How Effective Goal Setting Positively Impacts Student Enrollment in Higher Education

Posted: April 21, 2016

Topics: Digital Marketing, Strategy

Believe it or not, about 49% of institutional respondents reported having a strategic plan to guide the development of their website or social media activities.

Yes, you read that correctly.
Less than half of institutional respondents have a digital marketing plan.

Is that as frightening to you as it is for me?

As a digital content manager with a past in social media management and account management, you can imagine that I live my life based off of a structured plan. I both tip my hat while simultaneously screaming silently at those who don’t live in this way when it comes to professional planning.

If you’re unlike me, if you’re just figuring it out, or if you’re just getting started in Higher Education, this blog post is for you. Goal setting is paramount when it comes to marketing, regardless of industry, because you have to identify where you are and where you want to go to ensure your success.

Follow these steps to understand how goal setting can help you increase student enrollment.

  1. Brainstorm Brainstorming sessions are an excellent way to begin setting goals for yourself and for your marketing plan. Through these sessions, you can identify the best ways to reach your prospective students (virtual campus tours, social media, email marketing, whatever).

    Think of this as a way to start fresh and get outside of what your college or university has traditionally done.If you’re brainstorming alone, a good way to start is by taking out a sheet of paper and writing down every wacky, kooky and brilliant idea you may have. Try not to get hung up on logistics or whether or not an idea is feasible right now. Just write it down.

    If you’re brainstorming with your team, follow these guidelines:
    - Defer judgment
    - Encourage crazy ideas
    - The more ideas, the merrier
    - Work off of one another ideas
    - Try to stick to one conversation at a time so everyone isn’t talking over each other
    - Be visual and draw out ideas when they can’t be communicated clearly with words

    Remember – the first rule of brainstorming is that there are no rules of brainstorming. … or that’s maybe Fight Club… Oh well. Moving on…

  2. Categorize Your Ideas by “Size”
    The ideas you’ve come up with during your brainstorming session should vary in amount of time and energy they take to complete.

    For example:
    Small idea – Add and link “Contact an admissions advisor for more information on enrollment” to all applicable email signatures.
    Medium idea – Add applicable CTA buttons to university/college website where appropriate to encourage prospective students to sign up for campus tours.
    Big idea – Partner with local high schools to hold a “campus” day where your admission director and communication director can talk to seniors about degrees offered and culture at their institution.

    Attach a timeframe to each of your ideas to see which are feasible now and which may be better completed down the road – 1 month, 6 months, 2 years, 10 years, whatever.

  3. Concentrate on Performance as well as the Outcome
    Yes, having a 65% increase in student enrollment from the addition of CTAs on your website would be wonderful but that won’t necessarily be the case.

    It’s important for you to remember that you’ve taken steps to positively increase enrollment. The (unfortunate) news is that you can’t force students to see how great your institution is and enroll. You have to remember that students have a mind of their own and there are many, many factors influencing their decision. Do what you can and make positive steps towards increasing enrollment. Measure your success on these steps, not just on growth.

  4. Hold Yourself and Your Team Accountable
    Easier said than done, but make sure your goals are written down on paper, preferably in a common room that your team frequents, and ensure you’re constantly moving towards completing these goals. A good way to do this is to hold weekly, or bi-weekly, status meetings where you JUST cover progress on these goals. Make sure you don’t get sidetracked or else these meetings may drone on and your team may lose focus. Keep expressing how important these tasks are and reward hard work.

    The thought of bringing in new, and perhaps non-traditional, marketing tactics is a scary one if you don’t have a plan or a strategy. But the good news is that, as you can see from this post, it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Once you set goals and break it down into small, easy parts, you’ll have a better chance at achieving what you set out to do during the year and increase your enrollment numbers. Small steps are still steps.

    Want more information on how to attract the right students with strategic marketing?
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