“Building a Foundation” in a Competitive Market: How the New England College of Optometry Transformed Admissions

For the past four years, Paul Mills, Associate Director of Admissions at New England College of Optometry (NECO), has been using Liaison International’s Enrollment Marketing Platform (EMP™) to manage almost every aspect of the institution’s recruiting, marketing and enrollment initiatives. The results, he says, have been nothing less than transformative.

He recently spoke to Liaison about how his office uses EMP to do a better job of reaching out to potential applicants, centralizing data and enhancing operational efficiency.

Liaison: What was NECO trying to achieve when it began using EMP in 2015? How have those goals evolved since then?

Paul Mills, New England College of Optometry: When I started here, my Director of Admissions had already made the decision to go with EMP. We needed the communications abilities a CRM system provides as well as the ability to centralize all our data.

Initially, we were just building a foundation because we didn’t have an efficient system in place. But as we began implementing the basic features of EMP, we quickly realized how much more we could benefit by taking advantage of its entire range of features. That’s really transformed the way we do things. Almost everything is automated now. In the past, there was a lot more manual work required. For example, now I know that 10 days prior to a scheduled interview, applicants will receive an automatic reminder. That, in turn, lets us know who will be coming in.

That’s just one way EMP has helped NECO improve our operational processes, and, by extension, our service to students. Now students aren’t biting their nails waiting to see if they’ve completed their prerequisites or if we’ve received their final transcripts; they can go online anytime and find out.

Liaison: How does EMP help NECO distinguish itself from other optometry programs?

PM: Optometry is a very competitive market. Nationwide, the number of applications has been declining in recent years. So it’s really important for us to move quickly, whether we’re reaching out to potential applicants, inviting people in for interviews or letting them know they’ve been accepted. EMP has really allowed us to improve our service that way.

Also, having access to EMP’s centralized data helps us do a better job of understanding who our applicants are and where they come from. We can then create new outreach strategies based on that information. I’ve traveled to Alberta, Canada, and to every major city in Florida, because our data shows that a lot of our applicants come from those regions.

Liaison: What additional insights would you offer to other admissions professionals who may be considering EMP?

PM: This is the first time in my 15-year career that I really feel like I have the technology I need to do my job well. If I decide I want to email 1,000 people today, I’m confident I can get that done. In the past, that would have taken a week of planning.

I appreciate EMP and what it allows us to do. For example, despite the drop in optometry applications nationwide, NECO has been able to hold enrollment pretty steady. I think EMP has helped because it provides the foundation for so much of what we do now. EMP gives us a great view of our enrollment funnel, it allows us to reach out to students with messages they appreciate and it frees up our time so we can focus on being great recruiters who give great service to students.