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5 Optimization Methods for Your Admissions Recruitment Funnel

5 Optimization Methods for Your Admissions Recruitment Funnel

Make no mistake: a sound understanding of your admissions funnel can make all the difference in building a successful recruitment and admissions marketing strategy. But of course, building that understanding is only the beginning. In addition, you also need to know the next step: how to continue optimizing your college admissions funnel for successful recruitment.

That optimization process can take significant time, data analysis, and audience preference research. But the time invested is well worth it. Optimized admissions funnels can become the engine that drives all your recruitment strategies, from digital to in-person and print to email.

So let's get started. 

These five optimization methods can help you build a better admissions enrollment funnel, jumpstarting your recruitment efforts for 2023 and beyond.

Table of Contents:

1) Conduct Prospective Student Research

Every enrollment marketing strategy has to start with a close understanding of your audience. That means digging into the numbers and conducting qualitative and quantitative research on who you know your audience to be. The goal: learn as much as possible about their behaviors, preferences, and pain points while they decide what school to attend. 

An almost infinite number of possibilities exist to help you conduct this research. Which of these menu options you choose depends on your budget, expertise, and available time:

  • Information from your prospective student database, including information about when and how often in the funnel they visit the campus, what triggers applications, etc.
  • Third-party research on the college search behavior of high school students, like what channels they prefer and what types of messages they expect to appear on those channels.
  • Qualitative information, from your counselors or directly from high school students, about your current messaging, channel strategies, and admissions materials.

There are other possibilities, as well. For example, some schools conduct student experience or admitted student surveys that offer invaluable information about student preferences. The goal here is to gather as much data and form as many insights as possible about your audience's college search. 

2) Create Your Student Journey

Based on the research and insights you've collected, it's time to build your student journey. Here, even seasoned enrollment professionals can get confused between the terms admissions funnel and student journey. The two concepts build on each other and are closely related, but allow us to explain the differences:

  • The admissions funnel consists of the linear, pre-defined stages your audience takes, from inquiry to application, admittance, and enrollment. At each stage, some students drop off - hence the funnel metaphor.
  • The student journey consists of all the non-linear steps your students may take on their way to enrollment. These steps can be categorized into funnel stages. Still, many occur separately or outside the stages, like browsing college ranking portals, visiting your website, attending a college fair, etc.

Creating a funnel is relatively simple - the data is all there to let you know how many inquiries, applications, and enrolled students you have each cycle. The student journey, though, is necessary to understand precisely how that funnel can be optimized. The more you can outline your students' steps on their way to college, the better you can build those optimizations.

3) Map Recruitment and Marketing Efforts to the Journey and Funnel

So far, we've considered everything related to the recruitment funnel from the student's perspective. Time to turn inwards, looking at how all your owned channels play into and intersect with your student journey

Start by outlining everything you do to attract students, including:

  • Recruitment pages on your website
  • Digital ads on all the channels where you're active
  • Emails to prospective students
  • Printed materials for prospective students
  • Print ads in relevant publications
  • Any TV or out-of-home ads
  • Campus visit programs like tours and open houses
  • Admissions counselor visits to high schools and college fairs
  • And more

Once a complete inventory is in place, map it to each stage of the student journey--and the funnel. This allows you to gain a comprehensive overview of what's being done at each stage of the enrollment funnel to nudge prospective students toward the next stage naturally.

4) Analyze Each Stage of the Admissions Recruitment Funnel

The next step returns to your admissions funnel. A full inventory of communications efforts, coupled with in-depth audience insights, allows you to analyze where your funnel succeeds and where it falls short. Look for answers to the following questions:

  • Which stages of the funnel are oversaturated with messaging?
  • Are there gaps in the funnel that you might need to fill with additional or adjusted marketing efforts?
  • At which stages does your funnel perform above average, or has seen significant improvements in recent years?
  • At which stages does your funnel perform below average, or has seen major downward trends in recent years?
  • Are there any nuances to consider within each funnel stage, like students from your state converting differently than those from other states?
  • Does your core messaging flow through the different funnel stages, or are you light on some of your messaging pillars at a given stage?

Finding the answers to these questions requires thorough analysis and will likely take time. But the insights gained can go a long way towards finding improvement opportunities and optimizing your enrollment funnel.

5) Set Goals for Admissions Funnel Improvement

The final step is, in some ways, the simplest: based on your analysis, it's time to set some enrollment goals. All these goals should be related directly to your funnel, ideally improving the conversion rate between different funnel stages over time.

As you set goals, staying realistic is vital. The SMART framework can become helpful here, ensuring that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Consider setting multi-year goals with more realistic year-to-year conversion increases.

Summing it Up

From the goal setting, it's time to move to implementation. And that's where you need a partner on your side, helping to ensure all of your higher education marketing pieces are just right. 

Are you ready to optimize your admissions funnel - from research to execution? Let's chat! 

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