What is a CRM and how can it improve my school’s enrollment marketing?

Heads up: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you I may earn a small commission if you use them to make a purchase.

 

One of the most challenging aspects of school enrollment marketing is keeping track of “where” in the recruitment cycle every prospective family currently sits.  Having a good system in place allows you to personally nurture every contact from interested, engaged, and ultimately, an enrolled student/family.

 

However, this can get challenging when you are trying to do this well for a large number of prospective students.  I recently worked with a client that was trying to recruit 100 new freshmen for their second high-school campus while simultaneously enrolling 150 freshmen for their existing campus.  As anyone who has worked in enrollment knows, recruiting 250 new students means that you are probably coordinating over 400 tours and interacting with up to 800 prospective families.

 

One of the improvements that we made in our engagement that significantly improved this process was to implement a Customer Relationship Management software called Enquiry Tracker which allowed them to automate a significant amount of the work and track “where” in the recruitment cycle every potential family was.

 

CRMs like Hubspot, Infusionsoft, or Enquiry Tracker can significantly improve the operations of a school and allow you to provide a more effective student recruitment process.

 

What is a CRM

 

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is designed to give you a holistic look at all your prospective customers or contacts.  Think about it like a spreadsheet on steroids.  Not only does it allow you to capture all your customer’s contact information, but it also allows you to group them in buckets, track interactions, and most importantly bucket these customers for automated interactions.

 

It is a common tool used in business, and recently, a lot of schools are understanding how it benefits their operations and incorporating it into their enrollment efforts.  Let’s look at how having a tool like this can help your school.

 

A single repository for data

 

One of the hardest parts of enrollment management is in identifying prospective parents.  Knowing and identifying “who” is interested in your school is the costliest and most time-consuming part of a good enrollment system.  Having a single spot for all your prospective parents’ contact information to reside in, is a huge boon for a school.  No longer are you having to juggle multiple Google Sheets and worry if somebody is changing all the information by accident.

 

But a CRM can easily improve other operations of your school.  Many times, schools have a lot of silos of data.  A certain parent may gather donor information for your big gala, but often that information doesn’t translate into next year’s event because the documents weren’t handed over properly.  Or we don’t realize that Mrs. Jones was asked to donate for the gala but was never asked to support our athletic fundraiser as well.  We may not realize that Mr. Smith not only is the parent of a 4th grader but he also owns the largest printer in town and might be willing to donate some services.

 

Having all your data in one place allows you to more easily conduct data analysis and connect these dots.  Many schools gather a lot of data, but because none of it is centralized, they can’t easily analyze it to spot patterns, and most critically, can’t use it to drive improvement.  Remember that good data is the key to a strong enrollment system. CRMs like Hubspot or Enquiry Tracker help to get you there.

 

 

Automation of your enrollment activities

 

A good student enrollment program requires a lot of follow up and personalized interactions.  Anyone who has done this knows how labor-intensive these things can be.  Here is where a CRM can significantly improve your activities and save you a ton of time.

 

Let’s imagine a scenario where you have a “request more information” form on your website.  This is a great way for parents who are interested in your school to get more information as they are shopping.  This also represents the first, critical step as they go from a prospective parent to an engaged parent.

 

With a CRM, you can easily integrate this website form into your system.  When a parent puts their contact information into the form, that information automatically creates a new parent record, tags them as a “prospective parent” and automatically sends out an email to them with a link to your infographic or another pre-created email that gives all the relevant information about your school.

 

Next, you can easily set up a rule that allows you to send a couple of more emails over the next two weeks to that prospective parent sharing more information and asking them to register for a school tour.  No longer is someone having to actively monitor that email box or even worse, the parent getting an “out of office” notification because someone is on vacation.

 

This automation takes a little bit of work to set up on the front end, but once it is done, you save an incredible amount of time by automating these repetitive tasks.  Additionally, you have created a much better initial experience with your school.

 

Segmenting your contacts

 

Nobody likes to get mail that is addressed to “occupant”.  Similarly, when you are attempting to recruit parents to your school, they want you to feel like you are treating them as an individual and addressing their needs.  A CRM really improves your ability to personalize your interactions.  For example, let’s say that you have a great arts program as well as an award-winning STEM program.  By “tagging” each prospective parent by their interest (STEM vs. Art), it allows you to customize your follow up emails with information that is relevant to the parent.

 

For my client that I described above – we actually created a couple of different follow up “streams” depending upon the interests of the student.  For the student who was interested in STEM education, they received the standard first email that was sent to every prospective family.  But their next two were oriented specifically to the STEM programs that the school was known for.  They even received a personalized one from the head of STEM education as their third email asking them to sign up for a tour.  We also designed one for students interested in athletics as well as students who had an interest in the arts.  This customization allowed us to tailor information and our “selling message” specifically to that family’s stated interests.  Our attendance at tours skyrocketed as a result.

 

Reporting and Analytics

Another significant benefit that CRMs can bring to a school is the ability to track and manage all of the enrollment data in one easy to access place with simple reports.  Being able to provide a snapshot to the leadership of the school of the # of families in the inquiry stage, nurturing stage, or who have signed up for a school tour is priceless.  This also gives you the ability to track how effective each “lead generation” tactic is because you will know how you first identified that parent in the first place.

Many schools struggle with rich data analysis when it comes to enrollment and a CRM (especially Enquiry Tracker which was built for admissions) simplifies this task immensely.

Implementing a CRM

 

At this point, I hope you are salivating at the prospect of using a CRM in your school’s enrollment marketing.  But I am sure the question that is foremost in your mind is how much does one of these things cost?  The most important thing to remember as you start to look at these is not only the purchase price but the amount of customization that you are going to need to do in order for them to fit your school’s needs.  That is why I tend to recommend Enquiry Tracker.  It was specifically designed for enrollment marketing so there is minimal customization needed.

However, there are other options out there.  Both Hubspot and Salesforce offer free versions that give you a lot of functionality right out of the gate.  But if you do not have a more technical background you might struggle to customize them and incorporate their features into your workflow.

Finally, remember that the most important thing in getting the most value out of these tools is to clearly map out your business processes and ensure that you are incorporating a CRM where it makes the most sense.  These are very powerful tools, but you need to ensure that you are using them in the right way to derive the most value.  And if you can not commit to changing your business processes to leverage the power of a CRM – it will not help you at all.

Once you start using a CRM and start to see the value in how it makes you more efficient and personalizes your recruitment efforts, you will wonder how you lived without it!

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy, MBA, is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides enrollment and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve its’ student enrollment, send an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

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