4 min read


In 2009, I met with the Admissions team at Duke University. Our conversation covered many topics, including a new technology. I showed them something I was working on at the time.

It was a card that tied into an early-day version of augmented reality. If a student scanned the card with a downloadable app, they would open the door to new information. What was even better was that the enrollment director would get an alert telling them that the card had been scanned.

The card triggered an idea for the team. As they thought about how to use the new tool, the group landed on an idea to use this to engage students interested in engineering. 

That prompted a shift in the conversation, and we ended up partnering to create a mini-campaign aimed at a smaller group of student recruits, exclusively for Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. 

It was a companion campaign. One that was compared to the large, clunky campaign where  they were spending much more. 

This single campaign created a breakthrough in my thinking. I realized every school has a BIG IDEA they want to try, academic programs that need more seats filled, and new markets they want to test. This was my “aha” moment where I realized a mini-test campaign would be helpful because:

  • Leaders do not have the luxury of waiting for results from a year-long A/B test
  • It is too expensive to test a hunch on a year-long campaign
  • There is great interest in continually developing new markets. A mini-test campaign lets you find the right path in a cost-effective manner

The breakthrough energized me because I could see exciting possibilities for every school I was supporting. I also realized that to be effective in this area required a new mindset, along with new techniques, tools, and tactics.

Over the next 12 years, my team and I honed our expertise in this area. We are now microSEARCH™ pioneers and evangelists.

Today, microSEARCH™ campaigns are used to:

  • Relieve the internal efforts of those who have brought a Student Search in-house too quickly
  • Increase applications
  • Help with yield and melt prevention efforts
  • Introduce schools to leveraging digital solutions to help grow graduate and non-traditional programs 

Our clients are finding success. In our first year as a startup company, enrollmentFUEL helped Drury University increase enrollment in a new market with a microSEARCH™ campaign. The micro-campaign had all the features of a larger campaign but was smaller and less costly, which made it a safe platform for testing a new idea.

Drury’s micro-campaign ran in tandem with their traditional search methods, and it featured:

  • Geodemographic research
  • IP pre-targeting display ads
  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • clickCAPTURING™ and meritBADGING™, two of enrollmentFUEL’s proprietary solutions at the time

The targeted campaign achieved success by opening a significant new market, increasing new student enrollment to an all-time high, and remaining cost-effective.

microSEARCH™ has evolved since that first campaign, much like other Student Search efforts. Today, these campaigns help schools find a budget-friendly answer to some of their biggest Student Search roadblocks. Our campaigns now include:

  • Banner and social media ads along with reports to help convert ad clickers to hand-raisers (inquiries)
  • Engaging emails that are algorithm and subject line tested
  • High-impact direct mail with a QR code (there has been a huge resurgence of the QR code in our COVID-influenced world)
  • Regular reporting and project management meetings to keep campaigns on track

Paired with some of our other solutions, such as look-alike modeling, forensic lead generation, and matchBACK (our IP tracking solution that identifies who has been stealthily slinking through your website), microSEARCH™ becomes your unstoppable, yet still attainable, Student Search solution.

As you plan, think about how you can use microSEARCH™ to reach a particular goal or attack a problem that is unique to your school. It could be increasing a specific group of applicants, expanding in a geographic market, or testing a hypothesis. By scaling down, you can afford pioneering new ideas and achieving new successes.

About the Author

Mike Wesner is the company’s founder and the creator of the big ideas that FUEL our company. He brings his entrepreneurial energy to every project and has led growth in fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and more than 100 higher education campuses. He has crafted solutions strategies for more than 500 Student Search campaigns and has reengineered the communications ecosystem on several college campuses.

Contact Mike at mike.wesner@enrollmentfuel.com to schedule a discussion to strategize about what a microSEARCH™ campaign could look like at your institution.

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