Skip to content

6 Tactics to Improve Higher Ed Marketing & Admissions Collaboration

Is there a disconnect between your institution’s marketing department and admissions team? Do you worry about whether your enrollment marketing strategies are providing qualified prospects for your admissions counselors to engage with?

At most colleges and universities, these departments are separate and have two distinct functions. The main goal of marketing is to generate awareness and interest in your university. The admissions team focuses on engaging with prospective students and cultivating relationships throughout the recruitment and enrollment process.

When consulting with higher education institutions, we’ve seen many different types of dynamics between admissions and marketing teams, some positive and some negative. Despite a clear connection between the two, admissions and marketing departments frequently get siloed from one another. This division can lead to miscommunication and frustration, and it’s clear that the health of cross-team relationships directly impacts the likelihood of hitting enrollment goals.

To increase student enrollment, your institution needs both departments to function optimally and work together for the best possible return on your admissions marketing.

In this article, you’ll discover six simple ways to improve collaboration between your admissions and marketing departments:

  1. Identify key metrics to keep cross-team goals aligned
  2. Meet regularly to discuss your lead performance and quality
  3. Determine how marketing fits into your enrollment growth plan
  4. Encourage marketing to attend student recruitment events
  5. Help admissions staff understand marketing’s lead gen channels and strategies
  6. Develop healthy communication and culture

At the end of the article, you’ll feel more confident about implementing these best practices at your institution to improve collaboration and increase your admissions conversion rates.

1. Identify Key Metrics to Keep Cross-Team Goals Aligned

The foundation of improving collaboration is ensuring both teams work towards the same goals. This starts with identifying key metrics that matter to both marketing and admissions. 

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) to consider include:

  • Number of Qualified Leads: Track how many leads meet the criteria set by the admissions team.
  • Conversion Rate: Measure the percentage of leads that convert into enrolled students.
  • Lead Response Time: Monitor how quickly admissions contacts new leads.
  • Lead Nurture Time: Track the time it takes for a lead to progress from initial contact to enrollment.
  • Cost per Enrollment: Calculate the marketing cost of acquiring each enrolled student.
  • Yield Rate: Assess the percentage of accepted students who ultimately enroll.

Regularly reviewing these metrics together ensures both teams understand what success looks like and discuss opportunities for improvement over time.

2. Meet Regularly to Discuss Your Lead Performance and Quality

Regular meetings between marketing and admissions are crucial for effective collaboration. Schedule a weekly or bi-weekly meeting where both teams come together to analyze and discuss the key metrics.

These sessions should focus on:

  • Creating a healthy environment for everyone from both teams to engage in constructive conversations and share ideas for improvement to foster a sense of teamwork. If the dynamic during your meetings is healthy, that will also positively influence any ad-hoc or asynchronous communication between meetings.
  • Reviewing key metric performance and discussing which strategies are working and which may need to be adjusted. Regular conversations about these KPIs will ensure everyone focuses on the most valuable work.
  • Auditing lead source quality based on critical variables, such as Program of Interest (POI), engagement level, or demographic information. For example, if leads from a specific campaign have a high conversion rate, marketing should prioritize that channel.

Consider holding quarterly and yearly meetings with marketing and admissions to discuss your key metrics for the next enrollment cycle and the main strategies for achieving those goals.

Overall, consistent meetings between marketing and admissions will ensure everyone is on the same page and help both teams be more effective in increasing and converting qualified prospective students for your institution.

3. Determine How Marketing Fits into Your Enrollment Growth Plan

Enrollment marketing isn’t just about generating leads—it is essential for reaching prospective students and properly positioning your brand.

If your institution has a Strategic Enrollment Management team, a high-level marketing officer must have a seat at the table. 

A marketing leader can provide guidance and insights into how your college attracts new prospective students. This includes methods of generating leads and messaging that shows the value of enrolling at your institution.

This cohesive approach ensures prospective students receive a consistent message from their first interaction to enrollment.

If you don't have a Strategic Enrollment Management team or you haven’t reviewed your SEM plan recently, read this article: 7 Key Components of a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.

4. Encourage Marketing to Attend Student Recruitment Events

Another effective way to improve collaboration is having your marketing team attend student recruitment events alongside your admissions team.

Why? When marketers attend events with your recruiters, it can inform future marketing strategies and create a stronger connection between the two teams.

Invite a marketing person to shadow a recruiter for a day or take a campus tour so they can understand how the recruiters interact with prospective students.

Send a marketer along to a regional or national college fair. College fairs give your marketers a firsthand chance to hear prospective students' questions, see the college fair booth setup, and sneak a peek at creative assets from other institutions.

5. Help Admissions Staff Understand Marketing’s Lead Gen Channels and Strategies

Admissions teams often receive leads without fully understanding how they were generated. This lack of understanding can lead to missed opportunities and ineffective follow-ups, ultimately hindering conversion rates.

Educate your admissions staff on the various marketing channels and strategies to attract prospective students to your college or university.

Consider holding a workshop where the marketing team explains their lead generation tactics, such as social media advertising, email campaigns, and content marketing. This could fit into one of the quarterly meetings you hold with the two teams.

When admissions staff understand the origin and intent behind each lead, they can tailor their approach to better engage with potential students and improve conversion rates.

Additionally, with this context, your admissions team can provide crucial feedback on which marketing strategies and messaging generate the highest-quality leads and which strategies may need to be adjusted.

6. Develop Healthy Communication and Culture Between Higher Education Marketing and Admissions

Healthy communication and a positive culture are the heart of successful collaboration. As a leader, you must encourage transparency, respect, and mutual support between your marketing and admissions teams.

Cultivate an environment where both teams feel comfortable sharing their success and challenges. You’ll also want to recognize and celebrate joint achievements, such as meeting enrollment targets or launching a successful new campaign.

Building a culture of collaboration takes time, but it’s worth the effort to achieve a more cohesive and effective enrollment management strategy.

Get to the Root of Your Enrollment Challenges

Implementing these tactics can improve collaboration between your marketing and admissions teams, leading to higher-quality leads, improved admission conversion rates, and increased enrollment.

However, getting your teams on board with changing their approach can be difficult when you can’t properly articulate the issues that would be solved by following some of these best practices.

If you’re ready to uncover the root of your enrollment challenges, sign up for a comprehensive assessment of your admissions outreach efforts. You’ll get a report that shows your biggest opportunities for improvement and will help you kick off a healthy conversation to implement many of these tactics.