Adopting marketing strategies to reach today's students

Simply offering a flexible or online degree in a professional field is no longer sufficient to differentiate an institution and drive enrollments. Demand no longer exceeds supply and program alone is rarely enough to differentiate one institution from another.

Today’s increasingly competitive landscape offers prospective adult learners seemingly limitless options to meet their educational needs. Moreover, prospective students are skilled online shoppers, adept at independently finding and comparing institutions and programs. Stealth applicants continue to increase (institutions report as many as 70% of all applicants are stealth) and marketing and recruiting interactions are undeniably now taking place first (and sometimes entirely) through web and mobile sites.

Early response: Customer Relationship Management

In response to the demands of recruiting the “Search and Shop” student, most of our members have recently invested in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to more effectively engage with constituents. CRM software helps members efficiently store and organize information, including past interactions and contact details, for prospects, current students, and alumni.

As institutions begin to realize the benefits of CRM implementation, many now seek opportunities to sustain, if not continue to gain, competitive advantage. Beyond collecting and storing data and records on known prospects, members are seeking to better understand and meet the needs of early-stage “top of the funnel” prospects by deploying marketing automation capabilities.

Up-and-coming: Marketing automation

Marketing automation software tracks prospect behavioral data—when they visit the website, open an email, or click on a link—and uses this information to gauge a prospect’s level of interest and deliver personalized content and messaging. This data provides marketers with insight into prospects’ preferences and enables them to deploy one-on-one communications across multiple channels that reflect specific prospects’ interests and that individual's stage in the decision making cycle. We estimate that approximately 10-15% of COE Forum members have already adopted marketing automation software and expect this rate will follow a similarly rapid adoption curve to CRM implementation.

Distinguishing the Differences: Marketing Automation vs. CRM

CRM and marketing automation software are often confused as being roughly equivalent when, in fact, they offer quite different functionality to the unit. While marketing automation stores similar information as a CRM, including contact details, each has a different business objective.

Most marketing automation solutions have the option to integrate with a variety of CRMs, ensuring all prospect activities are accessible through one solution and providing marketing and recruiting staff with a single, shared record of all prospect interactions. Used in combination CRM and marketing automation create a powerful unified source for marketing and recruiting activity.

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