Your Frenemyship With Your CRM is the Key to Winning

Posted: February 11, 2022

Brandi Stocker Senior Director of Enrollment Strategy

A tool is only as good as its user. 

When it comes to winning the enrollment game, your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is likely misunderstood and underutilized.

A Multi-Trick Workhorse

Its potential goes far beyond automated email responses. CRMs contain a wealth of data on prospective student behavior. They are vehicles for personalized dialogue. And they can reveal opportunities to improve how the various departments and divisions at your institution work together across the student lifecycle. 

In short, CRMs are your friend. But they require a commitment to training and human capital to make the relationship work. 

Your CRM is Not Perfect

Earlier this week, my colleagues and I delivered a webinar that tackled a question we often get from our clients: Is there a perfect CRM?

The question rings of wishful thinking. Software alone won’t perfectly solve all of your challenges. However, finding the right tool starts with defining the specific challenges you want to solve. For example:

  • Do you want to personalize text communications with specific interaction types?
  • Do you want to understand school engagements by audience type and use that data to invest in future activities and events?
  • Can your frontline recruitment team benefit from live chat support? 
  • Are you looking for more efficient ways to tighten the communication gaps between application and yield? 
  • Do you want to explore advanced data capture capabilities and use CRM data to inform direct mail targeting in regions with high concentrations of prospects who actively apply and enroll?
  • Are you looking to trace which upper-funnel marketing channels are leading to enrolled students? 

People & Tech as One

Regardless of what your goals are, finding the right CRM (and successfully onboarding it) means you must involve all of your key stakeholders in the process: directors, recruiters, marketing personnel, and other users. Actively listen to their needs. Find common ground. Work toward a vision of tech-enablement that responds to those needs. 

For many institutions, siloed information and disjointed processes are common obstacles. Not everyone touches the CRM. Instead, different teams use different tools that house different types of independent data. By bringing all of the data together under one umbrella in your CRM, you can begin seeing (and studying) how prospects behave along the entire student journey. 

Don’t Leave Data on the Table

Data capture is one of the most powerful functions of your CRM. It can reveal interaction trends with prospects. It identifies who is (and who is not) enrolling, points to digital channels that leads are coming from, informs list buying, and provides rich intel that can improve yield and retention strategies. 

These types of insights are often the missing pieces in your enrollment picture. And it’s not the CRM’s fault. An under-resourced marketing team runs ads in hopes of inquiries. Next, they hand the leads to Admissions, and it’s on them to nurture them toward enrollment. Once enrolled, the baton is handed off to advisors and student success staff. Every team is running on a different system and using only the data that makes sense to them. Meanwhile, they aren’t privy to the data that is being collected (or left behind) at student success, retention, and other stages of the student lifecycle. 

Tracking the Student Journey

Empowering your institution with expertise and guidance from resources like CRM specialists will lead to better integration between data sources.

To help our clients live into this vision, our Innovation team has engineered an ed tech solution called Enrollment Drive. It aggregates marketing data points from your CRM with sources which are traditionally siloed – your web analytics, your SIS, your website’s Google Analytics, and the various advertising platforms (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc.). 

With full-funnel visibility on the student lifecycle, you’ll be able to know with great precision, for example, exactly which tactics and channels are most likely to drive not just inquiries, but enrolled students, and at what cost value. You can measure the effect that traditional brand awareness advertising, like television and radio, is having on their performance in lead generation channels such as paid search and social – revealing true attribution. You can track not only what website content is driving inquiries, but what content helps to assist inquiries later down the line. And you can retroactively identify “stealth” applicants and discern what behaviors they took in their earlier recruitment cycle.

The vision of a fully integrated, data-driven marketing effort starts with mastering your CRM. 

Technology can’t replace processes and people. But it can tie both together and give you the advantage you need to win students. 

VisionPoint’s Director of Research & Analytics, Dr. Brandi Stocker, has supported all types of institutions as they select, implement, manage, and sustain their CRM. With 17 years direct experience in higher education, Brandi has served in various capacities within enrollment management, student services, and as faculty. She enjoys solving complex CRM-related technical and strategic issues in an effort to support the entire student lifecycle journey. To start a conversation with Brandi on ways you can get more out of your CRM, contact us. We’re on a mission to help higher ed institutions succeed.