“Focus Equals Success” with Elizabeth Scarborough of SimpsonScarborough

Elizabeth Scarborough

Elizabeth Scarborough

Student Paths Q & A for Enrollment Professionals
by Simpson Scarborough’s Elizabeth Scarborough

Q: Why is focus so important?

A: Focus = success!

We all know it’s impossible to be all things to all people. And yet, I see organizations of all kinds operating as if it’s possible. Consider this scenario. A prospective student walks up to a college’s table at a college fair and asks, “What majors are strongest at your school?”

Some admission counselors are trained to respond by asking, “Well, what are YOU interested in studying?” Even a 17-year-old knows this is a deflection of the question. And, they will walk away from your table NOT knowing the areas in which your institution truly excels. How can that be a good thing even when your institution excels in an area other than the one the student plans to pursue.

A better way to respond would be to answer confidentially and directly and then follow up with a question.

Q: What are some specific “focus” tips for today’s enrollment managers?

A: Integrate your messaging across all your communications platforms, audiences, and strategies. Message integration is critical for colleges and universities because we don’t spend enough money, in general, on marketing. Because we are spending so little, we have to be integrated.

Focus on the one or two key attributes of your institution that motivate prospective students to choose you, alumni to engage with you, and business leaders to seek a partnership with you.

Make sure that every time any audience has an experience with your institution, they are exposed to the same, focused set of messages.

Q: What’s paramount in saving time and money to achieve results?

A: Understand what your organization does well and focus on doing that even better.

For example, if your college attracts 90% of its students from a 4-state area, focus almost all of your resources on that area—unless you have a very specific challenge or goal that would lead you to do otherwise.

We see a distinct lack of focus in many areas of higher ed marketing and recruiting. Many colleges lack focus in their marketing messaging and in their marketing and recruiting tactics. We often spread ourselves too thin across a wide variety of communication tactics and then wonder why our messages aren’t penetrating the market.

We need to remember that sometimes less is more.

Q: As a leader yourself, how do you achieve success through focus?

A: Two years after we created Simpson Scarborough, our founding partner, Christopher Simpson passed away after his battle with melanoma. Christopher’s “side” of the business dealt with media and crisis communications.

With Christopher no longer at the helm to lead the media/crisis business, we refocused the entire company around our marketing research and branding services. It was a risk to move away from our large client base in the area of media and crisis. But, by narrowing the company’s services, we’ve actually doubled our revenue.

We were able to emerge as leaders in a very narrow field.

Focus = success!

Student Paths Q & A is a monthly column geared toward enrollment management professionals in higher education. Student Paths helps prepare high school students for their future through college, career, and life- readiness materials.

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