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It’s apparent that student acquisition is at the front of everyone’s mind in higher ed these days. CRO Matt Hammond explores what’s next.

From Pathify Magazine

I’ll preface this by saying I’m still very new to higher ed. I’ve been with Pathify in various capacities for about three years now, and I’m frequently reminded that’s just a blip on the radar compared to many of the folks I talk with that have made careers in higher ed. 

I’ve been fortunate the past three years to have had a million conversations with schools all over the world, and I continue to be amazed at people’s willingness to coach and teach me about such a fascinating industry. In fact, some of my favorite people—Jeff Ledoux from Johnson and Wales University, Brett Ingerman from Tallahassee Community College, Rick Shaw from Antelope Valley Community College (just to name a few)—are some of the most interesting folks I’ve ever sold to. We’re pretty fortunate at Pathify to have such amazing customers.

Maybe it hasn’t been a million conversations, but some quick back of the napkin math tells me I’ve spoken with over 1,000 schools in the past three years. So while I’m no higher ed expert, I do have a unique opportunity to listen (at scale) to big picture themes and topics. Up until about five months ago, student success permeated nearly every conversation. Retention, finding (and hopefully impacting) at-risk students, summer melt—these topics were discussed non-stop, and I love the fact the Pathify Engagement Hub actually moves the needle for each.

About five months ago I detected a rapid (and almost universal) change in the conversations I was involved in. Almost overnight, most stopped talking about student success, with the conversation shifting to student acquisition. So while I may not be an expert yet in higher ed, if I do know anything…it’s sales and marketing. And it’s dawned on me that finally I actually do have some subject matter expertise to bring to the table.

Student acquisition in the most competitive market in history is basically sales and marketing. Schools hate thinking of students as “consumers,” and their educational services as a “product,” but the reality is the schools that embrace sales and marketing concepts as they consider student acquisition will outperform those that don’t. 

There will be schools embracing student acquisition that will win in the next few years, and there will be schools that refuse to adapt and invest in technology as an acquisition tool. 

These schools will lose.

It’s simply impossible to argue that pulling what makes your school unique forward in a student’s evaluation process will not result in more conversions. The Pathify Prospective Student module makes this happen, and it’s no surprise that nearly every customer I’ve spoken with in the past few months is raring to get it set up. 

So here’s some unsolicited advice from a grizzled old sales and marketing veteran. Pull your student portal forward and get it into prospective students’ hands early…and often. Configure a public view that enables prospects to self-register, and gather what information you can early on to provide them a personalized experience as they evaluate your school. Assign them to digital groups where they communicate virtually with advisors, student ambassadors and alumni. There is no better way to market your school…this will drive increased conversions. 

Push your recruiting CRM behind the scenes where it belongs. Pathify’s single pane of glass will deliver a better user experience, and provided you’re also planning to use our student portal, you’ll dramatically streamline a user’s transition from prospect to student. Democratize student acquisition by making it available to everyone, and include virtual campus tours, digital community features and the resources that make your school unique. Creating a curated, highly personalized dashboard for prospective students that consolidates all communication and delivers social connection gives you a serious leg up when recruiting. This is a leg up schools need as the world gets more and more competitive, and the lift is a matter of weeks, not months or years.

I’m still very new to higher ed…but I’m an old, grizzled vet when it comes to marketing and selling. There is literally no better opportunity to outperform institutions focused on the same old student acquisition campaigns and techniques. And it’s never been more important to evolve and adapt. As student acquisition continually surfaces as a key focus in most of our conversations, you can look forward to this being a major topic, capability and opportunity for Pathify to set your school apart. 

I couldn’t be more excited to keep having these conversations. If you’d like to chat, email me at [email protected].

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