Please enjoy this guest post from Rob Westervelt of George Fox University, a client who has seen the results of the Value Based Enrollment Methodology for several years. (A full Whitepaper/Client Success Story is also available here for download and sharing.)
As unfortunate as it is, many universities sell themselves short primarily because they refuse to sell themselves.—Rob Westervelt.
Our president Robin Baker noted in a recent college magazine article, “A lot of institutions look at marketing and admissions as the dirty work and that they shouldn’t have to sell themselves."
The research, however, shows that fewer students are attending college—Christian colleges like ours are no exception. Over half of the schools in CCCU missed their enrollment goals in the last few years. Higher education admissions is more competitive than ever and colleges that don't utilize all the tools at their disposal are going to continue to struggle. If we don't "sell" ourselves, we may face not having something to sell.
Some schools avoid using language like "sales" and "marketing." They think neither should apply to higher education. Oftentimes, this attitude is strongest in private and religious universities—the very schools that need sales and marketing the most.
As our president will attest, we don't hold this view at George Fox, which has consistently broken its enrollment records year after year, for four enrollment cycles. We haven't accomplished this by compromising who we are, what we offer, or even the value of our education. Instead, we increased the success of our enrollment program by approaching it with a different mindset.
Over five years ago, we changed our enrollment processes to include sales and marketing techniques. We used market research to target the students who would most benefit from attending our school, and who would be the most likely to enroll. We increased our online presence, refined our messaging, and made data-informed decisions that increased admissions and decreased wasted funds. What we learned is that good marketing helps people make good distinctions so that they can make better choices.
Perhaps most importantly, we trained our admissions teams in consultive sales methods in order to raise our contact-to-conversion rate. They learned to speak with prospective students on an individual and personal level, meet objections with statements of alternative value, and close prospective new students with finesse and integrity.
If you're like most higher ed admissions leaders, you know how much you are investing to get prospective students to your counselors' desks. But how much are you investing in your counselors? We've found that a lot of our success can be attributed to how much we've invested in empowering our counselors to present a compelling case for our university. Rather than investing more in the top of the admissions funnel, we are putting more attention at the bottom of the funnel. And this has made all of the difference for us.
I know firsthand how unconventional this all sounds, but by embracing these tools and techniques we were able to increase our enrollment without compromising our school's culture and values.
If you'd like to hear more on this topic of innovation in admissions and the results we've garnered, click here to listen to a webinar presented to fellow colleagues called: "What Happened at GFU When We Moved From Admissions to Sales."
- Rob Westervelt, former Executive VP of Enrollment and Marketing at George Fox University