Marketing Communication and Branding are sometimes used as interchangeable terms. Effective marketing communication can be built from a brand message but the brand isn’t a requirement to build effective marketing communication(s). It certainly helps to have the cohesion that a brand provides, but not a requirement.

The development of a university brand takes 9 to 18 months and significant financial and personnel commitments. I’ve discovered that mission creep (evolving institutional vision) or a change in administrative leadership will often delay or sidetrack a well-funded branding effort. I believe brand building and marketing communication improvement can happen simultaneously but without one process depending on the other.

Let’s take a real life example. A college of which I’m familiar has a Nursing program with a strong reputation (a four-year consistently level “Pull Power” average of 2.32), i.e. 7.6% of all Inquiries where interested in Nursing but 17.7% of all enrolled freshmen where declaring Nursing as their major. Divide 17.7 by 7.6 and you’ve calculated Pull Power of the program of study.

Additionally, the Nursing program converts 21% of their Inquiries into Applications (the overall university Inquiry to Application conversion average is 9%). Also, the Nursing subset completes the application process at an 81% rate. The conversion rates throughout the admission funnel is strong for the Nursing inquiries, applicants, accepts, and enrolls.

So where might you focus your marketing communications efforts to increase overall enrollment for Nurses, and how much should you budget to increase the enrolls?

There are two communication intersections available for this cohort.

The first: develop a marketing communication strategy to increase the completion rate of Nursing Stealth Applications. Only 49% of Nursing Stealth Apps are completed (compared to 81% of “traditional” Nursing apps).

The second: the summer melt for the Nursing cohort is 4% higher than the Summer Melt for the class as a whole.

If we then focus on communications strategy to increase Stealth Nursing Applications by 1%, and reduce Nursing Summer Melt to the entering class average (from 24% to 20%), the resulting NET revenue increase for the first year is approximately $474,000; and the 4 year net revenue increase is close to $1.5 million.

If you take this same Net Revenue Matrix calculation process and focus on improving the marketing communication for programs (or cohorts) exhibiting a low Pull Power quotient you potentially will be affecting programs that have the greatest opportunity for growth and increased revenue. AND you’ll know approximately the return on your investing in these efforts.

These marketing communication ROI adjustments are simple to calculate, more difficult to implement. However, the net revenue changes can be seen within the first year of implementation whereas initiating a branding initiative and seeing net revenue results takes considerable time and ROI is difficult to calculate.