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Funnel of Ones

Who's in your inquiry pool? And how does that affect your yield?

We’ve been watching with interest the changes taking place at Drexel University. About 10 years ago, Drexel made a bold move, embracing an intense direct marketing strategy and the elimination of many hurdles to applying. The results? More than a 300 percent increase in applications.

The problem was that this flood of applications also came with the need for an 80 percent acceptance and a yield that dropped from 32 to 8 percent. Drexel has decided this is situation is unsustainable (more on that here).

But it got us thinking: What’s the ideal flow from inquiries to applications to yield? What ratios are most efficient—and achievable?

Yield isn’t always a function of reputation or awareness. Princeton enjoys a yield of around 68 percent, but Berea College in Kentucky also does exceptionally well at more than 72 percent. Yield is more complex than selectivity or prestige.

Yield tells you if you’ve gotten the right students to apply and that your marketing is working. If your yield isn’t what you want it to be, and you’re confident of your admissions process and experience (is that a big if?), then maybe you need a shift in your marketing’s focus. What would happen if you spoke slightly differently to a slightly different audience? How would that affect your yield?

Yield may also reveal that you’re facing an interesting competitive situation, i.e. that other colleges and universities are seeking exactly that same students you’re looking at. To remain competitive, your yield can’t fall too far behind that of your most similar competitors. What are they saying? And who’s listening?

Yield may tell you that your institution needs to evolve or expand—no college can survive without change, and you don’t grow or get stronger by doing the same things everyone else is doing. Differentiation, in a competitive situation, is your best friend. Unless, of course,  you’re able to offer ever increasing amounts of financial aid.

Most colleges, however, avoid too much differentiation. Many also seek the very same kind of students as 100 other places. And not everyone is really thinking about who’s in their inquiry pool.

Is the ideal funnel a funnel of one-to-one ratios—a pipe? Maybe. That kind of efficiency, though, is scary. But it’s worth thinking about what it would take to pursue it. How would your admissions process or marketing change? And how would your institution change?

PHOTO: Steve Corey
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