Admissions Funnel Guide

Admission Funnel - a 12 step guide to streamlining admissions and boost enrollments

I recently joined a gym. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d last long. But here I am, eight months later – still going strong. The reason for me to keep pushing is straightforward – I could see a change in myself. And the best part – I love how my fitness trainer understood my goals and gave me a 6-month plan to achieve them. Way to go!

Now you must be thinking, what does this have to do with the admission process? Tell you what? Personalization is the key here. In my case, it is the personalized fitness plan from my gym. When it comes to your college or your applicants, the expectations aren’t much different.

Especially, in today’s time, when traditional brick and mortar education seems somewhat risky and impossible, managing admissions funnel smartly through personalized messaging has become crucial for institutions. However, building an admission pipeline that brings enrollments is not as easy as it looks. 

I tried to dig deeper and understand the actual admission process at career schools, colleges, and universities – taking insights from directors, admission heads, chairpersons, and chancellors. I was not surprised when I found out that most of them use a student management system or CRM to manage their admissions funnel.

Let me share my learnings. But before, a quick look at the basics of admissions funnel.  

What is an admissions funnel?

Admission or enrollment funnel is a series of steps that a lead (student) must cross – right from being a lead, to a prospect, to a hot opportunity to finally becoming a student. In short, it is a picturized representation of a student’s journey from inquiry to conversion. 

There are three distinct stages of an enrollment funnel – Top, Middle, and Bottom. Based on how much a student is interested in admissions, you can determine their stage in the funnel. 

If you are wondering why we call it a funnel, it is because casual inquiries (top of the funnel) will always be more than the admission-ready inquiries (bottom of the funnel). Let us discuss these stages of the admissions funnel. 

The 3 main stages of an admission funnel. Understanding this will help push students to enrollment faster.

Top of the funnel:

 From a student’s perspective, it is a window-shopping phase. They might be casually looking for colleges but are not eligible for or serious about enrollment. But from a counselor’s perspective, this is an opportunity to find students who will graduate soon and may enroll in one of your courses. The aim here is to generate as many leads as possible. So, you need only a few fields in your lead capture form. You can nurture them and influence them to take admission in your institution. The purpose of capturing the top-of-the-funnel leads is to build your admissions pipeline. So keep the lead fields as minimal and precise as possible. But make sure you gather all the relevant information that you’ll need to shortlist a candidate. 

Middle of the funnel:

 Here, the students are interested in your institution. It is the right time to connect them with admission counselors to understand their interests, concerns, etc. You can also send them brochures and invite them to open houses, virtual events, student communities, etc. You should clearly explain why your institution is the best option. A webinar or a personalized meeting can work wonders. 

In terms of leads, they reach this stage either from nurturing activities or directly from ads or your website. However, while capturing the middle-of-the-funnel leads, make sure you get all the relevant information – even if the application form fields are more. 

Bottom of the funnel:

These are the most active leads with a high chance of a conversion. Institutions can get away with longer forms at this stage as prospects have made up their mind and are ready to enroll.

Therefore, the engagement journey of these leads (student inquiries) will depend on their stage in the admissions funnel.

How to use the admissions funnel to increase enrollments?

It starts with student inquiry capture automation, covering aspects such as reducing the speed-to-lead, improving call center and admission reps’ efficiency. Let us look at this step-by-step.

Step 1. Determine the effective channels of lead acquisition and define a process to manage them

Capture student inquires from all online and offline channels and automate a defined process until conversion.

There are various sources through which you can generate student inquiries. However, not missing out on them and assigning them to a student counselor timely is crucial.

Social media channels, such as Instagram, Linked In, Facebook, and various third-party marketplaces or publishers, are the best ways to acquire student inquiries.

Building website landing pages and contact forms on microsites to drive campaign traffic is also effective. With multiple sources to rely on, generating student inquiries might not be that hard. Collating them from different platforms, tracking their status, and following up can be time-consuming. Now the question is – how to manage student inquiries?  

Excel to the rescue? Maybe not.

If you are using excel or spreadsheets to maintain this data, you will probably miss out on leads and follow-ups in the process. Hence, the best approach is to use an integrated enrollment solution.

What does an enrollment solution do?

An enrollment platform helps reinvent the admissions funnel – from lead capture to lead management and beyond. It helps counselors identify inquiries that are ready to enroll. With this information, admission representatives can prioritize calling these students and send meeting invitations.

Tips to personalize marketing campaigns

According to marketing insights, the number of global email users will grow to 4.48 billion users by 2024. The numbers confirm that Email and SMS marketing remains one of the most effective ways. However, it is essential to personalize the messages that you send. 

The study also reveals that the open rates for emails with personalized subject lines are 50% higher than emails without them. Yet only 2% of emails are personalized.

Next comes your email content. Instead of sending all the information into one email, send a series of at least three personalized emails. A study conducted by Omnisend in 2018 reveals that a series of emails perform better than a single email.

You can also use LeadSquared admissions CRM to capture leads and run a nurturing sequence automatically. With this tool, you can:

1. Nurture leads through personalized email marketing campaigns. Automate emails based on student profiles, interests, and engagement with your campaigns.

2. Choose from a variety of email templates, test their performance, and make changes instantly.

Step 2: Boost the admission rate with student and counsellor portals

Provide applicants with secure portals to view and manage their applications. Counsellors on the other hand can track all applicant details and progress through the counsellor portal.

Paperless applicant portals help you make the application journey easy for students. Also, a student-friendly form will always have a higher completion rate. The counselors get to know their audience better when the right field types for admission forms are selected and filled. Admissions-specific workflows help admissions teams focus on incoming inquiries, engage with more leads, and identify their intent in a more organized fashion.

With the help of a student portal, you can:

  • Create Responsive Student Application forms – Make it easy for students to manage their profiles, upload documents, and more.
  • Speed-up Your Enrollment Process – An automated enrollment system configures applicant details, documents, payment, and e-signature. You can set reminders and alerts for certain tasks for faster processing.
  • Collect Signatures and Documents Electronically – With the help of a student portal, students can digitally sign and upload enrollment documents. From a counselor’s perspective, they can access documents online and save countless hours spent in shuffling and document management.

Step 3. Track the student journey

Track and manage the end-to-end student journey

A study by Asend2 suggests that 57% of marketers agree that lead nurturing is the most crucial aspect of closing a customer. Therefore, it is necessary to have the right set of sales and marketing tools at your disposal. 

For instance, tools such as admissions CRM provide team members with relevant information regarding courses and curriculum that students would find value in. At the same time, it is also necessary to understand the student’s intent for admission. Again, CRM tools can help capture the intent by tracking the student activities on your website, social media, and ads.

Below are a few points to keep in mind while tracking student activities:

1. Track web activities: Track the student’s intent on your institution’s website through page views, CTA clicks, video views, and more.

2. Track the time spent on the website: Figure out how engaging your content is (and what your students are interested in) by tracking the time spent on each page and analyzing the bounce rate.

3. Track the effectiveness of pages and content: Track link clicks and understand if the content encourages the student to take action.

4. Track sources: Identify if student inquiries are coming from social media, search engines (organic traffic), digital ads, or through publisher websites.

Step 4. Prevent application drop-offs

Prevent student inquiries from dropping off in between applications

Usually, the college application forms are lengthy. While colleges need this information, students may drop off in the middle for several reasons. Let’s understand this with an example. Vivek, a student, comes across one of your courses on your university website. He starts to fill in the details so that your admission counselors can reach out to him. However, he gets a call from a friend and abandons the form. He might still want to inquire about your institution, but he forgets to do so. 

What next? 

Did your college lose a student? Not really. Tools like education CRM will capture the exact entry and exit details. So, your counselors will know how to pursue Vivek and understand his intent.

You can also run remarketing campaigns to remind Vivek to complete his application. The best part is – CRM tool lets you initiate and pursue communication through numerous channels, such as emails, texts, calls, WhatsApp, and more. Also, instead of starting again, applicants can pick up from the point they left. All of these will sum up to a better student experience

Step 5. Personalize your messages

Personalize your messages by creating multiple touchpoints with applicants over social media and other sources.

A study by leadsimple reveals that contacting a person within 5 minutes of an inquiry increases the chances of conversion by nine times. However, it is practically impossible to call them immediately.

Solution?

Align marketing and admissions by sending out targeted messages to students/parents who inquire about the courses on your website contact forms/Landing pages. 

So how do you ensure a personalized communication with students to keep them engaged?

No matter how or when a student fills out a form, the enrollment system creates a curated touchpoint. It helps engage with the student till a counselor reaches out to them.

Step 6. Automate application processing and connect all your teams

automate "next-steps" right from the time an applicant inquiry lands into your system. Define the workflow and let the automation take care of the rest.

With the help of a workflow builder, you can keep all the teams informed and connected. One can automate actions at different steps in the student journey. (For instance, if the student doesn’t finish the application form, the counselor gets notified). Once the application is complete, it is automatically sent to the verification team. Accepting or rejecting an application can be based on several automated or manual criteria.

Step 7. Student inquiry deduplication and distribution 

Segregate the applicant leads based on multiple criteria such as priority, existing lead in system and more, and equally distribute them among admission counsellors based on lead and agent attributes.

Duplicate leads are a concern for most educational organizations. For example, when a student inquires about your courses on your website and social media, it might create a duplicate record in your system. Such duplicate entries decreases the productivity as different counselors may spend time pursuing the same lead. But a deduplication logic in place ensures the counselors work only on unique leads. From a prospect’s perspective, deduplication improves their experience by reducing the chances of redundant communication.

Admissions CRM makes it easy to filter duplicate leads. Instead of creating new records, it updates the existing record with lead activities. After filtering the data, the system automatically assigns the lead to the counselors for follow-up. This distribution can be done based on specific lead or counselor attributes – unique to an institution.

If the counselor is unavailable or there is a delay in reaching out to the prospect, the CRM system assigns the lead to the next available counselor. The system also solves the problem of overloading your counselors with leads at any given point in time. With a capping logic, the system assigns an appropriate number of inquiries and distributes them equally among the team.

Step 8. Figure out whom to call first. 

Pull out the high-priority applicants first based on triggers that inform you the chance of closure

Admission counselors and call center agents struggle with figuring out whom to reach out to first. So, how to prioritize student inquiries that have a higher chance of conversion?

In high-velocity operations, like that of educational institutions, 100s of admission inquiries flood in daily. It is impossible to call every lead – resulting in missing out on follow-ups and recruitment opportunities.

So what should you do?

Prioritizing leads based on a scoring system can help you in this case. Lead scoring plays a vital role in prioritizing and selecting admission-ready students. You can assign scores based on the student’s involvement in your offerings, student attributes, and activities.

When a student frequently checks your emails, spends time on your website, or interacts with your content, it means that they have a higher chance of a conversion. Parallelly, the stage of the student in the admissions funnel changes. Tools like admissions CRM help you automatically segment inquiries into different buckets like inquiries, applications, eligible/opportunities, and more. This list can also help you prioritize follow-ups. For example, you would want to talk to eligible candidates first. Prioritization and segmentation also help counselors better assist the student and move them forward in the admission cycle.

Step 9. Get a call center solution for counsellors

Ensure no student inquiries are missed with the help of a call center integration that keeps your admission agents informed at all times.

In the education industry, the lead volume is usually high, the channels are many, and a large percentage of students don’t finish their application forms online. It isn’t easy to ensure that all students are reached out on time. Hence, a call center system ensures that you don’t miss out on any opportunities.

A study by Microsoft reveals that 56% of consumers have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience. Out of that, 47% of consumers moved to the competitor. It indicates that colleges should take care of all calls and resolve student inquiries without delay.

Step 10. Boost admission counsellors’ efficiency

Boost the efficiency of admission counsellors by segregating the enrollment ready applications first

Most educational institutions use an integrated CRM with a contact center solution or an IVR to never miss out on leads. It provides your program associates/counselors a 360-degree view of students and their requirements. It helps them deliver a personalized service.

Instead of purchasing a separate call center suite and CRM suite, implementing an education CRM that comes with a call center integration is the best choice for educational organizations. Progressive/predictive dialing features of CRM will allow you to call high-priority prospects automatically.

Step 11. Track student activities throughout their lifecycle

Track all interactions and touchpoints of students with counsellors, webbsites, emails, webinars and more.

Once the student inquiries get distributed among counselors, they can see student details in one place. It also gets easier to identify their position in the admissions funnel. They can see all assigned leads, opportunities, activities, tasks, and other details through a single dashboard. The activities overview will help you map the student journey – from inquiry capture to enrollment.

For instance, in LeadSquared Admissions CRM, you can set up the following views: Application completed for MBA, Engineering, Arts, and other courses that you offer. You might add different buckets such as new leads added, leads assigned to do, lead overdue, progress to do, or other filters.

Benefits of using Admissions CRM – 

  • It gives counselors a single work area for accessing lead details, opportunities, activities, and tasks.
  • Provides a better alternative to filters – you can see your saved filters as tabs.
  • Shows you the leads count on each tab.
  • Automatically refreshes so your tabs are always updated.
  • You can also receive daily reports for the views you create.

Driving conversions is a tedious task and requires support from seniors and experts. Therefore, managers should be able to see the team’s activities and take appropriate actions.

To give you an example, an important aspect of enrollment process is follow-ups with prospective students. The chances of reaching a lead are 100 times higher if they are called within 5 minutes. However, with the sheer volume of inquiries that educational institutes receive, missing out on follow-ups is common. 

But what if you could track the daily operations for your teams, such as calls made, emails sent, and follow-ups missed, and intervene when necessary?

With the help of analytics, managers can have complete visibility and transparency about the daily activities of student counselors and their overdue, completed, and upcoming tasks. If a counselor has not worked on an inquiry for a long time, the CRM tool will escalate and route the lead to another counselor automatically. It ensures a seamless admission process.

The following are some of the essential metrics that you can track on CRM:

1. Emails sent by counselors and their click and open rates.

2. Call volume, connect rate, and successful conversation numbers.

3. Call recordings and email audits

4. The number of students in each stage of the admission pipeline

5. Meeting schedule of your field sales team on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

6. The admissions your counselors close or commit to the admission pipeline.

7. The revenue contributed vs. the activities of the counselors.

8. Missed tasks and activities.

Step 12. Track KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

A detailed analysis of ongoing business activities in a decision-ready format is necessary to streamline admissions. Performance metrics on sources, campaigns, admissions teams (online and offline teams), counselors, call center agents, and more should be revisited in a timely format.

With reliable Analytics, you can redefine your strategies and invest more in profitable sources. Thus, payment milestone reports, phone call metrics, student admission stage transition analysis, and complete reporting for all your processes, teams, courses, and campaigns can help boost admissions.

“It is necessary to track metrics while enabling a virtual ecosystem. Telecalling, counselling, campus tours, staff interaction should be available to students and parents, hence technology is extremely important at this stage. Institutions should concentrate on their core areas such as placements and academics. Admission is just a phase but reaching there requires several pre-requisites which need to be emphasized. The number of inquiries, admission forms, virtual and physical campus visits needs to be tracked. People are more informed now and shifting to a digital model has been effective as it provides a detailed outlook on ROIs.

Rahul Singhi, Director & Co-Founder, Poornima University.

Education institutions should track the following KPIs:

  • Overall performance of lead generation sources, admission counselors, teams, and marketing campaigns
  • Team performance
  • Product (subjects, courses) performance
  • Campaign source performance
  • Agents performance
  • Return on Advertisements (ROAs)

How can colleges reinvent the admissions funnel?

Managing your enrollments and inquiries on excel or multiple platforms might serve the purpose for now. It however gets KO’d when we consider a consolidated enrollment management tool. With the help of an enrollment CRM, educational institutions can manage, try, and test best working strategies in the student enrollment process. Gaining visibility into the admissions funnel makes it easier to push inquiries to enrollments faster. 

The CRM also helps your admissions team to capture student inquiries, check their eligibility, follow-up, collect documents, and complete the application process digitally. From a student’s standpoint, it allows them the flexibility of applying to your courses online at the comfort of their beanbags, check their application status, submit documents, pay fees online, schedule screening tests, and way more. Thus, it reduces a typical month-long student journey filled with tedious paperwork.

With LeadSquared’s end-to-end enrollment CRM backing your admissions team, ensure quicker student conversions.


FAQs

How do you convert an inquiry into admission?

A student inquiry usually follows a predefined path, also known as the enrollment funnel. Having clear visibility into the enrollment funnel helps admission teams understand the intent of the applicant. Therefore, they can take necessary actions and guide students as and when needed. Also, metrics, such as email opens, website visits, and social media interactions, give the admission agents a complete context of the students’ intent and helps drive enrollments.

How to optimize the admission funnel?

Admissions teams usually focus more on generating leads. However, to attract the best talents, they should also focus on optimizing the admissions funnel. It means – collecting necessary student information, shortlisting them, sending them personalized communication instead of email blasts, and devising automated student engagement strategies. Tools such as Education CRM help in optimizing the admissions funnel. 


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Vivek Hariharan

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