Sometimes you have to catch a break anyway you can. But finding ways to be more efficient and effective (good vocab usage words) can be tough on a limited school budget.
Time pressure for marketing and admissions staff, as well as the need to increase enrollment is a reality for most schools. A customer relationship management (CRM) system is a solution Christian schools should consider. What was once a difficult to use, massive software purchase has become something that is quick to implement, cloud based, and indispensable for school marketing, fundraising, and alumni relationships. In some cases, you can access a CRM with no cost at all, depending on your needs. A CRM can reduce staff time, improve internal coordination and create consistently greater impact with prospects.
A CRM for Christian Schools?
A CRM (customer relationship management system) is a tool that is used to communicate and manage the customer relationship throughout their involvement with a school. In education, this falls into three key periods of time: from awareness about the school through admissions (marketing and recruiting); during enrollment; and afterwards during life as an alumni. CRM’s help to track, personalize and automate communications to improve the experience throughout the customer lifecycle.
Communications during the middle period in which students are enrolled is often shifted to a Learning Management System (LMS), which is focused on education management including courses and grades. The goal of the LMS is learning management, which won’t meet school needs during the other two periods of time.
What Happens when you have an LMS without a CRM?
If one can get past all the acronynms, an important distinction emerges between the LMS and CMS. Learning management is focused on delivery of education, not on marketing, student life, parent or alumni relations. One is secure and delivers schedules, announcements, assignments, and grades, while the other functions across multiple media types including social networks to support marketing and deliver the right information to the right audience at the right time.
LMS systems, as a rule, don’t make for good customer relationship management because they simply aren’t designed for that purpose. In smaller colleges and secondary schools this distinction gets lost and the LMS is used for all kinds of communications for which it is not well suited. In larger settings a CRM is integrated with the LMS to ensure that the student (as a customer) has the best experience possible.
LMS systems are heavy on security and form completion, but light on marketing. They work well for applications, grades and homework communication. The typical LMS pushes all marketing leads into just a couple of categories – either “inquiries,” or “applicants.” Here is the problem with this approach:
96% of people who visit your website aren’t ready to enroll – yet.
When we push people into a response form that the LMS has decided we should use, rather than one that is designed for what potential customers need, you can miss most of the journey people take before they enroll. There are at several other phases of the journey that we should be tracking so that we can nurture people throughout their decision process. That is where a marketing friendly CRM can prove indispensable.
Here is how you can know if you need a CRM for your school:
6 Reasons Christian Schools need a CRM
- You need a CRM if you want to market your school. The need to personalize your responses and follow-up effectively requires the use of a CRM for most schools. However, it needs to be easy to use and implement. This brings a key issue into focus – schools really need a CRM that integrates well with a marketing system. Especially for smaller schools that don’t field an entire communications team, the ability for an admissions director and a marketing director to sync up depends upon having both marketing and CRM that work together.
- You need a CRM if you have more than one audience that needs personal communication. Of course, that’s true for every school. Colleges have unique groups of students, faculty and supporters. For private secondary schools the primary audience begins as the parent who investigates and enrolls their child, but has to also include the older student who either makes the choice or is heavily involved in deciding about where they should attend. For schools of all types keeping in touch with alumni requires personalized attention.
- You need a CRM if you haven’t been building an email list with segments that target specific audiences. If you are working with just one to three large lists, and you don’t regularly move all of your inquiries who don’t enroll into a targeted email list that focuses on unique interests, you need a CRM. The tracking that occurs with an effective CRM alllows you to create email lists that deliver information to people that will make a difference, and information they actually want to receive.
- You need a CRM if you can’t easily sort your highest priority prospects into an action list, and easily take notes on your actions and their responses or needs.
- You need a CRM if you have multiple people that a enrollment prospect interacts with during their decision process. You need a CRM for fast support requests, accountability and a way to help other staff respond quickly.
- You need a CRM if you aren’t able to review within 60 seconds or less, every interaction that prospects are having with your marketing materials, social networking, email, and website. And don’t forget your notes. Knowing what people are interested in can make every phone call and email more personal and impactful.
CRMs have grown up in the era of cloud computing
Older CRMs, and CRMs that weren’t designed with marketing and sales (enrollment) in mind, can be clunky and challenging to use. In the past they have sometimes created an extra layer of work rather than fit within the normal workflow of marketing, admissions, and alumni relations. As they have improved, CRMs are saving time for people who already don’t have enough time – like admissions directors.
When you look for a CRM check for these features:
- Can you use it without leaving your email inbox in Gmail or Outlook 360?
- Will it allow you to task or prompt other team members?
- Does it integrate with your marketing email, website and and social media?
- Can you get creative in sorting people into groups that you can connect with various opportunities based on their interest?
- Is it adding information from “big data” that makes your job faster and easier?
- It is low cost (systems in the “cloud” have reduced costs)?
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