Episode 017

Building An Effective Enrollment Strategy With National Education Partners

Of all the changes taking place in the education industry, few are more significant than the change in target audience. Education organizations currently face the challenge of engaging with the highly mysterious and highly misunderstood Generation Z. Not only do today’s prospective students require different methods of communication, but each engagement strategy must also be as personalized as possible. If you know how to talk to your school’s ideal student and where to talk to them, you’ve got a major competitive advantage.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • What are the building blocks of a successful enrollment strategy?
  • How should enrollment officers engage with Generation Z?
  • What role will automation play in the future of education marketing?

This week, I spoke to Ken Boutelle and Michael Tolmie, who are the Senior Vice President of Enrollment Services and Managing Director of Marketing at National Education Partners in Scottsdale, Arizona. National Education Partners offers a multitude of services to education organizations looking to improve their enrollment efforts as well as their general operations. They help organizations with everything from retention to student services to internal communication. It’s safe to say that Ken, Michael and their colleagues have encountered every possible obstacle to enrollment growth.

What are the building blocks of a successful enrollment strategy?

At National Education Partners, one of their first steps towards enrollment growth is figuring out which metrics (starts, applications, etc.) are in need of the most improvement. Any goal becomes much easier to achieve when you can attach success to specific numbers. For many organizations, growing enrollments also means doing a better job emphasizing the programs with the most unique value propositions. It usually makes sense to optimize marketing spend in this direction.

However, it’s very difficult to obtain sufficient data without regular communication between departments. Ken and Michael revealed that the organizations with the most enrollment issues tend to do a lot of finger-pointing. The enrollment team says the leads are terrible, but the marketing team says the enrollment team just doesn’t know how to close them. Instead, these teams should be spending more time sharing data and creating strategies that make everyone’s lives easier.

How should enrollment officers engage with Generation Z?

Like most organizations, National Education Partners has seen a massive decline in the efficacy of phone calls. Today’s students are much more receptive to text messages. But in Ken and Michael’s experience, it’s the content the student sees well before they talk to admissions officers that really seals the deal. In other words, a student should be able to decide if this organization is right for them solely by looking at their online content.

The type of content that best suits the organization depends on their ideal student, or their most successful programs. Business students, for example, typically prefer to get their information from white papers. Education students, on the other hand, have shown heightened interest in podcasts. Organizations should also consider popular topics of conversation for different industries. One that comes to mind for education students is school safety.

What role will automation play in the future of education marketing?

A major contributor of enrollment issues in traditional education organizations is the high cost of attendance. Thankfully, one tool has the potential to decrease tuition costs while increasing enrollments simultaneously: automation. At the moment, students cannot gather all the information they need or get accepted into a school without the assistance of a human being. National Education Partners is exploring ways to change that by creating an automated, Amazon-like experience.

This solution will likely involve chat bots that are so advanced that they can answer any question and guide prospective students through the entire enrollment process. No more emailing back and forth, no more waiting for acceptance letters. Ken and Michael believe that organizations will see dramatic decreases in their cost per acquisitions as the need for human assistance decreases over time.

There’s no future without data

These predictions may seem rather drastic, but it’s important to remember that they come from hard data. Your organization may be in store for some drastic changes. But with the right data, you’ll know exactly what those changes are and which tools they require. Data is the cornerstone of any successful enrollment strategy. You simply can’t expect to improve enrollment efforts if you don’t know what’s hindering them.

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