It’s Time for Marketers to Go Back to School
Change is in the air. With the onset of fall, the temperatures start their annual descent, and the leaves begin to give up their lush green color for hues of red, gold, and brown. The baseball post-season comes upon us, and we usher in a new football season. Weekend getaways give way to snuggle time at home in front of a warm fire. And holiday plans start to formulate somewhere in the recesses of our minds.
Fall also means back to school and a new crop of high school juniors and seniors who will start their search for that one college or university that is sure to drain their parents’ bank accounts for years to come. So as the nation’s colleges and universities step up their marketing efforts to convince those teens to apply for admission, this is the perfect time to revisit the topic of CRM in higher education.
As someone who sadly measures the years since his college graduation in decades rather than months or years, I can attest to the main fact raised in this month’s feature story “Colleges Can’t Cling to Old CRM Technology”: The outreach done by institutes of higher learning never ends. In fact, my alma mater has been hounding me by email to return to campus later this month for Homecoming Weekend. The phone call asking if the college can once again count on my usual pledge to its scholarship fund isn’t far behind, to be followed by the direct-mail alumni questionnaire that will give me the opportunity to update my contact information and share any job changes, marriages, births, or other life events that could alter the trajectory of our relationship.
As the article notes, colleges and universities must constantly change their tactics as their “customers” move from recruit to student to alumnus to donor to parent and beyond. The article suggests that colleges cannot rely on the same systems that businesses use or continue to cobble together disparate CRM systems; rather, they need unique systems tailored specifically for their unique needs. Luckily, such systems do exist today, and more are starting to emerge. But there is still a lot more that needs to change.
The higher education market, just like any other vertical, could benefit from a new marketing technology that takes personalization to a new level. The technology, introduced in this month’s cover story, “Intent-Based Marketing: The Early Bird’s System,” demonstrates the benefits that organizations can achieve by being able to identify earlier in the process the potential buyers who are most likely to buy (or, in the case of academia, apply and enroll).
Intent-based marketing relies heavily on web analytics and similar technologies to pinpoint customers who have already expressed an interest in your products or services. With it, “companies are not waiting for customers to act; instead, they shape each interaction,” one source quoted in the article states emphatically.
But it’s not enough to shape the interaction. The content that marketers send out through the ever-growing number of channels today must be targeted and personalized as well. As the article states, “Customers will punish companies that deliver nonrelevant content to them.”
Harking back to my own care-free high school days, I am reminded of one school in upstate New York that bombarded my mailbox almost daily for months with its brochures and other marketing materials. It got to the point where, even if I had wanted to attend the school, I was put off by its overly aggressive tactics. I couldn’t help but think that the school was having a ton of financial problems if it needed me to attend that desperately.
Now I know why: The college was wasting its marketing dollars blasting every high school senior in the northeastern United States with its marketing materials. It could have taken me—and potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of other uninterested teens—off its lists a lot earlier in the process, saving untold amounts of marketing dollars in the process.
The technology might not have existed back then, but luckily, it does today.
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.