I was fortunate enough to present a three point survival strategy at the recent Hobsons Higher Education Best Practices event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The context for the presentation was that recruitment is not getting any easier within education. This is due to a number of factors, including;
- Dollar impact: There is an inverse correlation between the strength of the Australian dollar and commencing students in the APAC region.
- Increase in competition: Australia owns only 1.6% of the 25-64 year old population that has a tertiary qualification.
- Pipeline growth: Over the past four years, pipelines for domestic and international students have only gotten longer.
- Limited resources: 2.3 billion dollars is to be stripped from the Australian university system over the next four years.
So what can we do in this ever-evolving, challenging terrain?
- Create noise/yell for help: It is best to avoid blanket marketing with an approach to find quality in the masses. This takes on the assumption that the student is most valuable at their time of purchase.
- Run as fast as you can: All too often we see manual processes with no slant to increase efficiency. If we want to grow our universities, we first need to focus on quality of interaction and secondly on making those interactions more efficient.
- Bring as much gear as possible: We all know the story; six or more systems to manage one set of students. We should be focusing on reducing the number of systems we have. Siloed information is bad information.
- Know your environment: To effectively target the right prospective students, we need to know who they are, how they like to be communicated with, and what their triggers are. Most importantly, we need to do the basics, such as follow up with enquiries. The odds of qualifying a lead decrease sixfold after the first 60 minutes. We live in an instant world and prospective students have high expectations of universities.
- Build a fire: Behaviour based marketing is about being targeted. But targeting is a focus more on quality rather than quantity, while understanding that a student is most valuable five years after his or her purchase due to their sphere of influence. Your students today are your living, breathing brand.
- Pack light but pack right: When we talk about recruitment we need to bring up CRM. Reducing the number of systems on campus will only increase productivity. All too often we see universities, TAFEs and private providers using corporate CRM tools to manage an educational process, rather than a system designed specifically for education institutions.
It is up to us to work smarter and continuously improve our approach with prospective students as we know the terrain is not getting any easier to survive in.