This blog will be focusing on why schools must be focused on alumni engagement and our top tips for doing so.
Once upon a time, there was a former student who approached the Dean of his old school for some advice on engagement.
‘’Nice to see you’’, said the Dean. ‘’If I am not mistaken, I don’t think we have spoken to each other since you graduated all those years ago.’’
‘’It is nice to see you too’’, said the former student. ‘’Mr Dean, if you don’t mind, I wanted to get your professional opinion on the state of my business.’’
‘’Sure’’, replied the Dean.
‘’Well, something is missing in my business, and I can’t put my finger on what is going wrong’’, replied the former student. ‘’Indeed a recent industry survey ranked my company way down and I am at a loss as to what to do.’’
‘’I see’’, said the Dean, ‘’please tell me a little about your business.’’
‘’My business seems to have all the right fundamentals in place as you taught me’’ replied the former student. ‘’I work in the professional services industry and rigorously applied the ‘7Ps’ to our marketing mix. We have a high quality product, we charge a premium price…’’
‘’I see’’, said the Dean. ‘’And what happens after your customers have bought and consumed your product? What interactions do you have with them?’’
‘’To be honest,’’ replied the former student, ‘’Very little.’’
‘’Well, the underlying problem seems clear to me,’’ replied the Dean. ‘’You are neglecting one of your most important assets – your former customers. Fix that and you will fix your business.’’
‘’Thank you so much’’, replied the former student.
‘’My pleasure’’, said the Dean. ‘’And next time don’t leave it so many years before getting back in touch!’’
The next morning over breakfast, the Dean opened up the Financial Times to review the latest school rankings. He scratched his head at a loss as to what he should do about the poor showing of his school. He could not put his finger on it. Where was his school going wrong in engaging alumni?
Unfair story? Maybe. But you get my point in alumni engagement. In general schools are not practicing what they teach when it comes to their former customers, their alumni. In short they are failing in alumni engagement.
Schools cannot afford to ignore their alumni. Let me show you why with the ‘8Rs’.
- Repeat – it is significantly easier to get old customers to repeat a purchase than to attract new customers. Schools often have executive education programs to offer whether within the institution or providing it in-house within the company of an alum. Staying in touch with your alumni will result in repeat business.
- Referrals – when selecting which school a prospective student should apply to, how important is the referral of an alum who has studied at that school? What percentage of your applications each year was generated by the referral of an alum?
- References – being able to use your alumni as references to the quality and value of your school is incredibly important. This can also be done informally to show the career outcomes of studying at your institution.
- Reviewing – many schools use their alumni not just to recommend new applicants but to take an active role in the recruitment process by interviewing and reviewing prospective students.
- Recruitment – your alumni are a valuable source of improving your career offering by mentoring, networking and employing your students.
- Receiving – donations are a potentially lucrative source of funding for your institution.
- Rankings – for virtually all of the major rankings, schools need to be able to provide alumni to be interviewed and ideally with a glowing reference. If you are not in touch with your alumni, how can you expect your ranking to be good?
- Reputation – in the final analysis a school is only as good as the alumni it produces. Your alumni are mini reflections of your brand and one worthy of you investing your resources to support.
There is a huge opportunity in the world of education for schools to invest in finding and engaging alumni. Forget the ‘7Ps’- it is time to start thinking about the ‘8Rs’ and what your engaged alumni could do for your school.
Is your school missing an opportunity with your alumni engagement?
What are the barriers stopping you engaging alumni and benefiting from the ‘8 Rs’ immediately?
I would welcome your thoughts.