Predicting the Unpredictable: An AMA Session Summary

At the AMA Symposium for Higher Education in Chicago, Carnegie Communications and Chestnut Hill College presented a session to a packed house that focused on strategies to help address the changing landscape of predictability within the enrollment funnel: X inquiries no longer lead to Y applicants, which no longer lead to Z deposits. A variety of factors have led to these changes, but there are things that can be done to help address them. Here are some highlights . . .

  1. Listen to your website. It seems obvious, but think about this for a second: all interested, applying, accepted, and enrolled students have been to your website. So trends in visitor activity can predict a lot for you in terms of how your year will be. Do what you can to get comfortable with Google Analytics or get regular reporting on what it can tell you. Particularly through an enrollment cycle lens, this visibility and insight can make an enormous difference in knowing how things will end up.
  2. Improve their experience. When prospective students are coming to your site, do they know what you want them to do—and is it easy to do it? Register for an open house, request information, apply? Looking at your landing pages for any enrollment effort, think about these four things:
    • Optimize your “attention ratio.” Eliminate needless links or places that can distract them from what you want them to do.
    • Focus on “message match.” Make sure the content, look, feel, and purpose of where they’re landing is consistent with the message or communication that drove them there.
    • Have a clear call to action. Finish this sentence for them: “I want to (blank).”  The “blank” should be your call to action button, whether it’s “Register Today,” “Learn More,” “Apply Now,” etc.
    • Personalize when possible. Through personalized landing pages, you can customize the experience for each individual. This helps to improve conversions as well as provides a wealth of data on any campaigns you’re running and adjustments that can or should be made.
  3. Know (and expand) your audience: Audience profiles can be developed using data from both your website visitors and any lists you’re working with. These reports and profiles can tell you a lot about the demographics and characteristics of the audiences you already know are most important for your institution. From that reporting, “look-alike” models can be constructed to find and reach similar audiences in any location to expand your focus.
  4. Layer in digital with traditional: Chestnut Hill incorporated IP Targeting and Retargeting with their Student Search strategies. These digital layers, which helped them reach the entire households of their lists through digital advertising, helped boost the performance of their list-based efforts and resulted in enormous increases year over year for several benchmarks.
  5. Test and learn: Chestnut Hill and Carnegie watched the performance of all of their communications to their prospective student audiences and applied changes based on data, which ultimately had dramatic effects. In some cases, something as simple as changing the “from” of an e-mail from the school name to the director of admission’s name helped improve open rates significantly.

What was most clear with the session as a whole was that Chestnut Hill simply recognized higher education marketing had changed when trying to map out how their enrollment funnel would look. As a result, they took a much more focused approach directed at the prospective student populations they knew were so valuable. They also made sure to lean on data that was available and incorporate new yet proven strategies that reflected the behaviors of student audiences today.

Is there a crystal ball that can show us everything? No, definitely not. But things can be looked at, evaluated, and done in some new and different ways that can keep up with a landscape that changes daily.

For a full copy of the presentation, or to learn more about some of the tactics and strategies that played a role in what Chestnut Hill has been accomplishing, contact us today.

Follow Mark on Twitter @Cunningham527

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