Posted at 13:30h
This month Goodwall had the chance to interview the highly enthusiastic and passionate Hizon Mackenzie. With over 10 years of international experience in student recruitment, Hizon Mackenzie is the Director of International Student Recruitment of the Southern New Hampshire University. From student experience, digital recruitment and new enrollment opportunities, Hizon Mackenzie shares her view on the hottest trends and topics of student recruitment.
The Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 80,000 online students, making the university one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, the university has been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and has gained national recognition for their dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
We have a whole office of International Programs at Southern New Hampshire University. In the recruitment team there’s three of us and we essentially divide up the world by geographic regions. We manage the partner accounts and direct student applications from those regions. We’re managing both agency partners and university partners, as well as also individual students who apply directly. We also manage US transfer and US partners. We have quite an independent role but we also collaborate together on projects and share knowledge about best practices that can be spilled over to other markets. Each of us also takes on some administrative duties such as marketing and one of my administrative duties is managing lead vendors. All three of us spend time traveling to our key countries in the fall and spring, and we meet together on campus about 4 times per year. It works really well.
In many industries, leading organizations are talking about “customer experience” to attract and retain new customers. What does this mean for SNHU and how important it is as part of your student recruitment strategy?
I personally have been managing partner relations in international education for more than 10 years. The first institution I worked for had a very strong customer service focus so I learned this approach early on in my career (I also have a background in Business Marketing) and I feel that is one of the most successful ways to build enrollment pipelines in this industry. For me, I constantly strive everyday to be the best relationship manager for both our partners and our students.
I believe in the experience that SNHU provides to students when they arrive. We call it a “hold-the-door-open” kind of place where literally everyone on campus will hold the door open for you. That small act can be replicated a thousand times over. So whenever we are doing things throughout our day, “how can we hold the door open” for those people and how can we create that experience? In an age where there are so many institutions out there – there is a sea of schools in every country and in the US alone there are over 4,000 institutions – how can we stand apart in addition to the amazing innovative programs that we have, the location and the faculty? We provide great service for both our partners and our students and that is a key factor in being successful – treating people with respect and helping them get to the goals they want to achieve.
“In an age where there are so many institutions out there – there is a sea of schools in every country and in the US alone there are over 4,000 institutions – how can we stand apart in addition to the amazing innovative programs that we have, the location and the faculty?“
There are even situations when I work with a student, and after talking to them further, I realize that SNHU isn’t the best option for them. Maybe they don’t have enough funds and we are a private school, so I will encourage them to consider starting at a Community College. To me, that is also a “customer experience”, because I want to support them to be successful in their education goals. So, it’s not always about making the enrollment. It’s about providing the best level of support and counseling that I can for each student.
Is building relationship with students a key differentiator of student recruitment in an era where universities are a Google search away?
I think it’s more important because today students are definitely going about their school search process much differently than even 5 years ago. In some markets, they still heavily rely on agents and that’s an important aspect of that sort of “Expert mentality” and also important for the parents who may not have the language skills or field knowledge to help their children make an informed school decision. However, university officials become more important because students don’t always need the agent. In my situation, building relationship directly with students is important because they are finding us directly. So I do a lot, I’m online, I’m on Wechat, Line, Skype; a lot of different platforms where the students are communicating. I have to be quick in response to those messages, engage with them and answer their questions. We have to be where the students are, they won’t come to us.
It becomes even more important because students are finding us quickly and directly. So, we have to be even better at following up on our leads and on our direct inquiries, because it really becomes a game of who is the fastest to respond and who gets the most information, so that the student can then make that decision. If one does not respond to students, they find somebody else who will.
How do you use Goodwall to build and maintain these relationships?
We’ve been very happy with the quality of the students who are using this platform.
We just finished our recruitment season and we were able to use Goodwall’s platform and also the support services to target specific countries, cities and regions to blast out to students who live in cities we were visiting, which allowed us to meet with individual students on the ground. That was a really great experience! I’ve never had that experience with a lead vendor before. Normally, with most lead vendors, you receive a list of emails and you hope they just respond to your messages, and maybe one or two will convert. With Goodwall, we can’t believe how much work the team does behind the scenes to support our recruitment efforts. I’ve never had a vendor that does as much work to support their university partners. Our account manager, Osnat, always responds quickly, provides us good information and continually checks in while providing solutions on way to improve. I feel like they really understand how to support the institutions, and they understand that we don’t have the time to check it every day.
The quality of the leads from Goodwall and being able to connect with them in person really extends our reach much more than just having a list of emails. Because we have a strategy of lead management to convert those leads, being able to meet high quality leads in person is an important aspect of our recruitment strategy in the direct recruitment area, and even though it’s early to see results for this recruitment season, we are very confident that we will see leads that we’ve contacted with Goodwall apply and enroll in SNHU.
“The quality of the leads from Goodwall and being able to connect with them in person really extends our reach much more than just having a list of emails”
Your university is very active in organizing recruitment trips to meet students all over the world who are interested in your university. Could you share your experience in meeting international students and how Goodwall has helped you facilitate this process to gain more exposure?
We plan our recruitment travels and visit various cities based on recruitment numbers that we were seeing in the past and predominantly, we use these trips to meet with our partners and to present at fairs. Since we have already identified our target cities, we sent them to Goodwall and we contacted students in those cities, offering prospective students option to meet with us directly. So we basically built the outreach into our existing travel and recruitment plans.
Do you see a shift in countries from which you target students?
China and India continue to be huge markets. Vietnam is continuing to grow at an impressive speed. We are currently spending some time developing out countries in Central Asia. For example, Kazakhstan is an oil-rich country with many students interested in studying Engineering and Business. We are also spending more time in Latin America and Africa.
At present, due to the current US political situation, I am noting some shifts in the market – students are considering other country options like Australia and Canada because they feel it’s safer and also there are more secured opportunities to work. It has been the case in the past as well, not just because of the current administration.
At the institution level, we are creating more content to continue to ensure that people feel welcome. For instance, we recently sent a letter from our president to all of our partners and this past spring we created a campaign called #SNHUUnited, filming and producing a video for a campaign that is currently running at different colleges called “You are welcome here“.
What are some areas of student recruitment that you are most excited about in 2017?
We’ve tried to identify some developing markets both developing economically but also developing in the context of not everyone is there trying to recruit. Nowadays, everybody is in China, India, Vietnam and in certain countries that have been identified as growing and key markets. So we’re trying to identify markets that are not as large but with less competition and more opportunities to meet with students to potentially see enrollments. This also helps with diversifying the student body on campus.
For our team specifically, I am really excited as we’re finalizing our first year as a team. We’re going through a lot of internal infrastructure developments and how have our CRM built out. So we have been working on the foundation to be able to build to the next level.
One of the other things that really excites me is my team that is very interested in constantly evolving. We always look for new ways to be successful, and this year, Goodwall is one of those additions to our marketing and recruitment strategies. We’re excited to further develop that and better engage with those leads. We’re going to engage more with students on the platform and really dig deeper. I am looking forward to seeing some of those leads we met with this spring converting into applications for the fall and to start the second season with Goodwall and see what we can do as we further develop that relationship and use the platform more fully.