Wake Forest School of Business Leads the Class with Drift in Rapidly Engaging Prospective Students

conversion rate from Drift into a lead
conversion rate from lead to meeting
more applications from inquiries using Drift

The Challenge: Designing Digital Recruitment Strategies for Today’s Students


In higher education, successful recruitment is all about engaging prospective students quickly and effectively in order to create opportunities for person-to-person conversations. It’s also about finding innovative ways to remain competitive with other schools who are vying for those same students during a very concentrated and competitive recruitment cycle.

Wake Forest University (WFU) is a school known for its authentic relationships with students. It’s a place where students know they matter, and trust that they will be supported in their mission to make a difference in the world. Founded in 1834, Wake Forest is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering 45 majors and an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. In September 2020, U.S News & World Report ranked WFU as one of the top 30 National Universities for the 25th consecutive year.

WFU’s School of Business is constantly evolving to meet students’ changing needs. On the recruitment side, this involves a digital transformation strategy to enhance the user experience for prospective students in a way that improves engagement and elevates the School of Business’ brand. Parts of this strategy are designed to address specific challenges:

Shifting Student Communication Preferences

Prospective students are less and less willing to engage via traditional channels in a process that doesn’t deliver the instant gratification they’re accustomed to. For example, the old method of emailing back and forth to schedule a meeting with a recruiter doesn’t fly with today’s students.

Missed Engagement Opportunities

A stealth applicant is a student who applies to a program without having had any prior contact with the School’s admissions team. While WFU’s School of Business is grateful to have these prospective students apply, their appearance begs the question – how many other students, hundreds, possibly thousands – have visited the School’s website, but failed to raise their hands? As Sylvia Green, Chief Marketing Officer for WFU’s School of Business, says, “We lose out by not knowing who these students were, what their interest level was, or anything about them because we never had a chance to engage them. We knew we were missing an opportunity to connect with them on the front end of their search process, and in a category with significant fixed costs, each lost opportunity matters a lot.”

An Immediate Need to Optimize Website Conversion

Typically, campus visits and in-person meetings with school representatives play a major role in influencing a prospective student’s decision about where to apply. COVID all but eliminated both of those activities, which thrust WFU’s School of Business website into an even more central role. To offset the loss of in-person connections, it became imperative for the website to effectively and efficiently convert traffic into critical, early conversations.

Conversations are transforming the Marketing Funnel.

The Solution: AI that Drives Engagement, Increases Operational Efficiency, and Delivers an A+ Experience


While Michael Lamphier, Executive Director, Marketing and Communication for WFU’s School of Business, wasn’t initially sold on the idea of an AI chat bot, his personal experience with Drift’s bot made a strong impression. “Having the Drift bot book a meeting for me was a Turing Test moment. The fact that I thought I was engaging with a human positively changed my perspective.”

It didn’t take Michael long to narrow his choice to Drift, especially after representatives of competing products recommended Drift by name. “A chat provider that specializes in higher education admitted they weren’t set up to deliver the functionality we wanted,” Michael says. “Then he asked me if I’d ever heard of Drift because they’d be a better option for the experience we wanted to create.”

What the School of Business wanted was an experience that could live up to the personalized and student-centric approach of the School’s world-class recruitment team. “When students talk to our recruiters, they have a really great experience because our team is very engaging and gets students what they need. Same thing with our Financial Aid team,” Michael explains. “Our strength is in having great conversations that lead to great connections. We needed a solution to help us convince students to engage and then drive those students toward a live conversation with a human. Even though it wasn’t focused on higher education, Drift made perfect sense because it’s dedicated to creating conversations that move prospects through the funnel.”

WFU’s School of Business funnel starts with a prospect making an inquiry and then progresses through a prospective student starting, completing, and submitting an application — and ultimately enrolling. At each stage in the process, a student needs different information and support. The School uses Drift to address these needs throughout the recruitment journey.

Drift gives us the ability to be nimble and responsive, which is crucial to capturing as many conversations as possible during our highly competitive recruiting time frame.”
— Michael Lamphier, Executive Director, Marketing and Communication, WFU School of Business

Preemptive Support

Drift also helps the School to proactively address common questions in order to remove friction from the application funnel. For example, the lack of a GMAT score is a common barrier to applying because acquiring the score requires scheduling, studying for, and taking the  test. Instead of allowing this to stall the application process, a Drift bot tells the candidate that they might be eligible for a GMAT waiver. This has been extremely effective in driving engagement. “We launched a GMAT waiver bot for one of our programs on a Friday afternoon,” Michael says, “And by Monday morning our recruiting colleague already had eight consults booked on her calendar.”

Behaviorally-based Interaction

As part of the School of Business’ digital transformation, the team has enhanced their attribution and tracking capabilities to support an emphasis on behaviorally-based interactions. If a student visits the financial aid pages multiple times, Drift invites that person to a personal consult with the School’s tuition/financial aid expert. Or, if someone spends a lot of time on curriculum pages, Drift offers to connect that student with the relevant program dean. “Wake Forest is a place of uncommon collaboration and connection,” Michael says. “Drift helps us make that apparent to students in their initial interactions.”

Customized Campaigns

A big part of driving consistent engagement is ensuring message relevance. One way WFU’s School of Business does this is by driving digital ads to event-specific Drift playbooks. This creates continuity that helps keep students interested and encourages them to take the next step of signing up for the event.

More Engaging and Effective Communications

Throughout the recruitment process, the School uses Drift to strengthen the relationship with prospective students and drive better responses to communications. For instance, recruitment reps can make themselves available for live, “Ask Me Anything” sessions via live chat on the website. Reps also use Drift Video instead of email to cut through inbox clutter. “Drift Video has elevated the quality and relevance of our post-consult communications among our naturally video-centric audience,” Michael says. Finally, adding Drift Meeting links to email communications made a huge difference to reply rates.  “The week we implemented Drift meeting links in our outbound emails, our recruiters were slammed with meetings,” says Michael. “We used to get limited measurable response to those emails, but now students are clicking and setting up consults in a way that’s measurable and meaningful.”

The Results: Greater Recruitment Efficiency Plus a Better Candidate Experience

Within the first six months, Drift delivered some strong wins in a way that was efficient and scalable for the School of Business’ lean team.

Better Student Experience

Drift provides the School’s student candidates with a much more engaging experience, and the students are responding. The chatbots and Drift Video drive more conversations and email opens, giving the recruitment team more opportunities to have those critical early conversations.

“Students these days are often unwilling to engage in long-form conversations on the front end. They’re more accustomed to chat and text,” says John White, Executive Director, Enrollment Management for WFU’s School of Business. “Connecting with them in a way they prefer has made them more willing to talk with us. In those conversations, students have commented on the ease and seamlessness of our application process.”

Ultimately, Drift helps WFU’s School of Business elevate student perceptions of their brand. “Drift has really helped us improve student experiences and makes it easier for us to connect with students, quickly learn their wants and needs, and more effectively present the School as an option they should consider,” says John. I’m confident that the improved experience Drift creates has had a positive impact on our overall brand.”

Improved Recruitment Efficiency

Though the School’s recruiters were initially wary about the chat bot adding work to their plates, they quickly realized how much time it saved them. “Since we went live with Drift, we have saved a significant number of hours in the formerly laborious process of finding mutually convenient times for recruiters and prospective students to connect,” says Michael. “Our recruiters can focus on building relationships while Drift automatically populates their calendars with interested, qualified students.”

Wake Forest is a place of uncommon collaboration and connection. Drift helps us make that apparent to students in their initial interactions.”
— Michael Lamphier, Executive Director, Marketing and Communication, WFU School of Business

Application Acceleration

“Drift accelerates the front end of the student conversation, which is a critical part of our funnel,” says Michael. Using Drift, the School of Business is able to engage prospective students more consistently and earlier in the process, which gives them more time to get to know students, build stronger relationships, and insulate them from the competition. “The earlier we get to know them – and the better impression we make – the more likely we’ll ultimately be their school of choice,” Michael adds.

Better Operational Efficiency

Internally, Drift helps WFU’s School of Business increase the recruiting team’s flexibility and alignment with their marketing counterparts. “Having one team member dedicated to thinking about conversations has really helped us focus our efforts,” says Michael. “And the fact that we can turn playbooks on and off really easily allows us to test and iterate quickly. The ability to be so nimble and responsive is crucial to capturing as many conversations as possible during the highly competitive recruiting time frame.”

In their first six months with Drift, the WFU’s School of Business’ team achieved:

  1. 3,000 conversations
  2. 1,300 leads (43% conversion rate)
  3. 1,000 meetings (77% conversion from lead to meeting)
  4. 80% of Drift leads are first-time student visitors
  5. 65% more applications from inquiries using Drift

Overall, Drift helps WFU’s recruitment team get more done in less time, allowing them to extend their focus to other critical initiatives. At the same time, Drift’s automation, AI, and video technology deliver an experience that is tailored to meet and exceed the expectations of prospective students.

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