Learn how to automate your CRM to boost enrollment at your vocational school

Tereza Fritz, Digital Strategist

Perhaps you already use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to keep track of contact with alumni, current students and enrollment leads. If not, you really should.

When paired with a marketing automation tool, a CRM becomes more than a glorified spreadsheet. It becomes a powerful marketing tool with the capability to send email marketing campaigns. While a CRM is certainly is useful for tracking leads, when data is well managed, marketing automation can help streamline the lead qualificiation process and prioiritize your sales teams efforts.

Are you taking advantage of your CRM’s full automation capabilities? Before you answer, let’s take a look at what adding a marketing automation tool to it can do.

Schools Can Benefit from Upgraded Customer Relationship Management Software

CRMs fall into the category of Market Automation Software (MAS) used to run and measure campaigns. MAS includes tools to manage email or social media, to conduct and annotate telemarketing, facilitate lead management or perform marketing analytics.

Remember, Content Management System (CMS) for websites such as WordPress, Drupal or Umbraco allow users to do more than edit and manage content  on landing pages and web forms.

Your CRM isn’t meant to replace your Student Information System (SIS), although the two should definitely integrate well. Good CRM systems for schools should include the ability to import (or directly manage) everything from student grades and attendance to billing for tuition or other fees.

With the addition of Artificial Intelligence (AI), schools can use software connected to their CRM to track characteristics such as leadership, financial ability and other data points to assist in the admissions process. The idea, a Salesforce Education Cloud representative told Fast Company, is to lessen human biases within the admissions office that could get in the way of fair student recruitment.

AI can also identify data points which lead to desirable characteristics among prospective students who are likely to enroll, and then seek ‘look-alike’ audiences in other areas for college or vocational school recruiters to target with digital marketing.

Choose the CRM best suited for your school’s needs

Just like no two businesses have needs that are exactly alike, there is no single CRM solution for the education industry. With so many CRMs and available feature configurations to choose from, the task of selecting the best options can seem daunting.

Choose a CRM best-suited for your school's needs.

Partnering with a digital agency such as LAVIDGE can make the process easier. An experienced digital strategist

Your strategist can also offer insight into the process of implementing your new system. One of the first steps is to import your first-party data to the new CRM. You don’t want to lose anything during migration, and that means backing up everything before you begin. This is an imperative step in the process to ensure you retain your contact lists and history.

Automation helps with necessary prep work

Having a name and an associated email address of someone isn’t enough to add them to a marketing campaign. Your marketing strategy must follow the guidelines outlined by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 when developing your contact lists. 

It’s best, for example, to only contact leads who have double opted in to receive marketing communication from your school. Any list cleaning usually happens when you import or migrate first-party data. And Pardot will only allow you to import mailable prospects as part of its terms and conditions.

In addition, you must also provide your contact information including a street address on every email and an easy way for recipients manage their subscriptions. Familiarizing yourself with the rest of the nitty-gritty details can save you and your organization a lot of unnecessary grief and avoid potentially serious legal issues.

If your marketing department doesn’t have a list or your list is low volume, build it by giving people reasons to opt in. Paid media can get ads in front of the audience you want to subscribe to longer-term campaigns. Social media lead generation campaigns can also push out invitations to subscribe or offers for gated content available in exchange for agreeing to join your email list.

Develop your first email marketing campaign

Once you’ve established a quality email list it’s time to nurture the leads to get them closer to enrollment. Personalization is key, so remember to build in custom content modification options that will make each email message feel tailor made. An article on content strategy for higher education goes into greater detail on how to do just that. For the purposes of this article, we’ll stay focused on the technology side of the equation.

That includes evaluating the types of content leads found engaging, regardless of where it appears in your email. By A/B testing you can narrow down which subject lines work best and which calls to action delivered results in addition to topics which resonated well overall.

Tweak your automated email campaigns accordingly and adjust as needed throughout their customer journey as they progress through your sales funnel. What interests them in the beginning won’t be as effective the further along they get in the decision-making process. Your content will need to evolve as their needs mature.

Establish sales rules, scores and grades to qualify student leads

The particulars of setting up your CRM will vary depending on the tool you choose. At LAVIDGE, we use  Pardot, so we’ll use its features and terminology as reference points to concepts which apply in any similar marketing automation platform.

In Pardot, it begins with list segmentation Here, you decide how to organize your audience of mailable prospects and develop marketing campaigns that align with their needs. You can implement rules to segment your audience to different lists based on user behavior, scoring and grades, as well as geo-location and more to create data-driven programs that speed up your sales cycle.

Once you determine the messaging mix and email frequency, you can begin campaign setup and deploy your nurture program. Applying scoring rules for user behavior will help your sales team identify top leads.

All of this is integrated with your Salesforce CRM which assigns scores and grades for prospects based on the sales rules you create. The way recipients engage with your email trigger appropriate followup responses. Someone who opens your email, clicks on a link and stays on a web page for more than a minute, for example, could be automatically sent a letter to keep them moving closer to enrollment. It’s kind of cool. And it takes a lot of planning.

Your digital strategist can guide you in doing so, including creating custom fields to capture more information about your prospect. This can help you strategically as you learn what to prioritize for the benefit of your enrollment campaigns.

Integrate your data for reporting

CRMs and marketing automation platofmrstypically offer out of the box ways to integrate with popular reporting tools including Google Analytics. Your marketing automation dashboard will reveal engagement activity such as whether a customer forwarded your email, printed it, skimmed it, read it or simply gave it a quick glance.

Your CRM dashboard should also reveal which email clients and devices recipients use to access your content so you can optimize the creative accordingly.

If you choose Salesforce (we promise, we didn’t get paid to say this nor is this an explicit endorsement), you’ll have access to a portal that closes the feedback loop with data.com or LinkedIn. It eliminates manual steps that could otherwise get the same result. Doing it yourself (without the help of a CRM) can put an unnecessary strain on your resources.

While Salesforce is definitely the “Cadillac” of platforms, Marketo is a great alternative, and there are certainly many other great CRM systems available for schools. What’s important is that the one you choose works best for you.

Need help choosing a CRM or implementing strategy?

Whether you don’t have a CRM yet—or don’t use the one you have to its fullest potential—LAVIDGE can help. As an Arizona higher education technology firm, we’ve worked with numerous education institutions at every level from K-12 to master’s only schools. LAVIDGE is proud to be listed among effective marketing agencies for large universities as well as marketing agencies for small universities. which achieve results for education industry clients. We can help your private or public college, university or vocational school, too.

To learn more, give us a call at 480.998.2600 or send email to [email protected].

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