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Why Marketing and Recruitment Integration Is Essential to Success

Updated 10/23/2023

Enrollment Builders will be exhibiting at the 19th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning this week at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort - Lake Buena Vista, Florida November 20, 2013 - November 22, 2013. The theme is - Online Learning: A Universe of Opportunities.

We are re-running an article from July 28th: "Why Marketing and Recruitment Integration Is Essential to Success." The topic is very relevant to the discussions we will be having with institutions this week striving to improve their online enrollment efforts.


As our team at Enrollment Builders works with clients across the country, we try to notice the broad issues and common challenges that many colleges and universities share. One area that seems to present a recurring obstacle for schools is how to best leverage the efforts of their marketing and recruitment departments. In this post, we’ll examine the core issue, explore potential solutions, and discuss how a better-integrated approach to marketing and recruitment can provide immediate and tangible results.

The Challenge and the Opportunity

Broadly speaking, institutions tend to look at marketing and recruitment as two separate and siloed activities. Schools typically have different departments (many times in different buildings) handling each function independently, or they contract with an agency to manage marketing and lead generation services. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to understand the differences between marketing and recruitment, or even have distinct departments or third-party agencies involved, the challenge is how to deliver the best results and avoid the tendency for independent groups to become myopic in their efforts.

Through their Integrated Marketing Assessments, our consultants often see well-qualified leads generated through a school’s marketing initiatives handled with the wrong strategy or with a less-than-robust recruitment response. Institutions struggle with building a well-calibrated, personal, ongoing messaging campaign to help nurture and effectively convert leads. Functionally, building a better hand-off between marketing and recruitment requires a tightly-woven communication plan that’s designed around the following principles:

  • Clarity of message: Here, recruitment efforts should focus on different messaging for different audiences. What will the messaging approach be for freshmen? For seniors? For graduate, adult, and non-traditional students? How will messaging tactics change for online students who are making their choices in a condensed timeframe and in a much more competitive landscape? How will each piece of communication be tailored to reflect the priorities of the audience? How will core messaging be echoed across other recruitment media?
  • Ongoing phone follow-up: What’s the phone follow-up strategy for leads? What’s the optimal frequency and number of attempts? How can teams personalize the conversation, reinforce the core message, immediately address potential students’ concerns, and get them the right information at the right time?
  • Consistent email campaigns: Email efforts focus on personalization, frequency, message content, and refining efforts based on measured results. Like any other well-designed campaign, smart recruitment campaigns tailor the message to the media and use each component tactically. Having a CRM in place is important, but setting up automated email campaigns correctly for each stage of the recruitment funnel is vital for success.
  • Focused direct mail campaigns: Direct mail pieces sent to leads that have a high probability of converting or for those who have already converted are an important piece of the puzzle. Again, direct mail should be used tactically and as part of a school’s broader and ongoing recruitment efforts.

The Solution

The path to a better marketing and recruitment process rests in understanding the distinct roles of each department, and —perhaps more importantly — understanding how they can work in concert.

An island mentality doesn’t serve either function (or ultimately serve students) well. It’s helpful to think of marketing and recruitment as less a linear track and more a cyclical process. The broad marketing funnel that filters and delivers well-qualified leads to your school’s recruitment team should constantly be fed and refined with new information. Ideally, that information would come from recruitment, enrollment, student services, and financial aid — all working in tandem and communicating with common objectives.

Many times, centralizing services is the first step to achieving better results. A hub-and-spoke approach that integrates undergraduate, graduate, adult, and online marketing and recruitment services promotes interaction, communication, and the information sharing that’s so essential for success. Physical proximity, an interactive and open culture, technology that supports easy and clear data collection and dissemination, and an employee recognition/compensation structure built around shared results are all important moves that can reignite motivation and build momentum.

The Benefits

Regardless of a school’s size or budget, the benefits of an integrated marketing and recruitment process are clear. Information drives results; when departments combine their efforts, share data, brainstorm new approaches, and work together, success is nearly a given. Integration also helps stretch budgets, avoid duplicated or misdirected efforts, and creates a culture where the insight of each team is valued and leveraged most efficiently.

Enrollment Builders consults on a host of issues for institutions of all sizes. If you’d like more information on building integrated and more successful marketing and recruitment services, please contact us at 513-518-7824 or request more information here.