Changing the Shape of the Funnel

Chapter 1: A “terrific” tradition, but a terrible investment

You probably don’t remember Tom Terrific, because you’re much younger than I am. Tom was the main character in a great kids’ cartoon that was shown on Captain Kangaroo in the mid-50s. Our hero Tom, who was developed by Gene Deitch, always wore a signature hat: an upside-down funnel. Tom’s superpower enabled him to change to any shape or become any object at just the right moment. He lived in a treehouse with his sidekick Manfred the Wonder Dog and bravely battled a variety of villains, including Crabby Appleton, who was “rotten to the core,” and Captain Kidneybean, a perilous pirate. Tom’s ability to change shape ensured that he always won. And each episode opened with his welcome: “Terrytoon presents….the real great adventures of ME!” (He may have been the early catalyst for young Boomers to raise their own little me-centric children.) Everyone wanted to be—or be friends with—Tom Terrific. And we all loved that cool funnel hat. At least I did.

Turned right-side up, Tom’s hat resembles the traditional recruitment funnel model: a wide opening at top, gradually narrowing to a tapered end. This model represents the passage of pre-inquiries/suspects to inquiries/prospects to applicants to admits to matriculants. It’s a visual demonstration of the recruitment cycle, typically spanning six to 32 months, during which we measure our progress in increments. Can we achieve double-digit response to search mailings? How many prospects can we convert to applicants? How many shall we admit in order to achieve our class in the fall?

This model suggests we start from the end result and work backward. Using a formula derived from our school’s enrollment goals and history, we figure that our ultimate class will be a certain percentage of our deposits; our deposits will be a certain percentage of our admits; our admits will be a certain percentage of our applicants, and so on. Many of our clients, in their initial search efforts, have solicited 100 times or more the number of matriculants they ultimately desire.


To keep reading

  • Spread the word
Rick Bailey

Rick is the Principal and founding partner at RHB.