The PLAY Approach to the Higher Ed Marketing Funnel

The college enrollment marketing funnel hasn’t changed substantially in the last few decades. However, we’ve found that despite a relatively unchanged marketing funnel, many higher learning institutions have struggled to adapt over time with their marketing efforts.


Within the classic funnel model, colleges still strive to find prospects, warm them up from leads to inquiries to applicants and eventually enroll them. However, the necessary channels of communication, media and touch points for prospects have evolved over time.

These things continue to evolve faster than ever, but marketing strategies often fail to keep up.

To stay flexible, a staple of our approach to the funnel is focusing on building a communication framework rather than a checklist of touch points or media to be used. Instead focusing on media for certain phases of the funnel (direct mail, email, social media, etc.) we focus on messaging.

Media channels are always secondary to the message.

This lets us modify and update our strategy along with changing trends in media, no matter what they are. We believe that if certain media might ever become antiquated, it probably doesn’t belong in your college marketing funnel framework. That’s not to say we don’t use traditional media like direct mail—we just don’t treat them as mandatory.

Instead of having a marketing strategy built on a foundation of things like direct mail or social media, we let the framework dictate things like timing and campaign goals. With messaging and stated goals nailed down, we then decide on media for certain phases of the funnel.

It’s tempting to work off an evergreen media strategy (direct mail, email, etc), but that’s a trap that colleges can’t afford to make in 2018 and beyond. One of the biggest mistakes colleges make in their marketing is neglecting how rapidly things change in terms of actually communicating their value to prospects.

By using the funnel as a timeless framework for communication, we can shape it to fit any media we want—and any media that’s resonating with our target market at any given time.

Have questions about what makes our college marketing funnel more effective? Fill out the form below or drop us a line at to start a conversation.