By: Anthony Joseph

Helping revitalize Algonquin’s recruitment processes, has landed executive director of advancement, Doug Wotherspoon, two nominations for business innovations awards.

The Constellation Research Organization nominated Wotherspoon in August for two SuperNova Awards in Matrix Commerce and in Technology Optimization and Innovation.

Over the last two years, Wotherspoon and his team have sought to overhaul Algonquin’s recruitment processes. They’ve done that, Wotherspoon said, by shifting their philosophy from hope marketing to more data driven marketing.

As a result, the college has seen an improvement in student retention and the calibre of students.

In prior years the college would recruit potential student prospects by handing out brochures and viewbooks in high schools, hoping that they would then go to their website and fill in an application form.

“That’s great when the market is booming and there are tons of students interested in coming to schools, but we’ve reached a peak,” said Wotherspoon.

By looking at the shifts in Canadian demographics, Wotherspoon and his team can determine how many prospective students are going to be the college’s target area over the next few decades.

With that number in decline, the team adopted a change in philosophy.

“It’s not rocket science so to speak; we had read those tea leaves and knew we had to change,” said Wotherspoon. “We had to move from hoping that stuff would happen to being relatively certain that if we did certain things, they would lead to somebody applying, somebody confirming their application, and somebody registering as a student.”

They decided to start employing business-to-business marketing tactics for a business-to-consumer market. They would now look at the process of purchasing a higher education product in the same light as someone buying a new home.

“It takes time and it’s not unlike somebody who’s thinking about buying a new home,” said Wotherspoon. “They’ve got to meet with their financial advisor and they’ve got to have a home inspection. Well, if you’re a student thinking about coming to school, you’re usually talking to your friends, you’re talking to your parents, you’re lining up the money required to pay for it and you’re doing your research. That’s called a considered purchase.”

Today, instead of handing out brochures, distributors have been repurposed as inside sales representatives. Within three days of applying to the college the sales reps will call students to ask them questions related to their chosen career path. The college will then start to send them information based on what their interests are.

Gathering this data allows the college to deliver a more engaging and personalized marketing mix to potential students. As a result the college’s open rates on emails are higher than every industry average.

Media and Design newsletters are running at 60 to 70 per cent “open rates,” while the lowest open rate is at 24 per cent.

“It’s really about trying to provide prospective students with all the knowledge they need to make a really informed decision,” said Wotherspoon. “And we think that if we do that, we’re going to win the day, because we have great facilities, great profs and a great job market from which to graduate into. We have all the tools here and if we can just tell our story a little bit more completely, we think we’ll have an even bigger impact than we’ve currently been having.”

The winners will be announced on Nov. 9 at the Constellation Connected Enterprise summit in California.