Why are my enrollments declining? A Case Study

August 8, 2012 Digital Media Solutions

Our clients will often seek out the help of our marketing analytics team to solve a dilemma they’re facing or provide insight towards a particular development. Recently, a client who had experienced a decline in enrollments since January 2011 asked us to help. So, we set out to determine why this was occurring and what could be done to alleviate it.

Step One: Analysis

The first thing we did was take a look at their enrollment data for Jan. 2011 – May 2012. While perusing their data, we noticed that a significant number of their enrollments came from a small number of affiliates. In fact, three affiliates accounted for over 65% of their total enrollments for the 17-month time period! (Chart A.). The final 35% of enrollments was divided up among 21 different affiliates. Needless to say, these three providers were very important in helping the client reach their enrollment goals, and it was important to ensure that there weren’t any changes in these relationships.

Chart A

Then we looked into the monthly enrollment activity for these three providers during the above time period in order to see if there were any fluctuations in volume. While it appeared that the volume and enrollment trends for Affiliate A and C were fairly consistent, it became obvious that the volume for Affiliate B decreased significantly during this time period. From October 2011 through May 2012, Affiliate B’s enrollment trend began to decline, causing the client’s overall enrollments to decline as well. (See Charts B and C).

Chart B

Chart C

We then reviewed their overall volume by state. It turns out that, while they were generating volume from virtually every state, there were a number of states from which they didn’t receive any enrollments (about 13 in total). Their philosophy at the time was to have their higher volume-generating affiliates focus on their lower-producing states, and have their lower-producing providers focus on their higher-producing states. Given how top-heavy the volume disbursement was among the affiliates in terms of enrollments, it seemed that this approach was not providing them with the results that they were anticipating.

Finally, we took a glimpse at their lead cycle timeline to see how long it generally took their inquiries to convert into enrollments. At the time, the client had a call center that would generally call prospective students for about 30 days before transferring the inquiry over to the school. After taking a look at their typical timeline, we noticed that 75% of the enrollments tended to enroll within 18 days (Chart D). Moreover, it took 61 days to generate 90% of their enrollments. In other words, it took 43 days just to gain another 15% in enrollments from day 18 on. It became apparent that if the client didn’t enroll the inquiry by the 18th day, their chances of enrolling the interested party decreased significantly. It was a point that we definitely wanted to stress to the client.

Chart D

Step Two: Our Recommendations

After completing the analysis, we presented our findings to the client and made the following recommendations:

  • Short term: increase the level of volume received from Affiliate B.
  • Long term: find and develop relationships with other quality inquiry providers. This should help decrease the reliance on such a limited number of affiliates.
  • Regarding affiliate restrictions by state, either focus the higher-volume providers to the higher-producing states (in order to maximize the potential of those states) or eliminate the restrictions altogether.
  • Revise the internal call-center processes to place more focus on converting enrollments within the first 18 days after a prospective student has expressed interest.

Results

The client went on to make several revisions as a result of our analysis. First, they started to increase the level of volume they received from Affiliate B. They had not realized how much of a decrease there was from this affiliate beforehand, nor had they been aware of how much they depended on them for their enrollments. Secondly, they began to test new affiliates in the hope of finding more high-quality inquiry providers.

The client also took our recommendations regarding their affiliate restrictions and went one step further. They stopped generating volume from the states that hadn’t produced any enrollments and began focusing all their attention and affiliates on the states that had. This restriction should help to enhance the enrollment potential that already exists in these areas. Finally, they revised their internal call-center transfer processes from 30 days to 18 days.

Next Steps

We’ll be following up with our client on a weekly basis to determine if the revisions we’ve put in place begin to have a positive impact, and anticipate seeing an improvement within three to six months. We expect these steps to not only lead to an increase in enrollments, but ultimately provide a larger number of students with the opportunity to fulfill their educational goals.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS) is an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients win in their business ventures and realize their marketing goals. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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