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Episode #34
Filling Seats Podcast | July 11, 2023

Enrollment marketing trends that work

In this episode:

You’ll hear from Alyssa Brant and Kailey MacDonald, two StudentBridge team members who work with our partners to ensure their success.

You'll hear:

  • The biggest challenges they see schools face
  • Top recommendations for success heading into the next enrollment cycle
  • Why authentic content matters and how to achieve it without hiring more staff
  • Rising trends in marketing, campus tours, in-person recruitment, and student behavior

Alyssa Brant

Manager of Customer Success


Kailey MacDonald

Kailey MacDonald

Senior Customer Success Manager


Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to Filling Seats: The State of Enrollment Marketing in Higher Ed, hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast, you'll learn what's working to grow, shape, and sustain enrollment at colleges and universities directly from fellow enrollment marketers, thought leaders, and ed tech innovators.

[00:00:23] Host: Listen in for proven strategies to fill seats this cycle and beyond.

[00:00:33] Host: Welcome to episode 34 of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from two student bridge team members who work with our partners to ensure their success.

[00:00:44] Host: Alyssa Brant and Kailey MacDonald have worked with every type of school. Big and small public and private two year and four year grad and undergrad in all 50 states to help them attract more, amaze more and achieve more. You'll hear them discuss the biggest challenges they see schools face and top recommendations for success heading into the next enrollment cycle.

[00:01:09] Host: Why authentic content matters and how to achieve it without hiring more staff. And rising trends in marketing campus tours. In person recruitment and student behavior. Let's meet Alyssa first, then Kailey.

[00:01:25] Alyssa Brant: I have been with StudentBridge for about two and a half years now, I have always been in the realm of storytelling. I was a journalism major in college and then I took that into working with.

[00:01:36] Alyssa Brant: Different journalism programs in the middle school and high school space, and telling their stories in a print media. I have now transitioned into the digital space and working with higher ed.

[00:01:45] Kailey MacDonald: Before coming to Student Bridge, I actually worked for my alma mater, mostly in the orientation events and parent and family programming areas. in my undergrad, I worked with admissions offices as a tour guide and did different admitted student events.

[00:02:01] Kailey MacDonald: and I wanted to make that. Switch to the ed tech world because I love to see an outcome and kind of drive towards a goal. And I felt like Student Bridge really offered that opportunity to, still work in the higher ed field, but still also have those project based, tasks.

[00:02:19] Kailey MacDonald: AndI've been with the company for one and a half years.

[00:02:22] Host: What is a common thing that y'all see schools often struggle with?

[00:02:27] Alyssa Brant: What they are facing right now is being able to talk about their why and how to really differentiate themselves from other institutions and what way they're doing that, whether through digital, through print.

[00:02:40] Alyssa Brant: Because right now all institutions, they have their main website that has all their information on it, and they hope that a prospective student finds what they're looking for to then inspire them to take a next step, whether that's like a visit or.

[00:02:54] Alyssa Brant: The application process or even just generally asking for more information and addition to that, every institution sends out emails, but how are our institutions trying to vary up that content to grab that attention to, once again, have a prospective student want to ask about why? Why should I go there?

[00:03:11] Host: I often see a lot of times that schools utilize. Basic facts and figures as selling points. My student to faculty ratio is this, or my graduation rate is this, But oftentimes, There's no narrative behind it to really show what this means is that you have small class sizes, you have personal attention, you're gonna get to know your faculty. Do you see any other examples like that?

[00:03:39] Alyssa Brant: Even just talking about how many majors they have, what does that actually mean? Or we have X amount of people in our institution, or just like we have so many people graduating, but.

[00:03:51] Alyssa Brant: Just because they graduate, does that mean they actually do something with that degree? Like how are people actually utilizing that education to make next steps in their careers?

[00:04:00] Host: Kailey, what about you? What do you see school struggle with?

[00:04:03] Kailey MacDonald: there's no shortage of ideas. people in higher ed are really creative. They are always thinking of new ways to do things. However, the execution is. The difficult part of who do you get to do it? Because nowadays a lot of teams I'm working with are dwindling or just non-existent.

[00:04:22] Kailey MacDonald: Now it's only a one person team or do they have the tools to do it? Do they have the resources to complete? , the vision that they've come up with. and so that's something I've seen people try to grapple with and, pivot to, obviously, this ed tech world of, okay, let's find solutions elsewhere that have been existed five, 10 years ago.

[00:04:44] Host: Let's flip it on its head. What's a school that you've worked with recently that has seen great success?

[00:04:50] Kailey MacDonald: one school I love to toot their horn, is Converse University. They're a really small institution in Spartanburg, South Carolina. they have. Our touring platform. So they are able to do virtual and self-guided tours. However, they've taken it as something that they're strictly using for enrollment marketing for, those prospective students and visitors.

[00:05:11] Kailey MacDonald: And they've actually incorporated it for their entire university. So they've got an involvement with their alumni office. They made fun tours for their homecoming weekends when they had, visitors and their board of trustees on campus, and they're actually incorporating the community as well.

[00:05:29] Kailey MacDonald: Well,to tell people, Hey, yes, we're located in Spartanburg, but there's a lot more to us than just our campus. We're involved in the community and they're trying to share that message, with others.

[00:05:41] Host: We were actually recently talking in a meeting about a really large school with a large football program that their visitor center. Often gets overwhelmed on game day Fridays with alumni and just general visitors coming to, Hey, tell me , where's this building?

[00:06:01] Host: Or how do I get here? Or whatever. And yes, they are a visitor center, but most visitors centers are funded by enrollment and their purpose is to recruit prospective students.

[00:06:11] Host: And so they utilize that same platform to create those curated tours to kind of relieve some of that staff time, so that they could focus on growing enrollment.

[00:06:23] Kailey MacDonald: Just because something is, primarily for, visitors, it can be a visitor of any type. So those, people from the community, are able to come on campus and at least learn a little bit more and maybe that.

[00:06:36] Kailey MacDonald: You know, sprinkles in a little idea. Later down the line, they hear someone's applying to a school and because they've learned something, when they went to a football game, they're able to now say, Hey, did you hear about this school? Maybe you should check 'em out. They have a great self-guided tour.

[00:06:51] Host: Alyssa, what about you?

[00:06:52] Alyssa Brant: one of my schools is Fairleigh Dickinson University. And one thing that they are really focusing on lately is personalization in combination of both postcards and digital media. What they're doing is they are sending a personalized postcard to all the prospective lists and it has their name on it, but also they have a custom QR code that takes into a virtual viewbook where it's gonna have their name on it.

[00:07:18] Alyssa Brant: It's gonna have videos from alumni people talking about. The experience of what they had at F D U, and this is really just supposed to really drive that factor of giving that why piece of why they should attend their, not just Hey, here's a postcard that just says apply. What does that actually mean?

[00:07:34] Alyssa Brant: This is a way for them to actually give some value behind that sort of messaging that they want to portray to those prospective students. But once again, in that kind of multimedia functionality,

[00:07:44] Alyssa Brant: What they're really trying to do is find that right student to fit into their institution because this whole process that they're doing is starting off very much at the top, where we're going over a hundred thousand people that we're trying to contact, but then to really.

[00:07:56] Alyssa Brant: Narrow it down to those who are going to be interested, who are going to thrive in that institution. So they can have not only just bodies in their campus, but also ones who want to be there and are going to succeed.

[00:08:08] Kailey MacDonald: jumping back earlier to when we were talking about like the facts and figures. I think something that some of my partners are doing really well is taking the facts and figures and incorporating the student side of things. So having a student talk about their experiences in one of those small, maybe seminar style classes or a student talking about what the fit in the community is like on campus.

[00:08:31] Kailey MacDonald: cuz obviously when I think of, Targeting your prospective visitors and your prospective students. The best people to get to speak to them are the current students. so being able to just tap into what feels like an unlimited resource and share their stories, has been really helpful for a lot of my clients.

[00:08:52] Kailey MacDonald: You know, even an in-person tour, someone only hears from a single tour guide. During their 90 minute visit, they follow up with, Hey, here's how you can access some additional student stories in the follow-up emails or in sequences of communication.

[00:09:08] Kailey MacDonald: to keep those students engaged, after their visit and to push them towards those next steps. But to also, give them a frame of reference of, you heard one story today, here's a dozen more that. Might relate to your experiences more.

[00:09:25] Host: What are some quick wins or a top three list that you think schools should consider to stand out from their competition and meet their enrollment goals?

[00:09:37] Alyssa Brant: Really focusing on having student stories lead your marketing because. Professors , while they have probably great things to say, great things to push about a specific program, hearing from an actual student that is going to take that knowledge and run with it and succeed in their career is way more of a stronger story than listening to a professor that is very well decorated, but.

[00:09:59] Alyssa Brant: Doesn't have that connection potentially to really younger students anymore. so that would be potentially number one. Number two is this group really cares about personalization and having things catered to what they want to know. And so being able to provide resources. Relatively quickly. to answer any of their specific questions that's gonna cater to their specific needs is really important nowadays.

[00:10:22] Alyssa Brant: that's in person, but also in a digital space as well. When it comes to any kind of email marketing or any kind of ads, you have to know your audience and order to be successful to get their attention and get them to that next step. when it comes to the third one, I would also look at the type of media that you have in the sense of, What are people taking in and learning from?

[00:10:44] Alyssa Brant: And that's where pretty much nowadays power of video, but not just video, but like short, punchy, really energetic videos that will get across your messaging and want them to want to learn more to get to that longer content. But really that's something you gotta look at. You can't just focus on printouts anymore.

[00:11:01] Alyssa Brant: You can't rely on mail, you can't rely on email to get anything across in that regard, you have to get something that's going to engage this new demographic.

[00:11:09] Kailey MacDonald: Going off of Alyssa's point, diversifying how people are learning about your institution. people have a lot of different learning styles. , some people like to read everything. Some people like to skim. Some people wanna watch a video, some people wanna just listen to something.

[00:11:22] Kailey MacDonald: So being able to target those different populations with what they need is exactly what you want to do. I'll also say, I think social media is a huge thing that, admissions teams and marketing teams are, I think still just touching on. but we see, the most viral videos are those snappy quick, they follow the trends, they follow what people are interested in.

[00:11:49] Kailey MacDonald: The best social media campaigns are ones that . Feel genuine and authentic and give people a glimpse of that institution and not a really glamorized or shiny way.

[00:12:01] Host: Kailey, you mentioned earlier that the thing that you see schools struggling with is not a lack of ideas, but a lack of capacity to execute those ideas. And I loved both of your recommendations, but if I'm an enrollment professional listening to this, I'm saying, okay, that's another thing I have to do.

[00:12:19] Kailey MacDonald: That's another thing I have to do. So what's your recommendation for how someone can actually execute on these things? I personally think utilizing the students, I think they're the ones that know what others want to see. So even if you can get, a student intern that might be a communications major, they want that experience. And if they can. Run your social media page for six months. One, they will learn a ton of information that they probably didn't get in their class that they'll be able to then apply later on in their career.

[00:12:52] Kailey MacDonald: And two, you'll get a ton of content from them that , you'll be able to then use, moving forward.

[00:12:58] Host: What are some trends that you're seeing or new strategies that you've seen schools utilize

[00:13:04] Alyssa Brant: Potentially shifting the print products of a school. Definitely those are still things to utilize because having, , different mediums is important, but it may not be necessary to go ahead and print like a 20, 30 page view book nowadays. There's definitely easier ways to put that in a digital format and being able to push it in a digital format that saves you on postage, ink and paper, and saves just time when it comes to editing, because beauty about digital is that you can make edits way quicker than having to.

[00:13:32] Alyssa Brant: Print a whole new viewbook over again. So seeing a shift to smaller amounts of prints, usually more postcards. I've even had schools that utilize even a business card size that had a QR code that went to their experience to then take on while they're traveling. So it's less bulky when you're driving around in your cars to all different fairs or different schools.

[00:13:51] Kailey MacDonald: seen people just be more strategic and intentional with their communications with their students, regardless of, if they're. In the pipeline, they haven't applied yet. And then even after application, just, segmenting out the groups more intentionally to really target those students of, if they're first generation, if they're out of state, if they are interested in a certain major.

[00:14:14] Kailey MacDonald: It really does connect back to that personalization piece, but also shows the student that yes, we're paying attention and we're listening to what you want engaged with already and to what you might still need to learn from us. especially on the admitted student end, I think being really intentional of pushing students to their next steps and, if they need to register for a testing, course they need to do that over the summer.

[00:14:39] Kailey MacDonald: Being really strategic of how you're communicating that and who you're communicating that to.

[00:14:43] Host: we're all used to. Going to Amazon and shopping for something and then being suggested a similar product, students are used to that curation and that personalization, and they want that in their higher ed search.

[00:14:59] Kailey MacDonald: F D U actually does this really well on the admitted student side of taking where the students are in the pipeline, whether they've, deposited, whether they've registered for classes and they're enrolling in them in these different communication sequences of text messages and emails to get them to move forward and also to reduce the melt over the summer.

[00:15:22] Kailey MacDonald: So by, engaging with them in that. February, March, April, when they get admitted and continuing to touch throughout the summer up until, that first day of classes is really crucial, for their kind of strategy for this year.

[00:15:39] Kailey MacDonald: I just saw recently they had a welcome message. Telling them about clubs and organizations welcoming them to the institution. and then a message about like orientation, what to expect , who you could meet, what you're going to see while you're on campus.

[00:15:53] Host: So you were both recently at the CIVSA conference, is there anything that you learned that you think would benefit visit teams this year?

[00:16:01] Kailey MacDonald: One thing that I heard from a lot of the discussions with people is that it's an open game right now that people are changing their visit experiences. And doing like kind of a 180. And any ideas that people have, I would say go for them. Everyone's in the same boat of, there's an increase of visitors, but a decrease of students to be able to help those visitors.

[00:16:26] Kailey MacDonald: And so trying to be creative in that space. and just looking to other alternatives that maybe they haven't tapped into or tried out to their fullest potential yet.

[00:16:36] Kailey MacDonald: I was actually speaking to someone, they, had a conflict that they have spring break during one of their busiest visit seasons coming up. this next academic year, and they're looking really intentionally at. Self-guided options for students they know already before March even hits that they're going to have an influx of visitors and not enough people to give them tours.

[00:16:59] Kailey MacDonald: So they're being really intentional of, okay, let's see if there's a tool out there that provides self-guided visits and planning those items. Now, so then when they get to March, they're not, running around like chickens, trying to accommodate this influx of visitors.

[00:17:16] Alyssa Brant: One thing since the pandemic that had the biggest research is, is the QR code, and that's something we've definitely seen a increase of utilization if it's just.

[00:17:25] Alyssa Brant: Signage posted around at campus or if it's as simple as like after a tour, they have a resource packet or a postcard size that has a QR code to that digital resource always with them. So not only can they do it on campus at that time, but it's something they also take home.

[00:17:39] Alyssa Brant: And so it's also a good way to have a reinforcement of what they learned in a digital format before. And so having. Touch points before a tour, during the tour, after the tour is something very much important because when you're on that tour, you get that information overload, and so having an additional resource to remind them, give them those stories, also have that additional component where you can have students stories that while in your tour you may not engage with a whole lot of students, but on those resources, you get to hear from them.

[00:18:04] Alyssa Brant: That is a really powerful tool and something to be utilized with. Now these in-person visits,

[00:18:09] Host: , we recently announced our merger with Full Measure and we've created the new StudentBridge. What's something that excites you about that ?

[00:18:18] Alyssa Brant: With the two coming together, what I've been super excited to talk to my specific clients about is additional resources that can touch prospective students more in that mid to end part of the funnel beforehand. StudentBridge is really strong. At that top, in that mid piece as well.

[00:18:34] Alyssa Brant: But we didn't necessarily have a lot to really re-engage those after they already been through the admitted stage, may have already been on a tour or been to campus. And with the two coming together, I now have the opportunity to talk to my clients about Hey, we can really now also, Work through that yield piece, also work through that summer melt, and more mobile engagement or texting in addition to their new, the on-campus tour piece.

[00:18:55] Alyssa Brant: It's super strong and I'm super excited in the sense of the personalization elements of it. It's overall just energy of being able to be like, Hey, I can help you even more.

[00:19:04] Kailey MacDonald: I actually came from the full measure side. So what I'm most excited about is being able to offer more services to my clients. obviously I spoke about that I have working. With teams of sometimes only one or two people and being able to provide the resources now to say, Hey, we can help you, create videos or we can help you with this content and things like that, that we've never been able to do before, I think will really help institutions just take what they already have and make it 10 times better, and just get a lot more out of it.

[00:19:38] Host: What do you love most about working with colleges and universities?

[00:19:43] Alyssa Brant: Really their mission and help tell the stories to help influence those students, make decisions because that's who's gonna be our workforce moving forward. That's who's gonna be leading this world, this country, they're our future basically.

[00:19:54] Kailey MacDonald: I just think the people bring such an authentic energy to them and everything that they do, they really are there to help students find where they want to go. Even if it's not their institution. They really want to help these students, move on to another college or university.

[00:20:11] Host: I just love. what they bring to the table, the creativity, the passion for the work and they are just lovely people to work with. What do you see for the future of enrollment or enrollment marketing?

[00:20:23] Kailey MacDonald: I think enrollment marketing is going to need to continue to pivot on a dime in the sense that. our upcoming students that are attending college are going to be expecting more. They're going to be expecting something different. and the enrollment marketing kind of sector is going to really need to \ , hone in on those differences really quickly and change , what they're doing and their strategies in order to meet those students where they are or what they want.

[00:20:55] Alyssa Brant: It's really just trying to figure out how to do this personalization aspect without it being a complete time sucked. To be completely honest, but really just trying to figure out the best way to communicate with these students and just also not it being so hard on the people that work at these institutions, cuz I know they work hard all the time and they really want to do what they can, but keep adding on board work and work.

[00:21:20] Alyssa Brant: We gotta figure out a better way to to get this personalization piece more streamlined but also effective.

[00:21:25] Host: And what's one piece of advice that you would give to enrollment teams looking to achieve more heading into this next enrollment cycle?

[00:21:35] Kailey MacDonald: Quality over quantity. so like I said, you have a thousand ideas, but let's pick one or two that you can really deliver on, because will show students what the institution is all about. If you're able to deliver a really quality, virtual offering or communication strategy.

[00:21:53] Kailey MacDonald: Over trying to do, 50 little things that are,are half thought out.

[00:21:57] Alyssa Brant: Be as authentic as possible. Because those upcoming classes, they will read through all of that cookie cutter, scripted, stories. You have to make sure that they are authentic and you give the space for your current students to say what they wanna say, but also guide them too.

[00:22:11] Alyssa Brant: But you really wanna make sure that it sounds real, that it sounds like a real student went through that experience and they are enjoying it. They are successful.

[00:22:19] Host: This is the Filling Seats podcast, hosted by StudentBridge, where we help enrollment teams achieve more by fusing authentic storytelling with industry leading technology and personalized digital experiences.

[00:22:35] Host: If you're looking to attract more, amaze more, and achieve more, visit To connect with this episode's guest, check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, leave a rating and review, and don't forget to subscribe! For more information about the podcast or to let us know you'd like to be a guest, visit

[00:22:58] Host: Thanks for listening!