Forward to the Fundamentals

How the Admission Funnel Helps Determine ROI

Vince Lombardi would begin practice each spring by lifting a football and, with deep resonance, announcing, “Men, this is a football.”

These guys weren’t your average group of football players. These were the Green Bay Packers. Veterans. Gridiron gladiators who had won four consecutive league championships, including the first two Super Bowls.

To winning teams, the fundamentals are etched in stone; they make up the DNA of every player. When it comes to enrollment, many colleges have lost sight of the fundamentals.

Is Branding the Solution?

During the last ten years I’ve watched the importance of “institutional branding” become a taskmaster, dictating to all who follow. “Branded messaging is the cornerstone for enrollment success,” most say.

After more than two decades of creating institutional brands, my experience has proven otherwise.

The more intricate game plan, the Institutional Branding, should begin to form after the fundamentals have been drilled into the team. By way of example, what effect does institutional branding have on the quality of the campus visit experience? (see

By first practicing the science of the Fundamental, the art of the Message and Brand will gain more traction and have greater impact.

Measuring ROI

An analysis of the conversion ratios of the age-old admissions funnel provides uncanny insight about how well the team is performing at the fundamentals. We begin by examining the quantitative portion of the admissions funnel.

If the conversion rate of an institution’s inquiries to applications is low in comparison to historical data or with peer institutions, what might the school expect the invested rate of return to be if there were a 1% increase in those conversions? What are the opportunities available to increase the conversion and what is the predicted cost?

Start With The Why

The foundation to investigate these fundamental questions begins with an accurate accounting of first point of contact. To successfully refine the fundamentals, the admissions office must accurately record and track inquiry source codes. This fundamental requirement is critical to examining the health of your admissions process, and for the development a rock solid marketing strategy and communications plan.

Basic stuff (the fundamentals)., right? But, surprisingly, many institutions get a ‘D’ in fundamentals.

Time Out…

For a moment, can we set aside our fascination with branding? Let’s begin instead with the fundamental question reflected in Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. Examine the admissions funnel, look at conversion ratios, measure the anticipated return on investment affecting change. Do so and you can greatly alter the anticipated net revenue represented by the entering class.

In essence, get back to the basics, men and women…”this is a football.”

Rob Glass is a 25-year veteran of higher education branding & marketing strategy. You can learn more about the Glass & Gold Tuition Net Revenue matrix and identifying the five keys to unlocking your marketing strategy by contacting him at or