Forget about one-size-fits all approaches to yield—the right segmentation will give you the understanding you’ll need to address individual prospect needs, turning Rejecters into enrolled students.
Yield is every school’s number one enrollment issue. We all know why—with the pool of applicants nearly flat, and the number of colleges and universities each student applies to growing, yield rates have no where to go but down. A smaller incoming class has direct impact your school’s bottom line. The loss of 5% in yield might seem small to outsiders—at the average college in the US that translates into 30 fewer freshman in the fall—but the financial impact is significant: $900,000 in lost revenue the first year, more than $2,700,000 over four years. Millions in lost revenue mean staff reductions, projects put on hold and less money for investment in the future.
There’s been a 16% decrease in yield rates since 2001. Don’t believe us? Then email us at email@example.com and we’ll show you the data.
With ever-greater competition for students, most schools are scrambling to make their yield numbers. Many fall short. What will you do to combat such a prospective loss? Spend more on prospecting? Send even more email, postcard and letter reminders? Offer bigger financial aid packages?
We have a better solution.
Perhaps it’s time we learned from an industry that’s mastered the art of closing the sale in the face of unrelenting competition: High Tech.
Think about it. The High Tech industry has much in common with Higher Ed: you both sell expensive services with a long purchase cycle and both require careful integration of marketing and personal contact to find, cultivate and close prospects. High Tech companies have an advantage—with fierce competition in a fast changing market, they’ve had to fight tooth-and-nail for every sale, and that’s led them to a keen understanding of how to segment prospects by need, value and behavior. When High Tech firms want to increase yield, they don’t look for a one-size-fits-all solution, they look at the different types of prospects in their database, consider their individual needs, and then develop solutions for each unique segment.
71% of prospects will actively choose to go somewhere else. To increase yield, you need more than personas, you need a Rejecter segmentation.
Some colleges have started to apply forms of segmentation—what are often called “personas”—to better understand the needs of different prospect groups. While this is a great start, yield problems demand a segmentation plan with more teeth. Some prospects are on a path that will lead them to enroll, but the vast majority—71% on average—will actively choose to go somewhere else. In a buyers’ market, you may accept them, but they reject you.
To increase yield, you need more than personas, you need a Rejecter segmentation that addresses the different reasons for rejection. There are host of reasons why prospects choose to go somewhere else. They range from the frivolous—“It was raining when we visited.”—to the substantive—“I decided to major in Chinese and you don’t have a Chinese major.” But most prospects will fall into one of seven common Rejecter segments:
Price Sensitives may really like your school, but your price, or the package you’ve offered them, is an issue.
Detached Lovers like everything about your school, but haven’t made a strong personal connection with anyone on your campus like they have with people at competing schools.
Program Buyers may like the look and feel of your school, but think your competition has a better program in their field.
Diversities like the fundamentals of your school, but think your student body isn’t diverse enough for them.
Bragging-righters may like your school, but are leaning towards highly ranked, name-brand school because they think it will open career doors for them.
Pragmatists are looking for schools and programs that lead to secure careers.
In with the In-Crowds want to follow friends to popular institutions or state universities; your school is only a safety net for them.
Like High Tech firms, you know some prospects are harder to land than others; “Pragmatists” and “In with the In-Crowds” may not be worth the effort it will take to “close” them. That said, increasing your chances with the other segments may be easier than you think, if you apply the right tactics.
Let’s take a look at Price Sensitives. Ask yourself, have you made direct price comparisons of your after-package cost to the cost of state schools for such individuals? Have you used your ability to help them get into top-notch grad schools, or land good jobs, to present a strong case for ROI? Have you had your top guns—Board members, your president—call them personally?
And what about Detached Lovers? They want a personal connection, so create one! Students and faculty are your best ambassadors—get them to write hand-written cards, send texts, connect on social media. They don’t need to sell. They just need to start a personal dialog by sharing what’s happening on campus, what they’re working on, what they’re excited about. And guess what? If you use electronic communications you can track the progress of such a campaign on a real-time basis.
On the Bragging Righter front, you might think if your school isn’t in the US News top 50, Bragging Righters are going to be a hard sell. Drawing from experience, you’d be surprised how effective a “big fish in small pond” story can be to members of such a segment. One of the best ways to make this case is through Independent College Counselors and Prep School Guidance Counselors. Make a good case to them, and they’ll make it for you.
We’ve shared some quick observations on a handful of your segmented audience, but there’s lots of work to be done, and Foster Design/SkyWorld can help.
Placing individual prospects in the right segments, knowing what to say to each segment and when to say it, and having a system to manage personalized communications are all critical to effective yield optimization programs. We’ll discuss these topics in our next Insight pieces.
We’ve helped scores of High Tech clients improve their sales yield, and we’re now applying this expertise to help our Higher Ed clients as they improve their admissions yield. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help improve your school’s yield, give us a call at 617-429-8988 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.