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December 21

Enrollment and Marketing Data Silos: Stop Hoarding and Start Talking


by | Dec 21, 2023 | Featured, Podcast, Teams

“Data silos” have been at the top of the buzzword pile for a few years now. But the truth is that many higher ed enrollment and marketing departments still don’t quite get each other’s roles.

This misunderstanding, and the data silos that come about as a result, can lead to several negative impacts, including:

Inconsistent Messaging and Brand Representation: Without effective communication, marketing and enrollment teams may convey inconsistent messages to prospective students. 

Inefficient Use of Resources: Without a shared strategy and communication, both departments may duplicate efforts or work at cross-purposes, leading to inefficient use of time, budget, and human resources. 

Difficulty in Responding to Market Changes: Higher education is a rapidly evolving field. Institutions that do not have integrated marketing and enrollment teams may struggle to adapt quickly to changes in student demographics, preferences, and behaviors.

And, of course, the biggest and most painful consequence of data silos is reduced enrollment numbers!

Overall, the failure of the enrollment and marketing departments to communicate effectively and share information can have far-reaching consequences.

This not only affects the departments themselves, but also the broader health and success of the institution.

Michael Doran, CRM Implementation Strategist at Akero Labs (formerly XEquals), thinks the biggest problem is that they speak different languages. The solution? 

They need a translator — someone who knows how to unlock marketing solutions for their school’s enrollment strategy.

In this episode of The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, Michael unpacks what’s keeping enrollment and marketing professionals from communicating, and what he recommends in order to break down those roadblocks.

The Imperative of Alignment Between Marketing and Enrollment

Michael stressed the significance of alignment between marketing and enrollment, highlighting it as a cornerstone for institutional success. 

Having seen sort of the functions of enrollment and how it engages with marketing, I could tell you that there is so much of the similar mission shared between both departments. That similar mission is essentially to get the message out of the institution. 

Both [teams] sit on really important pieces of information. 

For enrollment, [the data collected is about] focusing on moving students through the funnel. For marketing, it’s [about] how those students are engaging with the advertisement spends, as well as social media posts to news posts and those sorts of things. 

Both of those [data sets] so easily line up, but sometimes I think it’s hard [to share information] in the very fast paced environment that enrollment is. That is arguably a key factor [in the data silos and disconnection between the two teams]. It’s that decisions need to be made so quickly and the recruitment cycle is so fast. 

Presidents and chief marketing officers on college and university campuses across North America are always looking for the best way to determine ROI on their marketing spend.

They want to know if their spending is making any difference when it comes to enrollment numbers. 

To get clear answers to the ROI question, you need the ability to break down these data silos, combine all of the information, and distill them into a clear bottom line. 

A Designated Marketing “Translator”

One of the best ways to get marketing and enrollment teams to collaborate more closely is to place someone from marketing onto the enrollment team. 

Michael shares how this worked well during one of his earlier experiences in higher ed marketing.

I started my admission career at Susquehanna University. We had a designated person from the marketing department in admissions who specifically designed and delivered all of our print and our email and our SMS and everything that would go out at the top of the funnel. 

[Unfortunately,] it is very rare to have a designated marketing person for enrollment!

I always like to think of that person as a bit of a translator of marketing information to enrollment and vice versa, so they can better communicate. My work is now sitting in that space and filling that role for institutions that don’t have that shared person or partner. 

This kind of integration between marketing and admissions departments is going to become even more crucial in the days to come as we come closer and closer to the enrollment cliff.

Seeing Marketing as a Data Center

One important insight that came up in our conversation was that too often, the marketing team is seen only as a creative team. 

Yet marketing is a hub for a lot of valuable data that enrollment teams need in order to know their prospective students and make critical decisions quickly. 

Going back to this idea of that person being the translator, I think it starts with understanding that marketing isn’t just a creative shop. 

Yes, that’s an aspect of it. But marketing is also data analytics. 

It’s being able to purchase advertisements, understand how these platforms work, like Meta, like Instagram, TikTok even. And it’s being able to translate that information into an enrollment strategy where it makes sense. 

Our enrollment strategies tend to be holistic about travel, campus visits, and events. [But marketing] is an extra silo of information that needs to be unlocked and integrated deeply into the enrollment strategy. 

Breaking Data Silos with a Marketing Person Embedded in Enrollment

Michael laid out some of the benefits that colleges and universities can experience by having this key person working to connect the marketing and enrollment teams.

I think the first benefit is that person who’s the translator, or that group of people who are sharing those sorts of responsibilities, are being able to translate and adapt that into the enrollment strategy. 

I think the other large key benefit is on the other side of understanding how that strategy is then implemented and rolled out. 

Like having your nurture campaigns written by somebody who has a strong marketing background but understands exactly what kinds of messages you need to be sharing as enrollment professionals. 

This kind of mixed expertise can really give your messaging a tremendous advantage as the marketing team also receives information from the enrollment side who are most often the ones in direct contact with the prospective student.

Your admission counselors who are going out on the road, they’re hearing the news about what these prospective students are interested in and what their influencers are interested in. 

[They] sort of are seeing and can actively use that knowledge in a really effective way using marketing tools that are available to them.

Clearly, this kind of collaboration between marketing and enrollment can have incredible benefits for schools willing to make the investment into hiring a liaison to facilitate the communication between marketing and enrollment.

But what if you’re not ready for this kind of personnel investment?

Simple First Steps towards Tearing Down the Data Silos

There are some first steps that you can take right now to better collaborate between marketing and enrollment, even if you’re not ready to hire a “marketing translator.”

1. Conduct Meetings Between Marketing and Enrollment Departments

Michael showed us where to begin. “It starts where it’s a monthly meeting with marketing to just talk about what creative pieces are on the website, the colors or what links are broken or those sorts of things.”

These kinds of meetings can be highly valuable as both teams get a chance to analyze and offer insights on each other’s work.

2. Overcome Silos through Shared Language and Goals

A recurrent challenge in higher education institutions is the siloed nature of departments. Michael emphasized the need for a shared language and common goals to overcome this. 

Marketing and enrollment tend to not speak the same language. [They also tend to not share the same goals.] 

[For example,] marketing professionals are always taking care of the entire campus. They’re looking at their website as a source for every alumna, every parent, or student, or tangential person that is visiting this website. 

Whereas of course, enrollment is really focused on that prospective family and that prospective student. So the goals and approach [of each team] is a little bit different.

Through the joint meetings you’re holding, seek to come together on a shared language and goals.

3. Utilize Data for Strategic Decision-Making

In our conversation, the use of data in decision-making emerged as a key theme. Michael discussed how technology like Akero can aid in leveraging CRM data for more informed decisions. 

He stated, “Our proprietary technology… helps you leverage not only your budgets but understand your audiences and the opportunities that are there.” 

This approach underscores the importance of harnessing data analytics for targeted marketing and enrollment strategies.

Working Together towards Success

Our conversation with Michael Doran revealed several key insights that can significantly improve the results of higher education institutions through better communication and alignment between enrollment and marketing teams. 

By embracing these strategies, institutions can navigate the complexities of student recruitment and engagement more effectively, leading to sustained success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Listen to our interview with Michael Doran to get even more insights into:

  • Why fast-paced demographic shifts necessitate information sharing (3:26) 
  • The perks and challenges of an enrollment and marketing tag team (11:38)
  • How lead scoring can help enrollment counselors prioritize leads (19:50)

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