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Recruiting Intelligence

International student admissions - our customers

Bill Gates gave an interview recently and described himself as a "professional student" in response to the comment that he was a college drop out.  I appreciated that description. Our professional careers require that mindset today.  

I wanted to share my observations as I am watching with great interest the growing demands on our main customers - college admissions officers. 

A little background to help you understand my perspective. A few years ago I switched positions from a senior corporate executive, managing large internet properties and a buyer of professional services who would listen to vendor pitches, to becoming a "vendor" who develops pitches and "solutions". I found myself on the other side of the table, so to speak.

What are the demands on admission officers?   Not only have the competition and financial pressure increased for admissions departments, but the complexity of marketing for higher education has risen dramatically. This includes technology, marketing, financial models, as well as, international markets which add a great deal more complexity: culturally, language barriers, logistics, admissions differences, educational structure differences, etc. Let's not forget the pernicious US News & World report ratings. 

College enrollment marketing has added so many more dimensions to the traditional activity set of reaching students via high school and college fairs, providing meaningful campus visits, admitting the appropriate students and making attractive financial offers. 

Admissions professionals will embrace predictive modeling, scoring of students, and analytics for digital and social media marketing. Admissions officers will not be experts in each discipline, but they will have to be competent to make strategic and investment decisions, as well as manage experts in these areas.

This leads me to the connection between our business and an article in Harvard Business Review on selling from Business to Business (B2B). Universities fall into this category of sales. Our services and sales process have to be in tune with the admissions staff. In my prior career, I had responsiblities for business intelligence and analytics (BI), and I noticed how overwhelmed business owners were by the messages and suggestions from BI. We could not find the right context to categorize and absorb the information, let alone how to integrate the information in our own decision making. 

Admission professionals are smart and experienced, and the HBS article points out that successful companies require sales staff that can anticipate the challenges for a client, even before the customer knows about it, coach and introduce suggestions, and ultimately sell a solution that has been sufficiently customized.  

The End of Solution Sales   Harvard Business Review

Source:  Harvard Business Review: July/August: B2B selling "The end of Solution Sales". http://bit.ly/MHZEa9

I personally don't care for the label "vendor," since, with the exception of a short stint as a management consultant, I have spent most of my career as an inside executive who had to find collaborative, cross-functional solutions with marketing, technology, product, BI, legal and finance.  

Yet for my university clients we have to play a role that allows us to develop customized solutions for international enrollment and these approaches will, over time, become more and more sophisticated. U.S. domestic enrollment activities are already becoming much more data-intelligence driven and international recruitment will follow that path, just more slowly due to the lack of volume, fragmented markets and cultural nuances.

Let me know if you have suggestions and ideas on how vendors can be more responsive and helpful to admissions offices.