Illustration of funnel with ants
Enrollment Insights Blog

Expert Tips for Growing Your Funnel Midyear

In a perfect world, your enrollment funnel would be cycling students through on an ongoing basis; moving students from prospects to inquiries, then applicants and so on. However, sometimes we can hit a rough patch, a bump in the road where we need to reconsider growing our funnel in the midst of a cycle. Maybe you lost track of the data along the way, or it’s possible students aren’t getting the information they need about your institution. Either way, it’s important to have some action-oriented steps in helping your funnel grow, no matter what time of year it may be.

Quick Hits:

  • Be organized with systems, timelines, and consistent data reporting.
  • Pivot when necessary, but be sure your Plan B stands out.
  • Share enrollment data and educate those with access.

Track Student Enrollment

Your incoming student enrollment data is only as good as your previous data. It’s important to track and compare your current numbers to those from last year and preferably multiple prior years. Get as specific as your data allows; have data from this month last year or even this day last year? Even better. Try your best to really track your incoming number based on where you are in the current cycle.

But don’t just track your incoming class; be sure to check on the health of your inquiries to understand the health of your institution overall. Segment down your inquiries as far as possible based on gender, geography, race, ethnicity, etc. to ensure you can take corrective action at the top of your funnel should these lists not look the way you need them to.

Put systems in place to help you create a strategic plan based on your needs. If a dashboard or report doesn’t currently exist, work with your Admissions or Enrollment teams to put one together. Create timelines to ensure you are reaching enrollment goals and have alternative plans ready should those goals not be reached initially. 

Prepare for the Unexpected

Sometimes enrollment seasons and cycles don’t go as planned (ahem, COVID?) and you may need to find a way to shift your entire plan. Think on your feet and use the resources provided by your team and institution overall. Can your marketing team do something different? How quickly can you shift? Will this new plan help reach your goals? Be as forward-thinking as possible; who knows what might come up during a cycle that you may not be prepared for.

Explore new or current vendors that may be able to help build organic interest. Digital marketing efforts can help fill your funnel and then you can decide the best way to communicate with them. Personalize your email campaign with individual student info like where they’re from or what major they’re interested in. Try a more traditional approach like a call blitz from current students or faculty/staff.

If you’re still running virtual events, you’re going to have to think of ways to differentiate them from other digital noise. Jazz up virtual events with prizes (or even more fun—a prize wheel), fun backgrounds, music, and more. 

Share Your Data (As Needed)

Find ways to share the enrollment data with your Admissions/Enrollment teams, but be mindful that not all team members might understand the data fully. Be prepared to take a deep dive into the numbers to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Consider using a data visualization tool that highlights key enrollment numbers for key stakeholders (or possibly everyone who works at your institution). You never know if a certain faculty member might be able to support your recruitment efforts for a program on campus that’s lacking applications.

Train your team on funnel building by using your real data. Help those with less experience by walking through the funnel fully explaining each stage, what the numbers mean and where they come from, and what it means for overall enrollment success.

Final Thoughts

While thinking about your funnel isn’t always the most fun in the middle of the year, having tactical plans to help your team move forward is for the better. Consider the current ways in which you track data and what your team might be able to implement to monitor and share it more effectively. Always be ready for the unexpected and encourage your team to be flexible when necessary. Plans may have to change, but a pivot in the right direction can also show students and families that you’re ready for whatever curve ball might be thrown your way. In the long run, growing your funnel will only help your team continue to connect with interested students and communicate more effectively.

Note: Key takeaways from a Niche Insights Panel hosted in March 2021.  Note that this webinar was hosted during the COVID-19 pandemic and as such, some strategies may have been specific to the needs of institutions/schools during that time.

Insights Panel Experts:

  • Carlos Cano – Director of Admission Communication & Marketing at Georgian Court University
  • Tara Evans – Vice President of Enrollment Management at International School – Indiana
  • Jay Jacobs – Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at The University of Vermont
Prior to coming to Niche in 2021, Nicole served in various roles across 8 years at Rutgers University-New Brunswick including her most recent role as the Inaugural Assistant Dean & Director for Admissions at the Honors College. With previous experiences in enrollment management, recruitment, student activities and orientation, Nicole is well-versed in all aspects of the Higher Education student experience. In her role at Niche, Nicole works to share our story and help bring clarity to all that we offer.