavioral metrics. What social platforms they use, when and how often they post and what communication cues they follow.
By creating a sustainable and repeatable process for closing enrollment campains, you will build value with each progressive iteration.
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