Where’s Your Data? Find It, Map It, Use It
Data creates complexity for all schools – there can be many applications, software programs, or in some cases, physical notepads, full of important information related to the business of your unit. For data to be useful, you first have to know your business. Then you should use technology and data to serve that business – not the other way around.
With that in mind, here are three important steps to making sure your data is serving your business: find it, map it, and use it.
Whenever MindMax does business process mapping with a new school, it exposes things the school has forgotten about. In one case, the school realized their receptionist was responding to prospective student questions every day in-person, but those contacts and interactions weren’t recorded anywhere. Or with another school, they had a lot of foot traffic that was being served by temporary student resources who didn’t have access to their CRM, so prospective students name would sit on pieces of physical paper. In both cases, these were incredibly high-quality leads, physically visiting a campus, who weren’t included in a marketing database.
Thinking of your own school, what data sources have you potentially forgotten about? To start, I recommend going through a discovery process – talk with all team members who interact with prospective students, including faculty who may participate in recruiting events for a program. This will help you walk through the prospective student’s process and identify all critical interaction points.
To effectively map your data, you have to know your data sources and exactly what you’re capturing under each one. For example, the “Request for Information” (RFI) form on your website where a potential student might express interest in your programs, or an existing student whose information is sitting in your Student Information System (SIS).
In an ideal world, your systems would all talk to each other and you’d be able to move a student from one place to another bi-directionally. For example, you could take existing students (in your SIS) and let them know about new programs being offered (through your CRM and Marketing Automation (MA) system) that fit with their educational path, such as completing a certificate course.
Something MindMax commonly runs into with schools is untapped data sources: conference registrants, alumni lists, etc. There’s almost always value in these different sources, and it goes beyond “selling” to them – like asking for references or getting a testimonial you could use in your marketing content. If these sources are tied to your CRM and MA database, you’ll have visibility into all of your assets and their unique potential for helping the school.
Across nearly all MindMax’s engagements, I’ve found that mapping data has been the primary challenge for schools. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the top ones are 1) not having dedicated technical or marketing resources, 2) not having the systems they need (e.g. no CRM), and 3) a lack of priority to leverage data because their systems aren’t set-up properly (in one case, lead information was literally kept in a shoe box).
Lastly, using data is all about “Enrollment Intelligence” which is the heart of MindMax’s message to every school we work with. Every school has an enrollment funnel and prospective students interacting with them at different stages in that funnel. A school’s ability to track and capture the information related to each stage equips them with the ability to be more efficient and successful in their efforts.
One example is using enrollment intelligence related to conversion rates. By determining your strongest conversion points (for example, leads that fill out an RFI form) you can decide to reallocate marketing spend from a weak conversion point in the funnel to a stronger one. It’s all about using that data to educate your future actions.
Most critically, what is most often missing for schools, is the lost opportunity for retention and upsell. Who is in your database and what value could you present to them? For example, in the noncredit space, courses are becoming increasingly “stackable” resulting in a certificate. How could you market to students who are only one class away from achieving that certificate (but might not know it)? “You’re only one class away!…” Or in the example of credit programs, how can you promote new, relevant offerings? Summer sessions are particularly primed to engage existing students – and for different reasons. Send one message to those students who struggled during the year (and are making up classes), and another message to the over-achievers who want to get ahead.
Lastly, what third-party market data sources can you tap into? Looking again at summer programs, local area residents who attend a different school but are home for the summer might be excellent candidates for a program or two at your school.
Remember, on its own technology is stupid. Schools have to understand their business, find their data, map their data, and use their data, to make technology work for them the way it should.
How I lived, saw or experienced one of MindMax’s values this month
Get Results – Learn Always – Align to Mission – Build Meaningful Relationships – Ask for Help.
Learn Always: I’ve been excited this quarter about the path MindMax is going down with enrollment intelligence software. Specifically, the ability to do integrated data even if our client doesn’t have integrated technology (which is the case for nearly all schools).