Mapping Your Higher Ed Enrollment Ecosystem—The 5-Step Guide

Kristy Gilmartin May 17, 2022 Kristy Gilmartin Director, Enrollment & Marketing Strategy Persona The Independent and Meticulous Perfectionist

Technology has changed our enrollment and marketing landscape. The channels where we operate in order to engage with students have multiplied, and the task of keeping those channels up-to-date with relevant content can be overwhelming. But where there is a challenge, there is opportunity. With some organization and prioritization, we can take the first step toward optimizing our enrollment and marketing ecosystem.

Below is an introductory guide to mapping your online ports of entry. You can take the same five steps to assess your offline channels and audience segments for a comprehensive map, and you can follow the advanced tips to upgrade your assessment at any time.

1. Explore your online presence

Start by making a comprehensive list of all the channels where you engage with your primary audience online. A simple way of making this a more objective exercise is to assign staff to “audience profiles” and ask them to research your institution online as if they were prospective students. Staff should log the steps they took in the research process, including screenshots of what they saw. For example, what appeared in their search results? Which social media platforms did they go to, how did they get to your account, and what did they see when they landed on your page? Did they encounter a channel without an active presence? Were they engaged by the content they encountered? After this exercise, take stock of your index and assess what channels are missing. Did you include third-party sites? At the end of this activity, you should have a list of channels (we also call them ports of entry) and the beginning of an assessment of your online presence.

2. Assess your ports of entry

With the list you started in step one, review each channel and log what you see (you should already have a jump start if the team took good notes in step one!). Include in your assessment: language, images, and brand elements. Be sure to make note of channels without content, how up-to-date or out-of-date content is, and for channels where you are posting content, note the frequency of posts. Once this data is available, you’ll have a map of your messaging across channels which will later allow you to evaluate message consistency, brand relevance, and channel match.

Advanced: Consider documenting tools and resources required to populate each channel for an operational analysis.

3. Align channel goals for measurement

Each channel in your ecosystem should have a clear goal and a plan for measurement. For example, your social media advertising for your open house has a goal of conversions (registrations for your event), and your measurement plan is to collect those conversions with a request for information form (RFI) right on the ad. Outline these plans and be as specific as possible in order to evaluate your ecosystem for additional optimizations. You may find that you have a mismatched channel goal and strategy, for example, a goal of lead generation without an easy way to convert (e.g., on-page form; lead generation social media ad; appropriate CTA). Your channel goals should work together across your ecosystem; for example, where you have an awareness goal, you’ll want to have at least one (better yet, more than one) corresponding channel with a conversion goal.

Advanced: Align these goals and measurements with your strategic enrollment marketing goals.

4. Prioritize your ports

Review your list of ports and place them in rank order. Consider the channels your audience is using most frequently, the channels you are best able to maintain, and the ports where you have the ability to provide the most relevant content. What does your list look like? Are there channels you want to recommit/reallocate resources to fulfilling? Are there channels you should cut? The goal here is to understand your current presence and to decide what channels you/your team can manage in a consistent and brand-relevant manner.

Advanced: Conduct audience research on behaviors and communication preferences to help make data-driven prioritization decisions.

5. Repeat

Congrats! You have drafted a map of your online ecosystem for your primary audience, which is a good step toward optimization. Ready for the next step(s)? You can use these four steps to assess your offline collateral and then again for secondary and tertiary audiences. The good news? You’ve done the more difficult data collection first!

Now that you have your ecosystem map, you are ready to evaluate the data you’ve collected. You’ll want to explore audience segmentation and your message strategy to ensure you have audience- and channel-appropriate messaging and brand consistency across the board. See how St. Ambrose University and Carnegie partnered to do this!

If you don’t have the time or resources to map your enrollment system, Carnegie offers services in operations, communication and collateral analysis, and market and audience research. We’re also experts in audience segmentation and brand strategy—the ultimate ecosystem optimizations. Reach out today to talk about the optimizations that may be right for your institution.

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