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Research Report

5 current challenges in enrollment marketing and communications

September 10, 2018

Use this briefing to discover current enrollment marketing and communication trends and educate your campus and department about key challenges.

In June 2018, the Marketing and Recruiting Effectiveness Center (MREC) convened several cohorts of enrollment marketing and communications (M&C) professionals to share their challenges, explore top trends in the field, and discuss significant changes impacting their work.

This briefing is a synthesis of the five most pressing issues that emerged across this series of conversations. These challenges surfaced across partner institutions of all sizes, selectivity levels, and geographical locations.

1. Designing a digital-first strategy

More on this topic

This resource is part of the Improve Communications from Deposit to Matriculation Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.

Many institutions treat digital activities as add-ons rather than a core component of their strategy, making their digital marketing disorganized and less effective.

Instead, digital strategy should inform all marketing activities:

Search strategies

  • SEO and SEM
  • Paid and organic

Social media

  • Best platforms for goals
  • Regular engagment

Content and planning

  • Blog posts
  • Web events
  • Schedule
Person with computer

Prospect experience

  • Path plan
  • Access to easy help

Innovative tactics

  • New mediums
  • Unique metrics

Technical architecture

  • CMS and CRM
  • Marketing automation
  • Website

Explore this section early insight into designing a digital-first strategy, including ideas to get you started and out-of-industry examples.

2. Creating effective personalization

Institutions are struggling to navigate resource and privacy concerns while meeting expectations students now have for personalization and high-touch engagement.

Explore this section for more details about creating tailored content for your prospective students, including why it’s so hard to get started.

3. Adopting an inbound marketing methodology

Schools must draw student interest online with compelling, relevant content that encourages them to engage digitally and come directly to the school for more information.

At every stage of the decision making process, prospects want different information:

Strangers to potential students: Attract visitors

  • Create content to get early interest
  • Use good keywords
  • Be present on social media platforms

Potential student to applicants: Inspire action

  • Use forms to gather info and issue calls to action
  • Offer landing pages for specific activities (visit, attend event, etc.)

Applicants to enrolled students: Capture students

  • Log everything in CRM
  • Push smart content based on their needs
  • Proactively engage on multiple platforms

Explore this section for a model of effective inbound marketing strategy to meet prospects’ needs though the entire application timeline.

4. Making data-driven decisions

Using data and analytics is a hot topic, but it is hard to identify the right analyses, the right data, and the right ways to translate insight to action.

Explore this section to see how progressive colleges and universities are employing data to inform strategy—and overcoming common analytics-related barriers.


The number of outbound communications one school discovered it was sending in a year to prospective students before enrollment
The number of outbound communications one school discovered it was sending in a year to prospective students before enrollment

5. Streamlining communications

When individual teams or offices outreach independently, or when similar messages are duplicated across campus, prospects are likely to be overwhelmed and/or confused.

Explore this section for strategies to coordinate communications across teams, department, and campus.

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