8 Steps to Precise Personalization with Education CRM and Marketing Automation
Date posted: March 20, 2019
It’s natural for experienced admissions staff to be wary of CRM and marketing automation. After all, student recruitment is an area where connecting personally with your prospects can be vital to success, so the idea of sending mass communications, creating reusable message templates, and sorting leads by data fields can understandably seem like a cold, impersonal alternative.
When used correctly, however, CRM and marketing automation can actually increase the level of personalization in your follow-up with prospective students. A good CRM system will help you to tailor content to individuals, collect more relevant information, and even aid your manual lead nurturing efforts.
All of this can be done while still scaling your digital marketing efforts to reach more prospects, more frequently, with less time and resources. Keep reading to find out how.
1. Personalization Starts With Your Student Personas
When considering how to personalize your digital marketing initiatives, it’s important to first think about your personas on a broader level, and the kind of personalization that they would welcome.
For example, younger demographics tend to expect a certain level of personalization from brands online, and are also often somewhat more comfortable offering their personal information, so schools targeting young students will want to make it a priority. More mature students, on the other hand, might be less willing to provide you with the information you need.
Your personas can also help to guide how you segment your prospects for more personalized communications. For instance, if you have a few different target locations from which you attract a large number of applicants, you might consider creating personalized communications for each market.
Example: A persona for a university pathway program which targets students in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Nigeria. Segmenting prospects according to region could be a good first step towards more personalized follow-up in this instance.
It’s also a young audience, suggesting that prospects would welcome a more personalized approach.
2. Collect as Much Data as Possible Through Your Education CRM and Marketing Automation System
The key to good personalization is to gather as much information as possible about your prospects. Your school should ensure that its inquiry forms include fields that will be as instructive as possible for your team, and really help them to provide more personalized follow-up.
What this means for your school will largely depend on your individual needs. It could include basic fields like their location, age, or occupation, or more detailed, qualitative information, like why they are considering your program, or what they hope to achieve.
Example: This information request form on WU Executive Academy’s website includes a field entitled ‘my motivation’, which asks prospective students to select from a number of common reasons for wanting to pursue an MBA. This kind of insight can be like gold dust for an admissions team looking to personalize its follow-up strategies.
These fields can then be automatically populated within your education CRM system whenever a new lead makes an inquiry, and accessed for any personalized follow-up you are looking to engage in. This is one reason why it is usually best to use a platform with both CRM and marketing automation functionality, as it means all your data is consistent and stored in one place.
3. Consider Using ‘Progressive Profiling’ to Gather Info from Prospective Students
Of course, one of the issues many schools face when trying to gather data from potential applicants is that it can be time-consuming or even off-putting to force prospects to fill out long, detailed forms just to make an inquiry. A balance needs to be struck between fulfilling your admissions needs and creating a frictionless user experience.
One method many marketing experts use to get around this is known as ‘progressive profiling’. The basic idea of this approach is to use shorter forms with only a few fields, but to encourage leads to give you more information as time goes on by providing new offers for them.
For example, if a prospect provides some basic information by filling out a form on a landing page, you could take them to a thank you page that provides some additional offer – like the invitation to register for an event or webinar – in exchange for filling out another form with different fields.
Example: This is a great illustration of how progressive profiling evolves from Newfangled. In this instance, the prospect moves from subscribing to content updates, to an event invite, and then finally to a meeting. Each time, the organization asks for a little bit more information, with the fields that have been previously completed autofilled.
Alternately, you could send them an email with a prompt for the same offer. This way, the more a prospect engages with your school, the more you learn about them. Progressive profiling can be also be more convenient from a lead’s perspective, as it means that they are not presented with the same form and fields to fill out again and again.
However, it’s worth mentioning that this approach will only be successful if you continue to provide value to prospects. Complementary content offers, invitations to events (both online and physical), or even contests are all examples of things which might prompt an existing lead to ‘reconvert’ and be willing to offer more information.
4. Use Segmentation to Drive Your School’s Personalization
The segmentation functions of education CRM and marketing automation systems can be extremely valuable in facilitating more personalized campaigns.
By grouping your students based on their location, program of interest, or any other value you might find relevant, you can filter your prospects into more personalized lists. This will enable you to present them with more relevant offers and communications.
Segmentation is especially valuable in email marketing. Your school can create different autoresponders, monthly newsletters or email nurturing campaigns for different segments of your prospective student base, so that each receives the most relevant, engaging content possible.
Example: This school has autoresponders for inquiries about its CELTA courses in three different locations in Mautic. This strategy allows your school to create content that is more specific to each of your campuses or programs.
If your marketing automation system includes SMS or instant messing integration, you can take a similar approach with those channels, too. When coupled with the standard dynamic content personalization tokens offered by most marketing automation software – such as the option to add a contact’s name to the subject line or body of a message – you can easily create content that truly feels like it was written for an individual lead.
Another thing you should consider is segmenting your leads by their preferred method of contact. Some leads might prefer to be contacted by email rather than by phone, or even to communicate using instant message platforms like WhatsApp or Messenger. Many schools will ask prospective students to specify this in their forms, and then create lists of prospects for each channel.
Example: Language Systems ask prospective students to specify their preferred method of contact in this landing page form.
This could allow the school to segment leads who are more likely to respond through email, phone, or WhatsApp for further contact. Not only does this approach increase your chances of connecting with potential applicants, it allows you to offer a follow-up experience that is perfectly aligned with their personal preferences.
5. Use Data Triggers to Personalize Your Manual Follow-Up Approach
One of the most common misconceptions about marketing automation is that it is meant to replace manual follow-up processes completely. In reality, it should serve as a complement to them, supporting your team in its day-to-day activities by eliminating simple, repetitive tasks so that you can devote your time to more personalized outreach.
It also provides you with more detailed, measurable feedback on the success of your marketing open rates. For instance, a typical marketing automation suite might provide your team with reports on everything from email open rates, to downloads, and even website sessions from returning users.
You can use this information to your advantage by creating data triggers that notify a contact owner when a prospect is showing signs of interest in your school. For instance, if a lead downloads a brochure, an email notification could be sent to one of your team members. You can then try to follow up and make contact at a time when your school is at the forefront of that particular prospect’s mind.
Example: A simple data trigger workflow in HubSpot, which sends an email notification when leads from a specific list fill out a specific form.
This can be crucial in providing a more personalized follow-up approach, and giving your leads the right information at the right time.
6. Implement Student Lead Scoring for Added Personalization
Lead scoring can serve as a way of taking the previous step a little further by assigning specific values to certain actions, such as email opens, link clicks, and other website and social media interactions.
Example: Here, a student lead gains ten points in Mautic for opening an auto responder email.
Your team can assign a threshold for prospects to reach to trigger follow-up contact or other activities. Assigning an initial score to prospects based on their specific attributes, such as their location, age, or first conversion touchpoint, can also be a way to bring an element of personalization to your efforts. You can assign leads to specific workflows based on their initial score, and how high quality a prospect you estimate them to be.
7. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Making Notes
Another important manual element of personalizing your campaigns using CRM and marketing automation for education systems is the level of detail you input into the system about your contact with each prospect.
Most CRM systems will allow you to make notes after calls or meetings, or when you receive emails or texts. While it can be tempting to input a simple one-liner in order to save time, it’s often better to provide as much information about your conversations as possible.
Example: HubSpot allows you to log calls, meetings and emails. You can select specific outcomes for them, make notes, and even create follow-up tasks.
Detailed notes will help you to remember any important points you have discussed with a prospective student the next time you want to contact them, meaning you can pick up where you left off more easily. This will make potential applicants feel as though you have listened to them, and make your interactions seem that much more personal.
Notes are also extremely helpful if there is a chance that another member of your team will be following up with a prospect instead of you. By giving them everything they need to seamlessly continue the conversation, they won’t have to cover old ground with the lead and waste their time.
8. Make Sure to be Mindful of Each Prospect’s Privacy
The final, and perhaps most pertinent, thing to keep in mind about personalization is the need to not take it too far. It is important, of course, to be mindful of privacy legislation such as GDPR, and ensure you seek appropriate consent for any information that you gather or contact you wish to engage in with your audience.
In addition, schools need to consider that with concerns about internet privacy becoming an increasingly prominent part of the public conversation, many prospective students could be turned off by any automated marketing communications which seem overly familiar or intrusive.
Above all else, the key is to strike the right note with the tone and nature of your personalized marketing efforts, and crucially, to use your leads’ information to provide them with real value. If your follow-up efforts are helpful, informative, and cater to the needs of your audience, they are more likely to be received positively.