I was chatting with a university recruiter, who's a user of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in education in Australia, recently about the way that they are tracking student recruitment through their system. They were showing me the way that they can track campaigns to recruit students.
Their goal is to ensure that as they get the attention of students, they are able to track their progress down the student recruitment funnel – from having their attention, through the application process, making an offer of a place and then starting their academic year. At each stage there's a drop out of 50-80% of prospective students. So 60,000 applicants can easily turn into just 10,000 students starting at the university.
The interesting challenge is how to keep an eye on the students at the top part of the funnel – the attention stage – where a lot of the recruitment activities are market-wide eg advertising, blanket mailshots and mass emails. Like most other broad marketing campaigns, it is very difficult to tell which activities really work, and which ones feel good but may not be effective.
The recruiter showed me how they could send a mass email, and watch as individual users responded – perhaps by visiting pages on the university website, or registering to attend events and open days. The feedback available through a student clicking a link then gave them deep insight into the activities of a prospective student – not just at the time, but in future weeks and months as they returned (or didn't) to the university website, or either read or ignored other email marketing campaigns.
It's just one way that they were using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM in education, to build a better student recruitment cycle.
It's far from an 'old world' mindset of marketing for student recruitment, where you would aim for blanket marketing of your institution or course, and run adverts and posters in magazines, buses, railway stations etc. (Perhaps not that 'old world' if you live in Sydney and notice how much display advertising on public transport is for higher and further education)
So this chart, from a US survey, shouldn't be a surprise:
It shows that 59% of tertiary education institutions plan to increase their digital marketing budgets in 2013, and at the opposite end, 23% plan to cut their traditional marketing budgets.
As universities increasingly compete for domestic and international students, then we're seeing similar patterns in Australia. When you're given a choice between 'advertise and hope' through traditional methods, and analytics-driven marketing through digital methods, then I think I can predict how university Marketing Directors are going to respond.