How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    How to make a higher education CRM project successful

    In the article, we explore some fundamental reasons behind why CRM projects fail and how to achieve success. Although we allude to ‘sales teams’ and ‘businesses’, our thinking can easily be applied to a higher education context.
    Last updated:
    December 3, 2021

    Customer relationship management systems (CRMs) work wonders for student recruitment in universities around the world every day.

    If implemented and managed properly, they have the power to minimise workloads, streamline communications and ultimately convert more candidates into enroled students.

    “FULL FABRIC [CRM] helped us digitise the whole admission process which not only improved the applicant experience but also made the review and selection process much easier”, says Emma Spittles, Scholarships Programme Manager at Said Foundation. 

    The success stories are numerous, but what happens when a CRM project goes wrong? Or more specifically, why do some implementations end in disaster?

    This is the subject of Scott Edinger’s thought-provoking piece for the Harvard Business Review, titled ‘Why CRM Projects Fail and How to Make Them More Successful’.

    In the article, he explores some fundamental reasons behind why they fail and how to achieve success. Although he alludes to ‘sales teams’ and ‘businesses’, his thinking can easily be applied to a higher education context.

    A third of CRM projects fail

    This was the figure reported by CIO Magazine in 2017 based on at least a dozen well-referenced and regarded industry analyst reports. That's a lot of unmet expectations, not to mention wasted money.

    Edinger believes that the primary reason behind CRMs failing is that, too often, businesses mistakenly use them for inspection, instead of as a tool for creating improvement in the sales, or in higher ed's case, the admissions process.

    This might work well when it comes to reporting on progress and improving the accuracy of forecasts, but how effective is it at driving conversions?

    Not very, according to some of his clients. This particular response from a business who weren’t satisfied with their CRM illustrates the point perfectly:

    “The EVP of marketing was pleased she could now track the assignment of every single lead. The CIO was unhappy about data integrity issues that arose from the integration of more than 20 discreet databases. The EVP of sales liked the easy-access dashboard to report on metrics and the forecast. Sales management was less positive but acknowledged that it helped them monitor activity. And the sales team — well, they mostly hated it.” 

    How to manage a higher education CRM project successfully

    We can take some of Edinger’s recommendations for how to make a CRM project successful and apply them to a university scenario.

    1. Have a unified goal

    First and foremost, the main goal of the CRM must be to increase revenue, or in our case, enrolments.

    All the teams within the institution need to understand that the primary function of the CRM is to get more of the right students to apply and enrol -- it’s as simple as that. Yes, the reporting element is important, but it’s not the focal point. 

    In order to this message to ring true, it needs to be communicated clearly by members of the institution's senior leadership team so that it can inform all interactions with prospective students.

    2. Merge marketing with admissions

    “Historically, these two functions collaborate on CRM implementation so poorly it’s almost a cliché”, says Edinger. He’s specifically referring to sales and marketing teams in business, but again, the same can be applied to admissions and marketing teams in universities.

    At the beginning of the student recruitment cycle, marketing and admissions departments should have a shared understanding of what the ‘ideal’ candidate looks like, as well as what constitutes a qualified lead.

    Further on in the process, marketing can work with admissions to create content that can be personalised for the individual or cohort in order to optimise engagement.

    At the end of the admissions cycle, the two teams can work together to analyse results and collaborate on feedback that will feed into future planning.

    This kind of teamwork, together with the CRM, will improve marketing’s ability to engage with prospects and admissions' ability to accelerate the application process.

    3. A focus on improvement not inspection

    Ultimately, the success of a CRM project is driven by management and how they direct their team in using it. It shouldn’t be used solely to scrutinise and keep track of activity like call volume, for instance.  

    Edinger argues that it should be utilised as “a tool to jointly create strategies for major opportunities, and help the sales team to maximise opportunities by coaching them throughout the sales process.”

    Coaching employees on how to use the CRM system effectively is key. If done properly, it can turn out to be a powerful tool that will enable you to nurture prospective students through the process efficiently and painlessly. 

    4. An all-in-one solution for higher education

    The success of your CRM project will also depend upon the system you choose. For example, FULL FABRIC’s Origin solution enables you to replace multiple solutions with one unified platform. It is also able to integrate well with other platforms.

    The clean interface makes it easy to learn and use, and a dedicated implementation specialist is on hand throughout the implementation process to offer guidance and support to make the transition a success. Importantly, visibility means teams are able to collaborate on projects easily.

    Advanced segmentation tools make it easier to focus on the right prospects and for members of the team to create dynamic, personalised content based on the interests and needs of the individual.

    Have you has experience with a project this? Good or bad, share your CRM stories with us on Twitter @fullfabric.

    Interested in learning more about how to lead a successful higher education CRM project? Request a FULL FABRIC demo today.


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    Kate Tattersfield

    Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.

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