It’s no surprise that more and more schools are investing in marketing automation software. A multifunctional solution that can help you scale your operations, improve personalization, and track engagement, these versatile platforms can completely transform your student recruitment activities.
But with many possible options on the market, how do you choose the right one for your needs? While the basic functionality of most marketing automation platforms is broadly similar, there are a number of key differences in different software and packages that will make some choices more suited for your school than others. Keep reading to find out what they are.
What are the Main Education Marketing Automation Providers?
The first difficulty you’re likely to encounter when choosing a marketing automation solution for your school is the sheer range of different options out there. As one of the fastest growing software markets in the world, the marketing automation space is home to a number of innovative companies offering their own take on the concept.
Here are a few of the most commonly used in the education sector:
Salesforce Marketing Cloud- A versatile and robust CRM that is popular across a number of industries, and can integrate with Salesforce’s popular CRM platform.
Marketo- One of the world’s most popular marketing automation platforms. Marketo offers a wide range of bundles which are suitable for the education sector.
Example: Marketo’s website features a case study from Algonquin College, who were able to increase lead generation 71% year over year with marketing automation.
HubSpot- A very intuitive and user-friendly option, which is quite versatile and includes a wide range of features. Depending on your needs, the platform can also be integrated with the company’s CRM, sales, and customer service software.
Mautic- Mautic is an open-source marketing automation project which allows users to contribute their own code. This means that their basic platform can be completely customized to your needs. HEM has developed its own version which is tailored to the education sector and factors CRM integration into the setup.
It isn’t necessarily the case that any of these solutions are better than the others, and each of these platforms has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the right choice for your school will depend on your unique needs.
Finding the Right Marketing Automation Solution for Your School’s Budget
Of course, one of the main influencing factors in your decision will be your budgetary constraints. Marketing automation software can vary in price from very cheap – or in many cases free – solutions to more elaborate setups which could be quite expensive for some schools.
Prices for a particular software suite will also vary quite a bit depending on the package you choose. Many marketing automation providers will provide a basic version of their software at a low price, but charge a premium for some of their more advanced features.
Example: The pricing for HubSpot’s Marketing Hub Starter package, which is priced at USD$50 per month. The package includes a number of very useful features, such as email marketing, form creation, and contact management. However, users will need to switch to the platform’s Professional and Enterprise packages if they want more advanced capabilities like A/B testing or landing page creation.
Providers will also often impose limits and restrictions for certain services depending on your subscription level. For instance, you may be limited to having a certain amount of contacts in your database, or only able to send a certain amount of emails per month. This means that larger schools expecting to engage in high levels of activity will need to be prepared to pay for a premium package.
The good news, however, is that in many cases the cheaper options will still offer a good range of services for schools who can work within those restrictions. In most cases, you’ll probably find that the education marketing automation solution that matches your size, activity, and ambition is usually priced accordingly, and will fall more or less within your budget.
Factoring Usability into Your Marketing Automation Search
Once you’ve settled on a budget and found out what options are in your price range, you can start evaluating which of these best suits your particular needs. A good place to begin this process is by considering the people who will actually be using the software: your team.
First of all, you should consider their level of experience with dealing with this sort of system. Will they need a lot of training? Could they find it complicated or confusing? How easily will they be able to incorporate it into their daily routines?
If your team has very little experience with marketing automation, it’s best to make user-friendliness your first consideration. A platform which is intuitive and easy for them to understand and translate to their day-to-day work is more likely to be adopted quickly. It will also require less time and effort to train your team to use it, meaning you can get up and running and see the return on your investment more quickly.
Example: HubSpot’s Marketing Hub platform is designed to be very easy for beginners to get to grips with. It even includes a readymade HubSpot Setup project which guides users through every task they need to complete to get started.
You should also ask your staff what kind of functionality they would like from the system. Marketing automation software can include a diverse array of tools, and some will be more essential than others. While you will likely have your own ideas about what your school needs from the system, your colleagues may still suggest something you have missed, particularly if your team members have very different duties and responsibilities.
Communication Tools in Marketing Automation for Schools
The potential for improving communication with prospects is one of the biggest selling points of marketing automation for schools. Your team can create automated messages to be sent to different segments of your lead base, enabling you to scale your follow-up activities while still allowing for a certain level of personalization.
This is most commonly done through email marketing, which is a standard feature of most platforms. A typical suite will allow you to send emails to groups, schedule them for different times of day (often by time zone), and may even provide readymade email design templates.
Example: HubSpot offers a range of free and paid email template options.
You can also create autoresponders and automated workflows that are triggered by specific events, such as a lead filling out a form or downloading a PDF brochure.
Example: A simple autoresponder workflow for a language school in Mautic. Upon completing a lead capture form, prospects are sent different emails depending on what program they are interested in.
You should also look at what the software offers in terms of other communication tools you might use. Many platforms now enable users to send and receive SMS messages, for instance, with the same level of targeting and scale as email campaigns.
Some also integrate popular instant messaging apps like Messenger and WhatsApp, which are becoming increasingly important when it comes to reaching out to today’s prospective students. Chatbots are also included in certain platforms like HubSpot.
When selecting marketing automation software for your institution, it’s important to look closely at what they provide in this area, and ensure you are getting a comprehensive set of tools and features that will enable you to build the campaigns you want. As mentioned before, you should also be mindful of any limits certain packages might have that could impact your activities.
Tools for Creating Marketing Content and Assets for Your School
Marketing automation software may also give you the facility to create web content and various marketing assets. For instance, most will include tools to help you build CTAs, as well as lead capture forms for your website and other marketing channels. You should look carefully at the design tools and features available for these components, as well as how easy to use the interface and building tools will be for your team.
Example: Mautic’s form builder offers a range of different fields for schools, and is very simple and intuitive.
It might also be possible for you to build and publish landing pages, blogs, and other content. The advantage of this is that interactions and performance data will be trackable within the platform, making it easier for your school to measure the success of particular pages.
Some platforms, like Mautic and Marketo, also have dynamic content creation features. Dynamic content is content that changes depending on the profile of the user visiting a web page. For instance, you might create a pop-up prompting prospects to subscribe to your newsletter, but only want to show it to those who have not subscribed yet. Prospects who have already subscribed could be served with a different offer. While this is a more advanced feature of marketing automation, it does hold some intriguing possibilities for schools.
Depending on the capabilities of your software, your specific package, and the integration the provider offers with different platforms, marketing automation can also be a fantastic tool for managing social media and advertising.
On the social media side, you may be able to use the platform to create and publish posts across different social networks, monitor your conversations, and even track popular hashtags or mentions of your school across sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Example: HubSpot’s social monitoring tools allow you to track retweets of your posts on Twitter centrally.
HubSpot, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and others also offer similar capabilities for advertising, combined with the ability to sync your audiences from your contacts list in order to create lookalike or remarketing campaigns.
Again, the extent to which these features will be beneficial for your school will depend on your goals and budget, as well as what other systems you may already have in place to manage these areas.
Integration with Your School’s Other Digital Platforms
On that subject, it’s important to evaluate what integration with other digital platforms a marketing automation system offers before you invest in it. Some providers, for instance, may not offer integration with certain social networks or ad platforms.
Additionally, some marketing automation options like HubSpot and HEM’s Mautic platform come equipped with built-in CRM functionality, making it easier to manage your marketing and lead follow-up activities from one centralized source. If you are already using a standalone CRM, however, you may want to make sure that the software you are using can be linked to it.
Your team may also need to integrate it with other platforms you use, such as your student information system, application portal, or website CMS. Ensuring that these integrations will not be a problem will save your school a lot of headaches.
Does Your School Need Lead Scoring?
Another desirable feature of marketing automation for many schools is lead scoring capabilities. Lead scoring allows you to assign numeric values to prospects based on their suitability for your school and perceived level of interest.
A lead scoring system will usually involve a contact being assigned a base score based on any information they provide when they first make an inquiry, such as their age or location, and how well it fits with your target persona. Their score will then be changed as they interact with your school online, with points applied to actions like email opens, website visits, and downloads. This can be very valuable if you receive a large number of inquiries and need to prioritize your follow-up efforts.
Reporting in Marketing Automation for Education
Marketing automation reports are often among the most detailed and insightful in the digital marketing sphere. By automating certain activities within this kind of centralized system, it is also easier to make them trackable, and schools can gain a number of insights into ads, social media, email engagement, and countless other elements of their student recruitment campaigns. What’s more, much of this data can be tracked by individual lead, by campaign, by location, or any other parameter which is relevant to your efforts.
As a general rule, the more features your marketing automation system has, the better your reporting capabilities will be. This is because reporting is very much dependant on what your software has the ability to measure. For instance, if your platform allows you to send SMS, you will have the option to track any reads or replies your messages get.
Likewise, if you have social monitoring tools, you can potentially collect a lot of data on engagements and interactions across different networks. The more centralized your marketing activities are, the more actionable data and insights you can collect.
Example: A typical HubSpot marketing dashboard contains reports on emails, landing pages, and general website visits.
When considering the reporting features of marketing automation for education, it’s also important to keep your team’s level of experience and expertise in this area in mind. If they are not used to dealing with digital reports or analytics, you will need to ensure that the reporting interface is as simple and user-friendly as possible. This way, they can get to grips with the system quickly, and start seeing its benefits in their daily work right away.