Academic journal article College and University

Using Relationship Marketing in College Student Recruitment

Academic journal article College and University

Using Relationship Marketing in College Student Recruitment

Article excerpt

College admissions counselors traditionally visit high schools, attend college fairs, give campus tours, and answer questions posed by prospective students and their families. In doing so, they build a relationship with prospective students that will extend to the institution and transfer (it is hoped) into lifetime institutional loyalty. Admissions counselors at small colleges in particular have the opportunity to utilize relationship marketing strategies to enhance customer loyalty. With training in relationship marketing strategies, they are equipped to implement a relationship marketing model.

The literature on applying relationship marketing to college student recruitment is limited. There is a clear gap in terms of studies which examine the implementation and outcomes of a relationship marketing model in higher education. The present study adds to the body of knowledge in the field by extending the work of Gyure and Arnold (2001) on training admissions staff on relationship marketing principles. This study goes beyond the work of previous researchers by including student recruitment and retention measures as well as student satisfaction with relationship marketing strategies and their principal mediators i.e., those factors which lead to customer loyalty) to assess the effectiveness of relationship marketing efforts.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The idea that marketing has a place in student recruitment has traditionally been received with skepticism by many in higher education (Litten 1980). However, as budgets tighten, resources become more limited, and competition for students intensifies, the adoption of marketing practices seems more acceptable. Certainly the admissions profession recognizes that marketing is essential to many colleges' survival; admissions counselors have had to become experts on the subject (Koder and Fox 1995).

Relationship Marketing Effectiveness

Relationship marketing, first defined as attracting, maintaining, and enhancing customer relationships, was introduced in the early 1980s (Berry 2002) but became more dominant in the 1990s (Sheth and Parvatiyar 2002). Current advancement and sophistication of relationship marketing is reflected in more recent definitions, which specify the linking of individual customers, employees, suppliers, and other partners with an organization for their mutual long-term benefit (Kerin, Hardey, andRudelius 2007).

Palmatier, D ant, Grewal, and Evans (2006) suggest that the relationship marketing model is centered around the idea that relationship marketing strategies influence relational mediators which determine relational outcomes. The most commonly sited relationship marketing outcome is customer loyalty (Hennig-Thurau, G winner, and Gremler 2002). Mediators or factors which influence customer loyalty include commitment (Morgan and Hunt 1994), trust (Sirdeshmukh, Singh, and Sabol 2002), relationship satisfaction (Reynolds and Beatty 1999), and relationship quality (Crosby, Evans, and Cowles 1990).

Palmatier and colleagues (2006) further identify several strategies in the relationship marketing model which affect the level of performance ofthe mediators mentioned above. These include relationship benefits (Reynolds and Beatty 1999), seller expertise (Lagace, Dahlstrom, and Gassenheimer 1991), communication (Mohr, Fisher, and Nevin 1996), and interaction frequency (Doney and Cannon 1997).

The idea that relationship marketing is more effective when relationships are more critical to customers and when relationships are built with an individual person rather than a selling firm (Palmatier et al. 200e) is germane to higher education. This is particularly true when, in the hope of making a sale for the college, an individual admissions counselor strives to build a relationship with a prospective student. The institution stands to benefit from increased tuition revenue, and the student stands to benefit from the credential earned at graduation. …

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