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Importance of a CRM in Inbound Marketing for Schools

Importance of a CRM in Inbound Marketing for Schools

Every recruitment cycle, colleges and universities have thousands of prospective student candidates moving through their funnel. Some visit campus, others check out a school's website, and some, but not all of them, apply. And a number of them apply without ever inquiring or touring campus.

We won't tell you that inbound marketing for higher education is simple. And you likely already know that it's a crucial step to success for any college, but managing it takes significant effort and strategy. Part of that effort includes finding the right tools and technology.

Broadly speaking, education-based inbound marketing breaks down into three stages: 

  1. attracting, 
  2. engaging, and 
  3. delighting students. 

Each stage has its own tactics designed to reach your audience and gently guide and nurture them through the buyer's journey. In this process, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system becomes essential to the marketing process.

Table of Contents:

First Things First: What's a CRM?

Short for "Customer Relationship Management," a CRM system describes a database designed to manage your relationship with your audience (in this case, prospective students). As inbound marketing leader HubSpot puts it,

"You can use CRM software to keep track of interactions, data, and notes about customers or potential. The data is stored in a central database and is accessible to multiple people within an organization. A CRM helps streamline sales, marketing efforts, customer service, accounting, and management for growing companies. Multiple people can access and edit information about a particular client's customer journey."

Prospective students can enter the database automatically if your CRM is connected to your inquiry form, visit registration forms, or manually after receiving an inquiry card at a college fair. From there, the system has the potential to keep track of all your interactions with them, from emails sent to counselor phone calls and even pages visited on your website.

Of course, that's only potential. Some of that information will need to be entered manually. At the same time, some will depend on how the CRM system you choose integrates with your website, email solution, and other parts of your digital experience. But regardless of those nuances, building and optimizing a CRM system significantly benefits your entire recruitment process. 

Organizing Your Prospective Students Within the Buyer's Journey

Think about the needs of your prospective students at different parts of their enrollment journey:

  • Students who inquire want some general information about your university.
  • Event registrants want to know what they'll see, where they'll need to be, and what they'll need to bring.
  • Applicants want to know what materials they still need to complete their application.
  • Admitted students need reassurance that this is the school they should commit to.
  • Committed, or enrolled students, need information about housing sign-ups, class registration, and orientation.

These different needs are impossible to meet if your database considers all prospective students equal. By categorizing them into different journey stages, your CRM can help you build more relevant audience segments.

Creating More Personalized, Relevant Content and Follow-ups

More relevant audience segments only matter if you can leverage them into more relevant action items. Fortunately, when set up the right way, the right CRM can help you accomplish just that by allowing you to create content specifically designed for their needs and preferences.

Pulling your prospective students into individual segments is only the beginning. From there, you can create more personalized content based on their preferences and needs within that funnel and journey stage. 

Some CRM systems include an integrated ability to send emails. But even if yours doesn't, you can create segmented lists for your counselors to follow up with individually. The current funnel stage of your prospects will help them have more relevant, productive conversations with students.

Gaining Insights on Student Behaviors and Preferences Through the Funnel

In a best-case scenario, your CRM becomes the central hub of information about everything connected to your prospective students. You can log every contact you have with them automatically or manually. But, just as importantly, that information becomes a vital source of insight.

At the most basic level, you can understand how many prospects you have in each funnel stage at any given moment. But the potential for insights goes far beyond that. Through reporting, you can see which of your communications impact your students' journey or which counselor has conducted the most outreach to their prospects.

In other words, every input and contact in the CRM becomes a data point on which you can run reports to gain insights into your audience. You can study anything from audience behaviors to preferences and performance metrics, which can help you decide how to best reach out to these students and what type of messaging tends to be most effective.

Ready to Enhance Your Inbound Marketing Efforts?

Modern inbound marketing for schools is made possible precisely because of a central CRM system that collects data and converts that data into tangible insights. To deliver the relevant and persuasive content that sets your school apart from the many options prospective students have, you need a central place to gather as much information about them as possible -- and action that knowledge into better outreach and content.

But of course, a CRM is only one part of the broader picture when it comes to inbound marketing strategies for colleges. You need a strategy ready to execute on many digital marketing levels. 

Here, an expert partner may be the thing you need to optimize your efforts. Ready to talk to an agency experienced in effective education-based marketing? Let's chat! 

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