When an institution’s success depends on people, it can feel difficult to justify using the same terms and concepts other profit-based businesses do. This might help explain why some institutions in the higher education space don’t necessarily think of themselves as for-profit businesses, and why they might not prioritize marketing.
In fact, until recently, many did not even have a marketing or sales department and shied away from using these terms to describe their lead generation strategies.
Unfortunately, this leads to serious problems today. Siloed departments within a university aren’t able to create a unified strategy to draw students into and down their funnel toward making an enrollment decision. Over the past few years, we have seen some trends related to this isolation:
- Falling student enrollments
- Income problems and faculty departures
- Institution closures
The core of the problem is that higher education in the U.S. is no longer the only next decision. In fact, many students are voicing concern about the current model–especially since 42% of American students report working full-time jobs during their university years.
The student demographic is changing, and the systems of the past are falling short.
To undo the consequences here, higher ed institutions must reconfigure their strategies and work to better personalize their student experience. Those that choose not to, could continue to suffer a decline in enrollment and retention.
A CRM or Customer Relationship Management system can help higher education institutions unify their efforts in order to optimize student experience and ultimately increase both student enrollment and retention — here’s how.
Unify Long-Siloed University Departments
Most higher education institutions have traditionally operated in a collection of siloed departments. Historically, it has served them–or at least not harmed them– to keep their services categorized as such. The Admissions team handled inbound applications, the Financial Aid office handled any student loan or scholarship needs, the Registrar did class registration, and so on and so forth.
Separate wheels all turning together in the same direction.
They also didn’t have the same need for marketing efforts. College was, after all, the next logical step for the students who wanted to take that path. But, according to Inside Higher Ed, times have changed–to the tune of a “total undergraduate enrollment decline of 6.6 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2021, representing a loss of just over a million students.”
By using one integrated platform that houses all student information, you can accomplish several things:
- personalize the customer experience at the beginning of a prospective student’s journey
- filter all of the information into the appropriate department in one smooth format
- Provide each department access to what they need at the appropriate time.
In the end, when the student enrolls, student-based services will already have all necessary information easily accessible and ready to go.
All the information. All in one place.
We can see the power of a CRM in action at Southeast Missouri State University. According to Lenall Hahn, the Director of Admissions at SMSU, using a CRM has drastically changed the way students experience their marketing efforts–resulting in a 13% increase in first-time applications in 2021.
Effectively Collect, Categorize and Optimize Student Information
The truth is, the students are driving the change. According to a Salesforce report, “9 in 10 students want institutions to communicate with them as often or more, and via email, personalized communications and alerts.” Even before the onset of the global pandemic, students were changing their behaviors. The “traditional student,” who would typically be headed for a college or university experience, was already starting to question that path.
A higher ed CRM is built to collect, categorize and optimize student information. Better data collection and categorization means your institution knows more about the students you are serving. You know things like:
- how they consume information
- which mediums they prefer to engage with and how often
- what gets them to click on something or open an email
A University employing a higher ed CRM collects data from a student’s first touch point with their materials. They can then categorize everything according to how that student interacts with and experiences the information. As Matthew Culpepper, Associate Director of Admissions at LSU said, “while what we had built worked for us at the time, we realized we needed to unify our services to better serve our students efficiently and effectively.”
Deliver a Highly Personalized Student Experience
Students now want more connection with those that can guide them along what can be a confusing and emotionally challenging experience. In fact, recent research shows us that one in four students wants a more personalized education experience. They are asking questions like:
- Will I be supported during the admissions process?
- Will my courses put me on a path to a successful career?
- What kind of synchronous or asynchronous learning opportunities exist?
Once you understand what students need at each stage and how they like to receive and interact with information, you can support each individual according to what they’ve shown you with their habits.
For example–some students engage with information via an email campaign, while others look for what they want or are pulled in by social media. Many have said they want more communication by text message or email from their professors or student support services.
These are unique distinctions that can offer a lot of useful information on how to engage these particular customers in the future. This kind of personalization is new to the higher education world and requires integration of university services and unity of information.
A higher ed CRM offers both on the same platform.
It’s Time to Use Student Data to Thrive Post-Pandemic
The landscape of higher education has changed dramatically. Although some will lament this reality, marketing for higher education needs to follow suit, or risk a continuing decline in enrollment and student retention. Higher education marketing teams can use a CRM platform to collect, unify, and more effectively utilize data about its current and prospective students. A higher ed CRM will help to personalize the student learning experience and make it more unique based on the way each person receives information and seeks support.
Students today have a better understanding of how they learn and what support they need to be successful, and they are giving you valuable information about how to better serve them. A higher ed CRM can help you attract, enroll, and retain a greater number of students in these changing times.
This is an original piece of work from Meredith Cooley, B2B writer. Find Meredith on LinkedIn.