How Your Marketing Plans Can Benefit from Alumni Surveys: Unlocking Secrets to Your Success


Your alumni have at least a little—maybe a lot—of real-world experience under their belts now. They can think back on their college days with new perspective. They’re also the living, breathing, full-color testimonies of what your school can do. And it’s easier than ever to connect with them.

Here are some of the ways you can use alumni surveys to unlock secrets to power-charge your marketing plans.

Gain insights about how to communicate with prospective students.

Identifying common themes from alumni like why they came to your school, what they liked best, and why they stayed will give you inside scoop on how to present your school in your marketing materials. Rather than guessing what’s most appealing to prospective students, you’ll have actual data to build from. Aggregate responses not only summarize your strengths, but give you quantitative facts to brag about. Further, the data may give you helpful clues about the unique nature of those strengths.

When 90% of alumni rate the “care and concern of faculty” as “above average,” that probably validates what you already thought. But now you can definitively tout that actual number. Then, when you dig a little more deeply into the responses, you begin to understand more about why alumni give these ratings. These insights can give dynamic breadth to your marketing messages.

Our experience with surveying alumni at one university recently helped us to develop a “word bank” for use in creating new marketing materials. By cataloging terms and phrases that were a true reflection of alumni experiences, we could better communicate in a language that appeals to the emotions of prospective students and other alumni. For example, the high marks were backed up by a wealth of comments about faculty like, “outstanding at teaching me things that would make me successful in life” and “teach young adults how to be productive citizens.” Now that’s good stuff for copywriting.

Collect feedback about outcomes.

Prospective students want to know what your alumni are doing now. How “successful” are they? Research shows that the reason Gen Z students are going to college is, put simply, for a better career path (more about that here). Showing alumni outcomes proves that your school can put them on that path.

In surveying alumni from Campbellsville University recently, one respondent commented, “. . . my experiences at Campbellsville shaped me [and] have led me to have a successful, enriched career.” That quote became a prominent point of content in new marketing materials. These real words are more powerful than the savviest of marketing jargon, and we wouldn’t have had them if we hadn’t surveyed alumni.

Learn how the experience at your school can be improved.

Surveying alumni can also be a healthy reality check about your school’s blind spots. If given the chance to speak freely, alumni will share their disappointments and suggestions. While wild-card negative comments are inevitable, they may or may not reflect overall views. A quantitative survey, on the other hand, (if done correctly) will give you an objective measure of dissatisfaction. If you receive this “criticism” as constructive feedback and take it seriously, it can propel you to making your school an even better place.

In another recent survey we conducted, we learned that alumni of that school felt academically prepared for their careers, but they realized they lacked hands-on experience for the workplace. Current students can’t possibly give you this kind of judgment, but alumni can—because they’ve actually lived it.

Improve alumni relations.

Everyone wants to be heard, so your alumni will most likely appreciate being asked. If you alumni continue to see themselves as part of the ongoing story of your school, you’re building stronger lifetime relationships. When you send a survey, take the occasion to remind them how valuable they are by assuring them of how much their participation matters.

Are your ready to start firing out surveys? First, a word of caution: To achieve accurate results and get the insights you want, your process is critical. Survey design and analysis are specialized skills, and you can benefit from a professional to guide the way. If you have a marketing research specialist on staff, that person can lead you in how to ask the right questions and how to evaluate the results. If not, the 5° team is here to help you customize your own survey and get the most of your analysis.

We’re eager to help unlock secrets for your success.

5° Branding