It’s not uncommon in some schools to see marketing and admissions run as two separate teams, each with its unique goals. Although the actual day-to-day work a school marketer or admissions officer does is quite different, it’s important to remember that they’re both supposed to be working on getting new (or better quality!) enrolments for their school. When run as separate teams, however, it’s quite common for goals to evolve in different directions.
This leads to working in silos, making it difficult to foster communication and collaboration. In Episode Three of The Admissions Club, our experts run you through aligning your teams, so they can work together more effectively towards one common goal.
Many of us have worked in teams, where someone is always working towards a different goal. For example, if you’re in the admissions team and marketing’s running a recruitment campaign for your next intake (while you’re already closing waitlists) it creates not only operational problems for you but a negative experience for families who think they might have a chance of a spot. So, how do you prevent something like this from happening? It’s crucial to set clear priorities and similar goals for anyone working on growing your school’s enrolment numbers, which includes both marketing and admissions team members.
If you’re worried about your teams working in silos, don’t worry, it’s a common problem and a popular topic in schools today. The real problem with silos is those team members who should be working towards the same goals don’t, making both teams ineffective and often leading to miscommunication or even conflict.
Breaking down silos and being more collaborative is better for your school and ultimately your families. Marketing and admissions should never be separated from one another, and by bringing together all areas of advancement, the team will benefit from the cross-collaboration and expertise.
The end result of working in silos is that team members have little to no idea of what’s happening outside of their specific areas. For example, your admissions team won’t really know which campaigns marketing is launching into the local community, which ends with an enrolments officer receiving inquiries from prospective families which they don’t have any context for.
On the other hand, if you imagine planning those campaigns together, your marketing team can benefit from the experience of the admissions team, who's been working on the ‘frontline’ as it were, and who knows what’s coming before it happens. This creates a great level of synergy, with both teams ending up more efficient.
“I’m obsessed with what I call ‘the dream team’. Other schools might call it their ‘advancement team’. The dream team consists of your admissions director, communications, marketing, and development too.” - Liz Yee
The great thing about assembling this ‘dream team’, is that they end up looking at the bigger picture, with insights into recruitment, marketing, retention, and fiscal growth. It’s important to keep in mind that in some schools, certain roles may have three people, and others may have one or two. Either way, the team you assemble (whether it’s your school’s staff, board experts, or consultants) needs to be on the same page with their shared goals, where their work intersects, and even where their roles transition.
At the end of the day, if all team members are working to reach the same success, they’ll become more collaborative, find opportunities to improve faster, and become generally more efficient. Better outcomes for your future families and your school!
What specific changes do successful schools enact to improve their team structure? It’s common to jump straight to ‘who works for who’ and to worry about lines of reporting and who is ultimately steering the ship. However, a more important factor to focus on (and where schools become really successful) is how the teams are working together.
Successful schools typically have teams with aligned KPIs. Marketing and admissions share common goals, but they also develop their plans together, and not as individual teams. It’s critical that there’s an ongoing dialogue, where marketing knows the ever-changing needs of admissions and can shift their tactics based on these needs.
"If the admissions team needs to increase ninth-grade applications but are flush in fifth grade, for example, we can reposition campaigns accordingly. That’s the beauty of digital marketing.” - Trevor Waddington
It’s also important that your aligned teams know each other’s vernacular, and are familiar with all the jargon used day to day.
This helps to lay the foundation when you’re working together so that you can all get on the same page. Understanding each other’s jobs and roles and how they work together will only make everything that much easier.
“It’s all about growing and managing enrolments. Together, marketing and admissions can identify the number of enrolments required, and map out milestones to achieve them. On the same token, if your school is reaching a point where enrolments are at capacity, it’s important for the marketing team to shift focus.” - Bianca Coleborn
The school board and leadership will set the school’s strategic direction every three to five years, and based on their research and its outcomes, there will be KPIs, targets, or actions for the whole school to enact upon. If all members of the school community understand the direction, and the ‘why’ behind it; it’s far easier to map and align the customer journey, align goals, and set shared targets along the way.
"I truly believe that independent schools need a director of marketing or advancement to be on the leadership team. this position has a unique perspective on the customer experience which schools need to succeed. The aim of the game is collaboration. You want them to pool their resources, information, skills, and experience together." Bianca Coleborn
Teams who traditionally work in silos might take a bit of time to adjust to working together, which is ok and even expected. When everyone uses the same tools, collaboration will follow, and the team members will naturally work towards the same goals. Also, with everyone working with the same data, it’ll make it that much easier to collaborate. Regular team meetings are a great way to track progress and the perfect place to acknowledge and celebrate wins together! This will also help with building a strong team culture.
There are many specific KPIs and metrics you can use to measure success, but first and foremost you need to ensure that your teams are in full alignment and are working towards common goals. All schools are different, so measuring results in any team, whether it's newly aligned or otherwise, really depends on what the priorities are for your school. Here are three tips to get you started:
When measuring success, it’s always a good idea to look for specific, relevant outcomes. Has the enrolment process been tightened up? Has there been noticeable collaboration on projects? Is the team working together to find new solutions? Is there active participation in team meetings? By asking the right questions you’ll narrow your focus, which will allow you to really hone in on the best metrics.
Now's the time to get any of those bugs out of the way, and tidy up any loose ends. Team check-ins during the first month or two are a great idea to iron out any operational issues.
“I personally have found it very motivating to see everyone on my team making progress, hitting goals, moving the needle. We put the work in early to get alignment, understand each other’s goals and challenges, and now we’re seeing the results of that.” - Liz Yee
The key is to maintain consistency with your team meetings and time together. Working hard to keep your meeting time intact will ensure that you can take steps to reach your goals and celebrate when things go well, or change when it's clear you need to shift.
Make it clear to your team that constructive feedback is ok and even encouraged, but also be sure to call out negative behaviour early on (in a careful and balanced way). Give the team some time and space to adjust to the new structure. Find opportunities to foster collaboration, focus on developing a strong team culture, and the results will come.
“When it comes to conflict management, the best advice I received was to start by accepting that conflict is inevitable, and just confront it head on.” - Mary-Lou
Conflict is a daily occurrence in any workplace, and it can either propel or disrupt the momentum of a leader, team, or the entire organisation. If not confronted head-on and left to fester, you’ll end up with a toxic environment that perhaps could easily have been avoided.
It’s important to take steps to avoid conflict in the first place. By bringing the team together early and investing in team building beyond ‘just the job’, you’re laying good foundations. It’s also a good idea to be as clear as possible when it comes to roles and responsibilities.
“Get that job description right from the beginning, and make sure people understand exactly what their role is, and what the role of their teammates are, so they can work really constructively together.” - Paul Munkley
It may be helpful here to use the RACI model:
Do your teams look like they’re enjoying themselves? Check to see if they’re coming to work with smiles on their faces, that they’re proactive, they’re working hard, etc. These little markers can give you a really good indication.
Historically it may have been the case that your admissions and marketing team weren’t giving you the same answers, or weren’t working in sync. This should start to change, and results should start to improve.
“There are two markers of a great team: warmth and competence. If your team is super competent (think efficient, great output, high performing) but there’s no warmth, then you have a group of colleagues, not a team. On the other hand, if you have lots of warmth without competence, then you just have a group of friends hanging out. If your team has an equal balance of warmth and competence, then you have a superstar team.” - Bianca Coleborn
If you’re a team of one in marketing or admissions, don’t worry! There are strategies for helping you to level the playing field. Start by prioritising and streamlining your processes. Software can also go a long way toward making your life easier and helping to make sure prospective leads don’t fall through the cracks. If you’re a team of the one you have to find ways to streamline your processes or run the risk of drowning in a volume of work. Automation is key!
“Talk to your ICT team about what tools they have to support the work you do and the processes you need to complete. Automate where possible. Use AI for better insights, integrate automated workflows for task tracking, and ensure you have a way to analyse and report quickly on all that data that you’re collecting.” - Mary-Lou
There are plenty of tactics to help you work smarter and not harder. For instance, you can batch your social media posts, automate your email signatures, schedule push notifications on your school app, etc. By planning ahead and being organised, you can save yourself a lot of time and energy.
By making the effort to align your marketing and admissions teams, you’re improving your communication and collaboration and getting everyone on the same page. Once everyone is working towards the same goal and are aware of what each other’s doing, efficiency will improve as everything becomes more simple. The end result - more students!