How to Put Your Enrollment Marketing into High Gear

So many solutions. So little time.

If you’re one of the 1,200 or so of us who wandered through the exhibit floor at the AMA’s Symposium for Higher Education last month, I’m sure those were the exact thoughts that ran through your mind. Digital solutions. Search solutions. Content solutions. Email solutions. Advertising solutions. Public relations solutions. It was a dizzying array of parts and pieces—all claiming to be THE solution to your enrollment marketing challenges.

Paul Roetzer puts it succinctly in his book, The Marketing Performance Blueprint:

“The future of your business and your marketing career depend on your ability to meet increasing ROI demands and continually adapt to new marketing tools, philosophies, and channels. But the rate of change in the marketing industry is accelerating, and the challenges for marketers seem to be multiplying.”

ROI and risk aversion in higher ed

The situation is, of course, exacerbated in a risk-averse environment such as higher education. When your institution is looking for you to fill next year’s class you can’t afford to cash in your old programs and hedge your bets on some new, highly touted approach. After all, something is better than nothing, right? At the same time, the returns for the status quo are diminishing quickly year over year. And we all know that institutions that are able to respond more quickly, plan faster, try new things more efficiently, and adapt more readily to changing conditions gain a clear competitive advantage. Does the University of Southern New Hampshire come to mind?

Learn from other industries to improve marketing performance

So how do you improve your marketing performance, quickly and effectively? Honestly, simply exploring all the options currently on the table would take months of research, discussions, trials, planning, and debates with your purchasing department. And meanwhile, the market has surged ahead without you!

Roetzer, working primarily with B2B companies, has devised what he calls the “marketing growth hackathon.” It’s based loosely upon how computer programmers come together to solve software development quandaries, but I think that the process holds great merit for higher education. I call it speed marketing.

He gathers together a group of people who have a shared interest in a marketing issue (in our case, enrollment, communications, marketing, financial aid, etc.). In a workshop format, they take one SMART goal and leave the workshop with at least three campaign ideas that the institution can execute within 90 days.

I’m sure you already know this, but SMART goals are those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. SMART goals can apply to any objective. For example, a SMART goal may be to increase inquiries by 25% in January and February. Or to increase yield for the 2017 class by 11%.

Run a speed marketing session on your campus

Here’s how it works…

Prior to the speed marketing session, the group leader defines the SMART goal, identifies the appropriate audience, builds personas, looks for existing assets and environmental opportunities, and establishes milestones. The day of the event, participants break into small groups to brainstorm ideas, which they bring back to the full team for sharing and debate. In-depth discussions vet the best concepts based upon the institution’s ability to execute the concept and upon the probability that the concept will significantly impact the institution’s ability to reach its goal in the next three months.  Three of those concepts are then moved into the planning stage. And you’ve accomplished all of this in less than a day! Not only that, but you’ve put “marketing and sales” together to work to solve their shared objectives.

Got a thorny marketing issue that can’t wait for planning and more planning? Try speed marketing to accelerate your planning process. For more detail on how we can help you kick start your enrollment marketing, call me in our Albany office at 518-591-4640 or send me an email at

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