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August 25

Signs You Need an Enrollment Marketing Strategy Overhaul


How do you know if your enrollment marketing strategy is working or if you need a strategy overhaul? Here are the signs you need to watch for. 

Your enrollment marketing strategy is where everything begins. Or, at least, it should be. 

The enrollment marketing strategy is what not only defines success and failure, it’s the map that aligns your resources, teams, and projects to achieve your marketing goals. 

Without a well-defined enrollment marketing strategy, it’s difficult to get everyone on the same page, or even to know if your marketing department is doing a good job (or not). 

We’ve talked about what makes a good enrollment strategy in this post, but I thought it would be beneficial – and fun – to list out some of the symptoms of an outdated, or poorly designed enrollment marketing strategy.

Sometimes it’s more helpful to identify what’s going wrong – because those are the easiest signs to spot!

So here we go… the 5 surest signs that your enrollment marketing strategy needs an overhaul. 😊

Sign #1: Wait! We have an enrollment marketing strategy? 

Unfortunately, there are private colleges, universities, and independent schools who try to feed their enrollment pipeline without writing out a clear enrollment marketing strategy.

They simply “wing it” launching various marketing campaigns and throwing them at the wall hoping something will stick.

They have no idea if their efforts are working or not. Even if they monitor their website and social media metrics, they have no goals to show them if they’re hitting the mark or not.

A general emotional state of anxiety and confusion persists among team members because they don’t know who should be doing what and when. 

So why do some schools not have an enrollment marketing strategy?

Reason No. 1: Busyness

Most often, this is a problem with smaller schools where it’s common for staff members to wear five or more “hats.” 

When enrollment marketers also serve as recruitment officers, advancement officers, and more while also being photographers, videographers, writers, designers, and web developers, the last thing they have time to do is spend weeks or months putting together a comprehensive enrollment marketing strategy.

Reason No. 2: Lack of Executive Buy-in

For some schools, the executive team simply doesn’t see the need for a strategy or their role in its creation. 

When executive leadership isn’t involved in the strategic process, there’s not much chance that middle management leaders can produce a strategic plan. They simply do not have that authority. 

Reason No. 3: Putting Out Fires

If the overall leadership style of the school is to give attention and resources to whichever project, initiative, or department feels the most urgent at the time, there’s bound to be confusion.

Everyone’s just putting out fires, running here and there from one priority to another. 

When an enrollment marketing team is caught in this trap, there’s just no more brain space or energy left to sit down and write out a plan. 

Everyone feels trapped by the “tyranny of the urgent.” When this happens, you need to stop the frantic activity and create an enrollment marketing strategy.

Sign #2: No one knows where the enrollment marketing strategy is. 

If you’ve ever heard your team say things like… 

  • “I know it’s in one of these shared cloud drives, but I just can’t find it.”
  • “Shouldn’t Jack have it? Or maybe Janene’s got it somewhere. Go ask them.” 
  • “A marketing agency led us through a strategic summit. I think they sent us a 50-page  document afterwards with our strategy.”

Yikes! I’ve heard all kinds of statements just like these from so many enrollment marketers and school executives. 

In this case, the school probably has an enrollment marketing strategy. The problem is, no one knows where it is! 

Strategies do not help you if no one knows where to find and read it.

So why do marketing strategies disappear?

Reason No. 1: Lack of Distribution

Often, marketing plans simply are not distributed to everyone on the team. 

After the weeks and months it takes to create them, there’s a kind of institutional fatigue that sets in, dooming the document to languish in a hard drive somewhere.

But strategies do no one any good if they just sit somewhere. They are dynamic documents that should be opened, discussed, and amended often. 

This means they must be distributed and easily accessed by every paid and volunteer staff member on your team.

In fact, I recommend that every new hire or volunteer be taken through an hour or so of training on your enrollment marketing strategy so they can get the rationale behind what you’re doing. 

This initial training also improves the chances that they’ll actually use it in their daily work.

Reason No. 2: Lack of Buy-In

Maybe you’ve distributed your enrollment marketing strategy and have properly notified everyone of what it contains.

But if your team, especially those with influence in your school, haven’t bought in to the rationale and tactics in the strategy, it won’t go very far.

To avoid this, I recommend involving key stakeholders in the creation of the plan from the beginning. If they were involved in the beginning, they’ll be more likely to adopt it as their own.

Reason No. 3: Lack of Use

When a plan is not used or referenced over time, it becomes forgotten. Like Atlantis, it becomes an ancient myth buried under miles of disuse. 

When this happens, it’s difficult to revive the marketing plan because everyone has forgotten why the plan was written in the first place. 

Institutional memory becomes hazy, and everyone criticizes the rationale behind the plan. Sometimes the criticism is warranted because times change and the document has since become obsolete.

This is when your enrollment marketing strategy needs an overhaul.

Sign #3: The school president hates it. 

When your school president hates the enrollment marketing strategy, it’s likely because it has no connection between the plan’s initiatives and overall organizational goals (or at the very least, the connection is unclear).

This could also be true if the VP’s or board members aren’t excited by the plan. 

While you might love the tactics in the plan as a marketer, administrators and executive leaders will always want to know how those tactics will move the school’s organizational goals forward. 

Each senior staff member is going to be zeroed into those directives, so if your enrollment marketing staff doesn’t clearly show how it supports those goals, you need an enrollment marketing strategy overhaul. 

Sign #4: It’s holier than Swiss cheese. 

It’s always embarrassing when an enrollment marketing strategy is missing a few important pieces. *Ahem…*

If a marketing plan doesn’t include a plan for social media marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing, print or direct mail marketing, how metrics will be monitored, a breakdown of marketing personas, and an action plan with milestones and responsible parties, then it’s not complete.

When an enrollment marketing strategy has holes in it, it’s quite often because it wasn’t given enough time to gestate properly.

A typical marketing plan takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months to complete. 

That’s how long it takes to get input from all of the stakeholders in the organization, analyze the current situation of your education brand, and plot out a course for each major part of marketing.

If you’re in a hurry, it won’t come out right. It will have holes or gaps in it. 

And if there are holes in your enrollment marketing strategy, you need to overhaul it.

By the way, to help keep your strategy complete, I’ve created a digital marketing strategy pre-flight checklist here.

Sign #5: It’s written in language that requires a code-breaker. 

Vague, jargon-heavy language plagues too many marketing strategies. 

Enrollment marketing strategy problems include vague language.

By nature, marketing strategies are long documents of at least 15 pages or so. It’s hard to get them shorter than that because they deal with such a robust topic.  

However, marketing plans shouldn’t be any longer than they have to be to explain the rationale and the plan. 

They shouldn’t go further than what’s necessary about how well or poorly the school has done in the past, or about the current marketing conditions. 

And when giving explanations and rationale, they should stay clear of marketing jargon and meaningless clichés. 

If senior staff and board members who don’t have a background in marketing don’t understand the document, then you know for sure you need to overhaul your enrollment marketing strategy.

Dynamic and Useful

Your enrollment marketing strategy should be dynamic in that it is frequently read, applied, and changed as times change. 

New opportunities and platforms will come up from time to time and the plan should be flexible enough to be able to take advantage of new development. 

Contrarily, when marketing conditions become unfavorable, the plan should be changed accordingly to meet the current challenge.

Enrollment marketing strategies should also be useful in clearing up confusion and providing direction.

Everyone from the board to the marketing team intern should know what the next step is in the plan and if they are making progress in the school’s marketing goals. 

If you’d like some help in overhauling your enrollment marketing strategy, please contact us today!

Looking for Enrollment Marketing Content that Works?

You’re in luck! We’ve curated 25 awesome ideas inspired by top higher ed institutions across the country and put them in one handy guide: 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.

25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content In this brand new resource from Caylor Solutions, you’ll get…

    • 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
    • Guidance on how to use each one for best results
    • Brief discussion on why they work to help you sell these ideas to your team

Get inspired.
Get enrollment results.
Get 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.
Download your copy today!

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