In order to deliver a truly student-centric experience, universities should adopt a cross-departmental approach to marketing, admissions and academic success.
Undoubtedly, marketing, admissions and academic teams play a significant part in driving revenue and promoting the university’s brand. Stronger when interconnected, these core teams can work in tandem and use data in a coordinated way to improve processes, prepare for change and embrace digital transformation.
If you find that silos are hindering operational efficacy and innovation at your higher education institution, it’s time to create some synergy. Collaborating across teams can dismantle silos and create a shared sense of purpose in departments.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of aligning the admissions, marketing and academic teams to get them working together cohesively, and outline practical strategies to foster a productive sense of synergy across the institution.
When admissions, marketing and academics work together, processes become more streamlined, the student journey is more unified, and both student and staff satisfaction improves. Here are five key ways departmental alignment can benefit your university:
Through transparency and collaboration, universities can mold a more seamless student journey, ensuring consistency from the moment a prospective student interacts with your brand and throughout their time with you. Cohesion helps nurture trust and rapport, resulting in higher student retention and overall satisfaction.
Alignment creates a culture of sharing – including data and analysis sharing. Awareness of pain points and areas for improvement across the whole student lifecycle, and relating to different aspects of the student experience, can help you to better address the needs of students with more customized communication and strategies.
A strong, consistent brand will help you stand out in today’s competitive landscape. All departments need to be aware of the university’s core values and messaging; alignment in this area will reinforce your institution’s reputation and presence. Social media, the website and printed materials should have a consistent visual identity and tone of voice.
When admissions, marketing and faculty are aligned, higher conversions tend to follow because the ICP (ideal custom profile) for each programme becomes better defined. With input from academics and admissions, marketing is better equipped to source well-qualified applicants and information relating to their interests and ambitions.
A holistic approach to higher education enables students to access the services and resources they need, when they need them. Providing an academic and pastoral experience that is tailored to the individual is more achievable when departments work together to share insights and information in a transparent way.
While the benefits of synergy across teams are clear, how can universities go about making it happen? The key is to create a culture of collaboration and have the infrastructure – including the technology – in place to make alignment across teams quick and easy.
Firstly, open up communication channels between admissions, marketing and academic teams, and schedule regular meetings where a representative (or representatives) from each department can share updates and challenges, and align goals. These meetings can be weekly or monthly, depending on the needs of your university.
Working more closely with the marketing department will help admissions develop a better understanding of the pre-enquiry or awareness phase of the student journey – from the moment an individual engages with an ad, signs up to an event or downloads a prospectus, for instance. Equipped with this knowledge, they can craft meaningful and personalized messaging to turn inquirers into applicants, and ultimately, applicants into enrolled students.
Likewise, marketing will benefit from closer collaboration with admissions and improve ROI. The admissions can share its insight into which students enrolled, enabling marketing to refine their campaigns to attract more prospective students who are likely to convert.
Cross-functional projects can be a great way to broaden perspectives by getting teams from different departments to contribute. For instance, if they don’t already, your admissions department may want to consider inviting representatives from the marketing and academic teams to your Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) team.
Both can provide available input on how you can position and promote the university at the enrollment stage, and ultimately improve yield.
It’s also a good idea to involve marketing and admissions in recruitment events. This will provide marketing with a valuable ‘real-world’ insight into the admissions and recruitment process, and give them an opportunity to meet with prospective students.
Likewise, admissions should be involved in marketing processes and have the opportunity, for example, to attend meetings and participate in social media ‘takeovers’.
It’s important to set clear shared objectives that allow admissions, marketing and academic teams to work collaboratively. Think about the areas of your institution that lend themselves to collaboration. Driving more traffic to the website could be a good starting point.
If the university website largely falls under marketing’s remit, consider broadening the scope. Although marketing may understand which images work best, how to interpret analytics and how to write call-to-action copy that converts, academic staff can contribute valuable content to the news and curriculum pages.
The development and maintenance of an in-house system is a complex and time-consuming task. Full Fabric lets you turn your full attention to maximizing growth and performance.
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a service contract between the service provider and customer. They outline the level of service expected by the customer (in this instance, the student), and explain how the service should be measured.
An SLA can also be used to define the key responsibilities of each department at different stages of the student journey. You can use it to communicate expectations around application processing and email response times, to ensure that the student journey moves from one department to the next seamlessly.
Not only will this make the journey smoother for candidates – and increase the chance of conversion – but it will make the expectations clearer for each team within the institution.
As well as cross-team meetings, why not incorporate joint training sessions into your collaboration strategy? Joint training can help employees gain a better understanding of other people’s roles within the institution and how they can work together. These sessions can take place at your university, in a hybrid setting or off-campus.
Joint training benefits include:
Often, departmental silos are exacerbated – or even caused – by outdated technology and lack of integration. You can avoid silos by investing in technologies that facilitate data and analytics sharing. One route is to onboard an all-in-one CRM for higher education, or you could integrate your CRM with your admissions and SIS systems to streamline processes.
A CRM for higher education had numerous benefits.
Firstly, a centralized system can vastly improve communication and coordination between teams; the admissions, marketing and academic teams can share information, schedule meetings and track student interactions on a single platform. This level of streamlining reduces miscommunication and makes the student experience more streamlined.
A CRM can provide you with a 360-degree view of the admissions and enrollment pipeline for every student, and you can also use it to track their academic progress once enrolled. Again, this visibility enables departments to address needs and concerns in a holistic way.
Many CRMs for higher education have task management features that let individuals assign, track and complete tasks collaboratively, enabling everyone to meet shared goals.
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge your teams’ successes; boosting morale and instilling a sense of accomplishment consistently will help build long-term cooperation, motivation to continue working as a team, and success. Recognize the importance of each team in driving ROI and helping to ensure each student’s journey with you is a positive one.
Acknowledge and highlight people’s achievements in your shared meetings and in internal emails. Plan co-team building activities for admissions, marketing and academic teams, such as a team lunch out or an fun evening of social activities. Invest in professional development to encourage growth, skills sharing and long lasting synergy between teams.