We love to talk about 'the family journey toward enrollment'.
And yet no-one in marketing spends any time talking to traffic planners.
Two central principles which underpin traffic planning (traffic is also a non-linear, complex system) have never had any influence on the domain of enrollment.
These two principles would be:
1. First, eliminate isolated bottlenecks before you worry about building a whole new road.
In other words, if you have a two-lane which narrows to a single lane for just a short distance, there is no point in widening the two-lane road to three lanes until you have first eliminated the worst constraint.
Even a ten-lane road is no good if it ends in a traffic jam.
2. Optimize any journey by working backward.
There is no point in eliminating one bottleneck if there is another one shortly after it. You’ll just move the jam slightly further down the road.
For example, there’s no point in widening the eastern stretch of the I-29 until you’ve solved the queues at the D.C.-to-Stafford stretch.
Fix the problems from the end of the journey (i.e. the campus tour) and work backward.
And here’s where every traffic planner would find the enrollment domain strange.
Every enrollment project assumes that advertising - the most significant, most expensive component, and the one most remote from the final decision - is the thing to optimize first.
A traffic planner wouldn’t do this. They would start with the small things such as the badly-phased traffic lights (landing page conversion) or the narrow exit slip-road (email or text follow-up), and they would work backward.
Finally, a traffic planner would spend a year optimizing the campus tour experience before embarking on advertising.
After all, if your tour is only 50% as good as it could be, then your advertising -however brilliant- will only be working at 50% capacity.