It’s a story all too familiar in higher education, marketing and enrollment each independently pursuing their goals with a tunnel vision that prevents them from seeing how their activities interconnect.
When it comes to the recruitment of students, marketing and enrollment teams must not only work together but also maintain complementary goals. And, though, this is sometimes easier said than done, it’s imperative if you hope to meet your goals.
“There was frustration and confusion on both sides. Our marketing team didn’t understand what the enrollment team was doing and the enrollment team didn’t understand what the marketing team was doing, let alone how we could help each other. Once we began working together, we discovered how much better we could serve prospective students by improving communication and coordination,” says David Meiling, Vice President of Advertising at CollegeAmerica Services.
In the spirit of teamwork and reaching our goals, let me share five strategies to help your marketing and enrollment teams work together.
1: Meeting frequency, focus and personnel matters
Though, at times, the word meeting can seem like a four-letter word, bringing teams together is beneficial when done correctly.
Regular and frequent meetings encourage on-going communication and support meaningful connections between teams. The attendees also matter; be sure key personnel are involved from the beginning.
In addition, it’s often the case that campaigns are executed first and planned later, resulting in confusion among team members who end up having varying levels of understanding about the purpose and status of a given project.
“We bring key members of each team together every week to go over vender performance and other issues that might come up between marketing and admissions. Establishing a consistent touch point has opened up the gates for communication both during the meeting and throughout the week,” said Meiling. “Another benefit has been being able to introduce new concepts to test. By inviting feedback from the admissions team we’ve been able to make some changes that have improved response rates and better qualify student prospects that come in.”
2: Make training a priority, especially for front line staff
Training ensures consistency on the back end, which helps optimize campaigns on the front end.
By promoting continuous professional development at all levels, employees not only stay current, but the “groupthink” mentality that may facilitate bad habits is minimized. It is particularly critical to train front line staff effectively. An institution can have 10,000 employees, but for a prospective student, the person answering their questions is the only one that matters.
3: Data-driven decision-making is your friend
It’s fairly common to be swayed by supposition and intuition, but when it’s all said and done, informed business decisions are more likely to be effective and efficient when they are based on data, not anecdotes.
Using data-driven market research to identify challenges and opportunities will lead to actual solutions. What’s more, having the right solution such as an inquiry management system to review real-time marketing and enrollment, allows you to make changes as quickly as the market dictates.
By providing factual examples and context, team members will have a better picture of how their actions impact the bottom line and align with institutional goals.
4: Cultivate trust, respect and collaborative behaviors across departments from the top down
The ability to inspire and move others to action only has impact if colleagues believe in a leader, so encourage high-level staff to model ideal behavior.
When team leaders have mutual respect it’s easier to instill that same attitude among staff and prevent employees from working in silos. Creating a strong sense of community by sponsoring events and activities brings people together and helps them get to know one another. Informal mentoring and coaching can also facilitate valuable interactions.
“One of the first steps I took was establishing an honest and open relationship with my counterpart,” said Kody Larsen, Vice President of Contact Centers at CollegeAmerica Services. “These days we are in each other’s offices multiple times a day talking through issues and collaborating to solve persistent problems. By modeling this behavior at the executive level it becomes easier to address issues between marketing and admissions teams.”
5: Ensure that the teams’ goals are complementary
A success metric for one department that does not fully support the success metrics of the other department (or worse, damages that department) is a formula for failure for both teams.
While day-to-day and short-term objectives don’t have to be identical, the overarching goals must be complementary, not competing. And, when a goal is met –even small achievements that are steps toward a larger goal – take time to celebrate the win.
Remember that both within and between the two teams, celebrating serves as a reminder that goal setting works and motivates staff to continue performing at a high level.
In the highly competitive marketplace of higher education, the need to meet enrollment and revenue goals is critical and arguably depends on these separate divisions to work together seamlessly as a cohesive team.
By following these strategies your team members will stop seeing themselves as “Team Marketing” and “Team Enrollment” and realize they are playing for the same team with the same end goal – building personal relationships with prospective students from first inquiry to enrollment.