How to Maximize Departmental Coordination for a Cohesive Strategy

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The disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt everywhere, especially in higher education. From the students who were planning on attending college to the institutions themselves, the Coronavirus has left a lot of questions and very little answers.

There is one truth that everyone can agree on, and it’s that the world of higher education is in a tough spot. Even before the pandemic, admissions were dwindling. Now, many institutions are losing millions and every university must grapple between lowering tuition or expecting less enrollment if they don’t. Both colleges and their students must quickly adapt to an unclear and unstable future in order to survive.

Students, for example, must decide whether or not they want to attend a moderated version of college. Whether it has to do with finances, online learning, or missing campus life, their plans have changed and some have fallen through altogether. Two recent Art and Science Student Polls report that 35% of students are considering a gap year because of COVID-19, and that 67% of students expect drastically reduced costs for online classes. These obstacles add to the already incredible burden of choosing a college, which means they need more guidance than ever.

So how can higher education institutions reconcile their needs and students’ needs? It takes working together, from internal departments to their relationships with prospective students. Colleges and universities that can adapt to the new scenario and focus their efforts correctly will be the ones who can gain a competitive edge against others and pull through for themselves and the students that are struggling alongside them.

It can be daunting for a university to navigate through this, which is why Engine Systems is here to help. Now more than ever, it is paramount that marketing, admissions training, and student retention efforts be in sync to get noticed, convince students why they should enroll in your institution, and then keep them there. This article will spotlight these specific strategies as a resource for universities to turn to, and how Engine System’s all-encompassing services can bring them to fruition. By taking this holistic approach, colleges and universities can raise awareness and much needed revenue while also establishing a solid brand that will last beyond the effects of the pandemic.

Marketing

Even the best higher education institution will go under if it isn’t being noticed. That’s why the right marketing is crucial to get your university in front of searching eyes. These days, it’s especially important to nail digital marketing tactics since much of the world is connected by technology. Luckily, that won’t mean much of a shift in regards to current marketing trends. But it does mean staying up to date with what prospective students respond to. Most prospective college students are Gen Z, who respond well to social media, graphics, and videos instead of long texts. Quick-to-consume posts like memes and promotional videos will grab their attention, then video content live Q&As and virtual tours can fill in the information. Plus, videos and social media shares are great for SEO optimization, which is another crucial point in reaching new audiences. From there, it takes personal follow-up through emails and communication from admissions professionals.

Since in-person recruitment is down because of social distancing, it’s more important than ever to establish a strong digital marketing presence. Luckily, putting in the work in now will be an asset that lasts a long way into the future.

We all know that social media has become a popular space not just for Gen-Zers, but also millennials and baby boomers.  So, whether you’re targeting the younger generation that’s starting their college search or the middle-aged cohort looking to make a career change, you can be almost sure that they’re spending most of their time checking their Facebook messages and browsing through their Instagram feeds.

When marketing through social media, therefore, you should create personalized, target media campaigns to ensure that your messaging resonates with your target group. To successfully hook a new lead, you need to highlight the aspects that make your institution stand out. The key is to identify those things that make your institution different and preferable and then highlight that in your marketing campaigns.

Marketers find themselves in any number of situations that require collaboration. They have to collaborate with coworkers, clients, partnering organizations, writers, and designers, etc. In most institutions, marketers will have to work with several other departments at some point. Getting team members and departments to collaborate well will necessitate having the right tools for the job. Luckily, there are tons of tools that are designed to enhance collaboration among marketing teams.

When choosing a collaboration tool, you should choose a management platform that is designed specifically for marketing teams, rather than a project management or general task management tool. To achieve your enrollment goals, you should make it easy for your marketing team to attract and engage prospective students. With the right marketing software, you will communicate better, increase collaboration, and generate more leads.

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 Admissions

A good marketing platform means nothing if it can’t be properly followed up by proactive admissions counselors. Likewise, even the best admissions counselors can’t do their job if students don’t know about the school. That’s why marketing and admissions departments must work with one another to consistently represent a strong, competent institution. Making sure that representatives are aware of promises made in marketing content, and being ready for any questions that might arise, represents an authentic, well-put-together university even in this time of vulnerability.

Investing in a top-quality admissions team is important because they are the bridges between prospective students and enrolled ones. They have to act as both salespeople and advisors while also being understanding and empathetic to the anxieties that prospective students face, and make them feel like they are entering the right program. This can be a lot to handle in one role, which is why we offer different tiers of admissions professional training that can help employees develop successful admissions tactics. From two-day intensive training to ongoing development and ongoing insights, Engine Systems’ Admission Accelerator will help admissions professionals become confident, caring, and resourceful so that they can help the institutions they work for and the students they’re trying to serve.

Reinventing the admissions process for higher education institutions requires re-imagining how admissions and marketing departments collaborate. Marketing teams should be more goal focused and good at utilizing data, while admissions need to be more flexible and work in real-time to address prospective students’ needs. Teams from both departments must agree that the main goal is to reach prospective students and generate revenue.

By working together, teams from both sides can make informed decisions in real-time, staff diligently, and utilize the budget more wisely. Furthermore, their collaboration can enable them to attain the business goal of attracting more students and increase revenue.

Student Retention

Both marketing tactics and admissions efforts aim to enroll students, but there’s still work to be done to keep them there. From the beginning, it’s important that students feel like they’ve made the right decision in choosing a particular college. Then institutions must follow through on the promises that they make during the marketing and admissions process.

There are many reasons that students drop out, from financial difficulties to personal reasons, and universities can’t always control that. They can, however, invest in ways to improve their college experiences so as not to suffer from the financial losses of losing students. It’ll be worth it for both the students and the universities. Factors like academic advising, social events, and student support services contribute to higher student retention, and while they may seem costly, these investments outweigh the costs of low retention rates and their benefits can provide an authentic, positive brand representation that could generate more students (and keeps them) while also boosting marketing opportunities.

To increase student retention, institutions should also expand or develop programs that foster strategic collaboration between faculty and support professionals. Academic departments and individual programs should work together with the larger central planning units to target major educational failure points for students. Academics and career advising departments can collaborate to ensure that courses of study and classes are aligned with a career path.

Another important collaboration is between admissions team and financial aid counselors. The collaboration can help prospective students and their families to get relevant information and advice that can enable them navigate financial barriers that can force students to drop out.

Studies also indicate that building a sense of community in and out of the classroom also helps with student retention. As such, you should provide opportunities for your existing students to interact and learn from each other. Integrating academics and social opportunities, as well as using collaborative assignments to foster academic and social integration increases retention.

Engine Systems and Your Institution

There are many departments to any college, and getting them to all work as a cohesive unit can be a daunting task, especially when you’re busy with your own administrative roles. But that’s what we do here at Engine Systems. We can target specific areas for growth with services like our Admissions Accelerator, or we can create a personalized monthly retainer that targets any combination of other areas such as marketing, budgeting, or  call center management organizational (to name a few) with an Active Business Management Retainer.

You tell us your goals and specific expected outcomes, and our team of professionals will work to make them happen. Check out our services to see how we can help you maximise what resources you have now to create more opportunities in the long run.