Today, a good customer relationship management (CRM) platform is the backbone of many successful student recruitment efforts. A CRM is a customer-centric system that can help education professionals nurture relationships with prospects and enrollees, produce data-driven insights to illustrate progress towards goals, and streamline their admissions and marketing initiatives to save time and effort.
In the right hands, this is a tool with immense value. For those who are new to the concept of CRM, though, or are in the process of adopting and exploring CRM platforms, it may not be readily apparent exactly how to harness the power of this type of system.
What Does CRM Involve? A Brief Intro for Schools
Even if you are familiar with the basic idea of a CRM, understanding exactly what it can do to help your school can take some thorough research. CRM software offers a wide range of applications to help you manage and interact with leads, with different systems including a variety of different features. However, there are a few common functions that most CRMs will include:
- Contact Management– This will usually include the ability to build and store individual contact profiles, segment them according to your needs, and track your interactions with each one. Team Management– Most CRMs will also offer tools for your team to better collaborate, schedule tasks, track your lead pipeline, and plan your workload.
- Communications Tools– Most CRMs will offer facilities to log and detail communications with contacts via phone, email, SMS, instant messaging, physical meetings, and even through social media. Many will also offer integrations for some (but not necessarily all) of these communications channels, so that you can use them directly from your system.
- Reporting– Because CRMs collect such valuable, granular information on your audience, as well as your own team’s work, they also offer the facility to synthesize this data into reports that can be used to improve your efforts.
Build Relationships With Prospects Using CRM for Schools
The process of building connections with prospective students may feel more like an art than a precise science, but with CRM, it’s possible to shift that balance.
Consider what an ideal series of interactions with a prospective student would look like. At a basic level, it would involve reaching out to them soon after they express an interest in your institution. It would also mean following up with them enough times to offer assistance with any obstacles they are experiencing during the enrollment journey, but not so many times that they feel undue pressure.
Being able to achieve this kind of prompt, courteous, and effective service manually would require constant verification of new inquiries and tracking of interactions between prospects and a recruitment team, but to do that for even one potential applicant would involve a fair amount of effort. Multiply this by dozens or hundreds of leads and the workload can quickly spiral into something totally unmanageable.
With CRM, however, this work can be done for you. The software can build lists of new prospects who have submitted inquiries, which can be segmented by location, course, or any other parameter that your school wishes. Each contact’s profile will include detailed information based on what they have provided when completing your inquiry forms.
As your leads progress through the enrollment journey you can track your follow-up activities so that your team will always know who needs to be contacted, and how often your team has interacted with each individual lead. You can also track the total number of meetings scheduled, how many calls have been completed, and many other useful metrics for your admissions team. All of these features greatly reduce the information management burden placed on recruiters, allowing them to focus more time and energy on building stronger relationships with prospects, and less on tracking productivity and prospect status.
You can also go a step beyond that by filtering and segmenting prospects according to their interactions with your institution. In CRM systems that incorporate marketing automation functionality, it is possible to assign a quantitative value – called a ‘lead score’ – to interactions a prospect might have with your team. This might include anything from visiting a landing page and filling out a contact form for more information, to signing up for an email newsletter, to scheduling a call with one of your staff members, or any number of other activities that could help them move through your recruitment funnel.
The accumulation of points associated with these kinds of activities makes it easier to determine which prospects should be high priorities. Somebody who has had multiple phone calls with your admissions team, for instance, is almost certainly a higher value lead than someone who requested an information package and then never engaged further with your institution. Using a CRM for higher education takes the effort out of sorting these prospects and determining which ones are serious about their interest in your school.
Using CRM Workflows to Manage Leads Through the Enrollment Journey
Arguably one of the useful features of a CRM is the ability to create workflows –referred to as campaigns in some systems– to plan your management and nurturing of specific segments of your audience from the point of their initial inquiry through the enrollment journey.
Depending on your team’s needs, these workflows might be relatively simple and straightforward – such as a workflow that assigns leads to specific owners. This example in Mautic does so based on the location of the campus the prospect is interested in:
Alternatively, you may want to create a more complex workflow, in which events are carefully timed over certain intervals, or the actions of contacts trigger different activities from your staff. A CRM will allow you to build workflows with various qualifiers so that you can plan your recruitment efforts as meticulously as you need to.
If your CRM system also has in-built marketing automation functionality, your workflows can incorporate a variety of automated communication features, helping to cut down on the amount of manual follow-up your team are doing. For instance, most schools will use at least some level of automated email marketing in their workflows
Keep in mind, however, that contacting prospects directly by phone is often the best way to get results, while SMS and instant messaging are also growing in popularity as preferred communication options for those researching schools. For best results, be sure to incorporate a mixture of communication channels into your follow-up processes.