The Role of CRM and Marketing Automation in Inbound Marketing for Schools
Date posted: September 4, 2019
By offering prospects relevant and helpful information, inbound marketing has quickly become one of the most effective ways for schools to connect with students online.
But at some point, you have to convert inbound visitors into leads if you want to turn inquiries into applications. That’s where CRM and marketing automation come in.
These tools enable you to deliver the right content to the right prospect at the right time, successfully nurturing leads while creating a personalized, helpful admissions experience.
Read on to learn how your school can use CRM and marketing automation as part of your inbound strategy, to both increase your conversion rate and personalize your recruitment efforts.
What is Inbound Marketing? A Refresher for Schools
Even if you’re well-versed in the principles of inbound marketing for schools, it never hurts to refresh yourself on its core objectives – especially if you are trying to understand the role particular tools like CRM and marketing automation can play in it.
Inbound marketing is a customer-centric approach that seeks to attract prospects, engage them with relevant content, and delight them so much with their experience that they tell others about it.
For schools, an inbound marketing strategy could involve creating helpful blogs for your prospects, directing them to relevant resources in social media posts, or creating emails to answer common admissions questions.
Inbound is a great strategy for drawing prospects in, but since it uses less direct marketing tactics than its outbound counterpart, schools need to think harder about how they can convert leads into students.
CRM and marketing automation offers features which can help you at this stage, allowing you to tailor the admissions process to each prospect’s needs and add real value to your follow-up efforts in order to increase your chances of success.
How CRM and Marketing Automation Help Your School’s Inbound Strategy
Education CRM and marketing automation can turn your inbound marketing into a lead conversion machine by personalizing and streamlining your school’s interactions with prospects.
Both make it easy to connect with leads and nurture them along the path to conversion – but they’re technically two different concepts. Simply put, marketing automation automates tasks and workflows while CRM helps organizations manage their relationships and interactions with contacts.
Given their aligned objectives, many popular platforms such as HubSpot, Mautic and Microsoft Dynamics offer features that fall under both categories.
Consider which features could most benefit your school and choose a program accordingly – but bear in mind that not all software programs and packages offer the same functionality. If you need guidance, there are many resources available to help you select the right one for your school.
Generating Student Leads Through Marketing Automation for Schools
Marketing automation platforms offer a range of tools to make it easy to attract and convert prospective students.
CTAs, forms, and landing pages are lead-generating gold deposits that collect the information you need to directly connect with prospective students in true inbound fashion.
Many marketing automation programs allow you to create and customize some of these assets, monitor how users interact with them, and store all the data they collect in one place.
CTAs (Calls to Action)
Whether in button, image, or text form, CTAs grab people’s attention and direct them to the next step of the admissions journey. Schools can use CTAs to transport users to lead generating landing pages such as inquiry pages, webinar registration pages, or even online application forms.
Some marketing automation platforms allow you to create CTAs and monitor their performance, ensuring you’re making the most of this small but powerful feature. You can also reuse and place the same CTAs on multiple pages, as well as emails, forms, and other assets, helping you cut down on your workload.
Example: HubSpot offers a number of different preset templates your school can use to create custom CTAs.
You can then analyze how many times users view and click your CTAs in order to continuously optimize them.
Once a prospect has browsed your site or read your email, CTAs tell them what action they should take next – and landing pages help ensure that action is carried out. A landing page exists on your website, but has more limited navigation than your other pages and only includes information on the particular offer you are presenting. This way, prospects won’t get distracted by irrelevant content and are thus more likely to complete the task at hand.
Example: The landing page for Oxford College’s Medical Laboratory Technician Program provides key information and insight into what students will learn – all of which entices them to fill in the ‘Request More Info’ form.
Numerous marketing automation programs help you create intuitive landing pages – and, similar to CTAs, many allow you to measure how effectively they convert leads.
Example: These HubSpot landing page metrics make it easy for schools to assess their landing page success.
If CTAs are a lead gateway, and landing pages are the vehicle, then the form is the final destination. Once a prospect fills out a form, the lead nurturing possibilities are endless.
With platforms that combine CRM and marketing automation capabilities, you can create customized forms and collect lead information in your contact database all from one centralized system.
Let’s say someone visits your site for the first time and submits an inquiry. If you’re using CRM and marketing automation software, a new contact will automatically be created in your system. You can even trigger an automated message to be sent to them based on the information indicated on the form.
Example: Mautic enables you to see the contacts that have filled out each form on your website. You can also easily compare the results each form generates.
CRM is also helpful when it comes to returning leads. As a prospective student fills in other forms on your website, their contact details in the system are automatically updated with any new information they provide. The more information you have, and the more accessible that information is, the more efficient your follow-up process will be.
Organize & Detail Your Student Leads in CRM
If inbound marketing is all about tailoring the recruitment process to your audience’s needs, you need to know which contacts need to hear what information.
When it comes to follow-up, CRM and marketing automation make it easier for schools to offer relevant information to prospective students, resulting in happier leads and higher conversion rates. This makes these tools a win-win for both schools and students.
If your school uses a CRM program to house its contact data, you can easily segment your contacts by various criteria – such as location, program type, and stage in the admissions process – and tailor your follow-up strategy to each group.
Example: Schools can use Mautic to sort leads by agents, location, and what stage of the admissions journey they have reached.
Lead scoring is a highly effective marketing automation tool that can help schools prioritize prospects based on their perceived interest and suitability.
When an inquiry is submitted, a lead scoring system analyzes the information the prospect provides – such as their age and location – and gives them a base score. This number can then change as they continue to interact with your school online, with points applied to actions like email opens, website visits, and downloads.
Example: Here, a prospect gains ten points in Mautic’s lead scoring software for opening an autoresponder email.
With these scores, you can prioritize follow-up efforts, personalize interactions, and guide leads towards conversion at an optimum pace.
Using an automation tool to take manual notes may seem counterintuitive. However, many CRM and marketing automation platforms can help you keep track of your offline conversations by storing all your notes about specific contacts in one place. Many CRM programs allow you to manually add notes to individual contacts for maximum personalization.
Example: In HubSpot, you can log a call with a prospective student, as well as create reminders for manual follow-up tasks.
A little note can go a long way when it comes to communicating with prospects. By remembering who your leads are and what you’ve discussed together, your school can deliver more personalized follow-up, and demonstrate that its prospective students are more than just a name on a call sheet to them.
Automate & Personalize School-to-Student Communication – Simultaneously
Once you’ve segmented your leads, the personalization doesn’t stop there. CRM and marketing automation can help you send the right messages based on how leads respond – or don’t respond – to your follow-up efforts.
Marketing automation allows schools to create admissions email workflows that stay true to the inbound methodology by offering leads valuable resources and nurturing them gradually through the admissions process.
Simply put, a workflow is a sequence of automated emails that are sent based on a lead’s behavior and contact information. When someone fulfills – or fails to meet – certain criteria, like opening your message or clicking the CTA in your email, they’re automatically moved to different branches of a workflow and sent messages which reflect where they are in the enrollment journey.
Example: On HubSpot, you can create custom workflows based on contact lists and lead behavior using simple if/then branches.
Another major benefit of email workflows is the ability to time them to a tee. By sending out strategically timed emails, schools can nurture leads towards conversion without making prospects feel pushed to decide on a school before they’re ready.
While SMS and instant messaging aren’t used for marketing as widely as email, these channels are highly effective and ever-increasing in popularity as a communication channel between prospects and schools. In fact, SMS open rates beat email nearly 5x over.
However, SMS and instant messaging campaigns are difficult to carry out manually. Even if you do send out your texts and instant messages by hand, how do you keep track of people’s responses and ensure everyone is followed up with in a timely manner?
Luckily, marketing automation and CRM can make the communication process a whole lot easier, so you can focus on building relationships with future students.
Example: On Mautic, you can launch SMS campaigns, automate replies, and automatically log received texts.
While many marketing automation and CRM programs can greatly help your SMS and instant messaging campaigns, not all systems have the capacity to do so. Consider how important these features are for your school before investing in an automation program.
Monitor Your School’s Inbound Marketing Campaigns
Perhaps the best way to offer prospective students valuable content and personalized communication is by continuously evaluating and updating your inbound marketing efforts to better fit your prospects’ needs.
Through the analytics tools available in CRM and marketing automation for schools, you can easily analyze every aspect of your marketing efforts to see what’s working, what’s not, and what effect your marketing strategy has on the number of inquiries and applications you receive. That way, you can continue optimizing your inbound marketing efforts over time.
View Detailed Data on Your Leads
Since inbound is all about connecting authentically with prospects, ensure your marketing strategy does just that by closely monitoring your communication efforts, and what kind of results they are achieving with your contact base.
Many CRM and marketing automation programs allow you to sort leads based on certain criteria, and view reports to see how each segment has responded to your messages.
Example: On Mautic, you can view leads by their stage in the admissions process, what program they’re interested in, their email history, and more. This report shows leads segmented by contact stage.
Through this data, you can optimize your follow-up efforts based on what different types of leads at different stages in the admissions process want.
Monitor the Lead Generation Success of Your Inbound Marketing Channels
Although there are numerous monitoring tools available, marketing automation reports boast the unique advantage of showing you the contact names behind the channel metrics.
With CRM and marketing automation reports, not only can you see how many people you’ve reached through various online channels, but you can see what kinds of prospects make up those numbers. This extra insight allows you to better evaluate your marketing campaigns by assessing not only the quantity, but the quality, of leads you generate from different sources.
Example: This HubSpot report shows the number of leads and conversions generated by channel.
By offering further insight into your marketing campaigns, these platforms can help your school make sure it’s targeting the right audiences.
Whether you want to view certain channel reports or monitor certain lead segments, many CRM and marketing automation programs allow you to create and view custom dashboards that make it easy to track, analyze, and compare the different facets of your school’s digital marketing strategy.
Example: This Mautic dashboard is customized to reflect email and website activity. Here, you can monitor your email open rate and dwell time over a specific time period, as well as track recent email activity.
These dashboards not only help you pinpoint areas of improvement, but see the big picture impact of your inbound marketing strategy. Many CRM and marketing automation platforms also show you the impact your campaigns have on your conversion rate.
Example: This HubSpot report offers insight into lead generation and follow-up performance. A report of this kind is especially helpful for managers, as they can monitor their team’s overall productivity.
The easier it is to track activity, the better equipped your admissions team is to continuously improve its marketing strategy.
When adopting an inbound marketing approach, it’s easy to focus on creating eye-catching, relevant content, messages, and web features as you grow increasingly wary of pushy sales tactics.
However, if you lose sight of the big picture, you may lose leads on the path to conversion. Luckily, you can directly connect with leads without compromising your inbound values with the help of CRM and marketing automation for schools.