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Automation for Education
  • March 23, 2019|
  • 16 minute read
University
Automation for Education: How Universities Can Get Stellar Results through Automation

Today’s universities use technology in and out of the classroom to improve efficiency and provide quality education.

According to certain predictions, innovations in technology may lead to the replacement of teachers by intelligent machines in 10 years.

Don’t worry. It’s only about “some” teachers. We all know nothing can replace human interaction when it comes to teaching.

Universities that have adopted automation, however, are finding that educational pressure is easier to handle.

In a way, universities are businesses. They run their marketing campaigns just like large corporations. They need to attract and retain prospective students and this is an integral part of running their business.

Though the way they market and sell their products and services may be somewhat different from how other corporates do it, they are still trying to reach consumers (students) in more or less the same way.

Unis also have departments like marketing, finance, HR and accounting working behind the scenes. They, therefore, face the same challenges other businesses face.

Developing a New Mindset

One advantage of automation is that it helps universities invest in their business by improving their processes. Pew Research found that 95 percent of teens can access a smartphone and 45 percent of them say that they are mostly online.

The current and future students of your university spend most of their time on social networks, sharing opinions, thoughts, and looking for advice on whether your university is the right choice for them or not.

Before a student decides on what school to apply to, they have done thorough research. They have reached out to existing students and asked about life in that university.

Their research can bring positive or negative depending on whether you are available on the networks they hang out on.

Are you available online to answer all prospective students’ questions or will they depend on biased information from other sources?

Since the moment a prospect is considering becoming your student, throughout the duration of their studies and up until they get their diploma, they need to remain engaged.

Let me rephrase that: YOU need to keep them engaged.

The administration has to provide them with meaningful and engaging content. But managing thousands of current and past students, along with prospects and faculty members is a mammoth of a task.

This is where automation for education comes into play.

Today’s students are tech-savvy. Thus, the traditional way of sending brochures and using traditional media does not cut it anymore.

Students expect the universities to be at par with the kind of technological engagement they get from other avenues including private organizations and shopping outlets.

Consequently, your university has to improve its communication and engagement strategies through all the stages of a student’s interaction with the institution.

Luckily, there are several online tools that can help automate a university’s processes so that engagements with prospective students, current students, and employees are streamlined.

Automation can help you optimize each stage in the student’s interaction with the school. The process starts when high school graduates become prospective uni students to when they become alumni.

With marketing software, you can track a student’s engagement with the school and subsequently be able to generate reports and records on your student’s interests and concerns. Software can also help automate communication processes and reduce the manual work for the staff.

How to Use Automation to Attract, Retain and Engage Students at Your University

When a student is searching for a higher education institution to join, they are not just looking to learn and graduate with a degree.

No.

They also want a place where they can get to rediscover themselves, meet new and exciting people, acquire new skills, pursue hobbies and change their lives (for the better, of course!).

For a university to grow, it has to meet student needs. They have to attract, engage, and retain these students.

The following are steps to ensuring that your university succeeds through automation.

1.  Attract Students Using Brand Awareness and Competitive Positioning

Building your brand and setting it apart from competitors is essential in the recruitment of students. At this stage, you want to ensure that the students learn about the school even before they sign up.

Therefore, you need to “sell” it to them as a unique place where they can get a good education and great experiences. Let them hear about it before they become interested in it. You can do this in several ways including:

  • An SEO-friendly website

A website ensures that the students can find you online during their research. Create landing pages for each department complete with an in-depth description of each course.

List benefits of joining the class, a call-to-action (extremely important!), and easy-to-use sign-up forms for both applications and newsletter subscriptions

  • Social media ads

They help you reach out to prospects in the environments where they spend most of their time and redirect them to your landing pages.

These ads can also be tweaked to target prospective students who match those who’ve already signed up or retarget them to win back those who visited the site and left in a huff.

Social media ads must be unique and target the students’ needs and pain points. To get information on how students want to develop their careers, you can partner with ranking sites, news pages, forums, career development centers, colleges, and high schools.

  • Great content

The content you create should meet students’ needs and be in line with their interests. Content marketing also has to be an integral part of the university’s marketing strategy. Be helpful and try to answer as many of the prospective students’ questions.

Furthermore, make sure to publish that content in various formats, like blog posts, brochures, videos, vlogs, and infographics. And, of course, on multiple outlets: your blog, online magazines, newspapers and more.

2.  Engage Students

Once you have managed to attract the right people to your educational brand, you need to keep them engaged. It’s important to note that, as an institution, engagement will have to happen with both prospective and current students.

How you engage both categories will, however, be different. Your engagement will also depend on what the student is interested in pursuing.

A student interested in an art course will receive engaging content that’s different from that of a person who is interested in, say, an engineering course. You have to personalize your communication so that they feel like you are speaking to their needs.

You have to convince the student that they will gain value for their money and time. Engaging them ensures they enroll, pay, and study. You can engage students in various ways including:

  • Using email campaigns that guide them through life on campus, a project they can work on, experiences etc. Use former or current students to drive this point home by sharing their opinions, perspectives and stories of how the school has impacted their lives.
  • Use different media channels including push notifications, newsletters, social media, blogs, videos, podcasts, and photos.
  • Give feedback on all channels. Reply to comments and queries and observe their reactions. Provide different ways for them to get in touch including live chats, social media phone, and emails.
  • Personalize information based on students’ engagement by dividing them into segments. The segments can be divided into coursework, departments, level of engagement, interests etc. Personalizing communication ensures you deliver valuable and relevant content that leads to conversions.

Engage current students so that they can become active and eventually advocate for your institution to prospective students. You can do this by:

  • Providing help during the first days of school and consecutive years using email campaigns, live chats or onboarding messages.
  • Get your students to sign up for classes and complete the course using reminders and last-chance calls. The automatic reminders are ideal for students who are bombarded with offers and information every day. Provide benefits for enrolling in the class and emphasize the value they will gain.
  • Motivate them and congratulate them when they complete milestones — this information and whether the student is working to achieve their goals is available through marketing automation. You can tell what course a student is doing, whether they are attending, submitting assignments, and completing exams.
  • Send recommendations for new courses based on the student’s interests and what classes they are currently pursuing.
  • Ask for feedback through surveys and ratings of individual courses or facilities. Feedback provided will help you create better courses. It also makes the students feel engaged and part of the decision-making process.

2.  Retain

You want the students not only to enroll but to remain with you until they become alumni. You can do this by:

  • Keeping the conversation going by creating a community that involves current and former students.
  • Asking for feedback and responding to it by acting accordingly.
  • Using content marketing.

How Universities Can Use Automation to Get Stellar Results

Good CRM software helps power automation. It saves information about the students: addresses, names, phone numbers and how they interacted with your courses.

It becomes the backbone for your digital marketing strategy and supports the university’s goals. It also makes activities like enrollment, alumni engagement, and current students’ engagement easier.

65 percent of higher education institutions are using CRMs, according to a study and 40 percent of those not using are considering implementing one.

A CRM system like Salesforce does not just automate your marketing strategy. It also collects, analyses and provides insights using data collected.

Still on the fence about using one in your university? Check out those using CRM here.

Let me start by saying that it will help consolidate all your websites, email subscriptions, social media channels and so much more. This enables you to understand how the students are interacting with your institution. It also reduces the amount of manual work your staff has to do.

If you integrate your CRM with good marketing automation software, you can personalize communication even further. A marketing automation software helps you follow the student’s interaction with your courses from when they visit your website, open an email, fill out a form or read your blog.

With marketing automation software like Mailchimp, you can:

  • Segment prospective students into correct mailing lists depending on the courses they are interested in, their past interactions with your website and their preferences.
  • Nurture leads, so that triggered emails are sent automatically when a prospective student is interested in a course. It also becomes possible to schedule email campaigns so that the prospect stays in the loop.
  • Get insightful data that helps you know what worked and what didn’t work when pursuing a particular prospect and how you can improve your next campaign.

Marketing automation software helps you foster leads (prospective students). Once they become students, then the CRM tracks their interactions with your institutions so that you can easily turn them into brand ambassadors.

According to research, a customer has made 57 percent of the purchase decision even before they call the supplier. 67 percent of their journey through the buying funnel is done digitally. This means that the institutions have to generate high-value online conversations with prospective students to ensure they enroll.

These conversations should be around students’ benefits and around how the courses provide solutions to their needs and interests. Universities have to tap into the problems that students are facing before they become prospective students and provide solutions to them through useful information.

But yes, all this seems quite hard to achieve. How on Earth could you possibly allocate the time to nurture every student in a personalized manner (a personalization which they demand)?

Actually, marketing automation can do all this for you. Here’s what a simple Salesforce to Mailchimp integration can achieve for universities and other educational institutions:

  • Nurture leads and help develop strong relationships with prospective students before they decide on the school of choice. The integration helps retain students’ attention, especially of those uncertain about the institution. Marketing automation sifts through the data collected by the CRM and helps nurture these undecided students. The process solidifies the relationship and makes it easier for them to make the decision.
  • The students become more informed, educated and satisfied. Nurturing prospective students increases their possibility of them enrolling into your institution.
  • It becomes easy to collect information on prospective student behavior. The institution can gain insights into the students’ web activities, their browsing habits and how they respond to your marketing efforts. The more you understand the students, the more you can target and strategically improve communication with them. You can tell how a student got to your website, what page they visited and how long they lingered when they left the site, from what page and where they went to next. This can also be used to track your email campaigns, open rates and click rates. Syncing this to your CRM will give your marketing team insights that will help tailor conversations towards an individual student’s interest, their actions and pain points.
  • Not every prospective student who visits your website will turn into a lead. It’s therefore important to prioritize them by assigning scores based on the activities they performed on your site. Marketing automation software assigns scores based on a student’s online habits, time spent on the site and other events that signal more interest than others. Synchronizing the CRM and marketing automation software will keep your marketing team updated, which allows them to adjust their strategies depending on changes as they happen.
  • Through integration, you can send your leads relevant information at the right time. This helps avoid the time spent deciding whether a potential student will enroll in a course or not. It makes communication efficient and prevents dragging processes for longer than necessary. Institutions are then able to send the most relevant content to leads while they still have their attention.
  • You can revitalize a previous lead who didn’t enroll by making sure they register when the time is right. You can automate sending informative emails to leads that went cold to re-engage them. If they renew their interest through engaging in the content, then the CRM will alert the marketing team, and they can start engaging the students again.
  • Data collected from the integration can pinpoint the actions that were successful and those that were not.
  • Integration also prevents inefficiencies like manual duplication of data and wrong data. Data is updated automatically which saves your staff time to focus on the institution’s goal.
Effective Use of Automation in Universities – How to Get more out of Your Automation Software

The efforts to simplify processes, keep current students engaged, attract prospective students and keep the alumni engaged can be executed seamlessly through:

1.  Creating Better Workflows

Customized workflows allow the admissions team to nurture leads depending on where they are in the enrollment process. They can, for example, follow up with a prospective student with an email based on what they searched for on the website.

Customized workflows allow the admissions team to nurture leads depending on where they are in the enrollment process. They can, for example, follow up with a prospective student with an email based on what they searched for on the website.

2.  Personalizing Engagements

Automation, as we have previously discussed, enables universities to personalize communication, based on a prospective student’s interests. The students will be looking for courses or schools using specific keywords.

These keywords define their preferred degree and interest. Targeted social media ads and emails can help reach these students.

Make sure the landing pages created are for specific programs and departments. These will help point students to specific courses based on their searches. You can then track clicks, visits, and bounce rates.

Automation will also help you tell students of other opportunities beyond the classroom. You can update them regularly on awards, internship opportunities and more.

3.  Providing Feedback

With automation, you can respond to students in real time by either calling them up, emailing them or responding to a chat. It provides different venues for you to connect with prospective students and also with your employees.

You can use white papers, photos, videos, chats, emails, web conferencing and more. You can then optimize the workflows to include customized responses based on how the student interacted with these channels.

4.  Appointing People in Charge of the Automation Process

Change is hard. We know.

Universities have been using traditional ways of working for a long time now. So you will undoubtedly encounter resistance to change. The management team can facilitate cooperation and ensure that everyone is on board with the programs. They can help the other members of staff adapt by providing training that leads to positive outcomes.

5.  Ensuring the Adopted Software Is Easy to Use

Complex systems will kill the morale of the staff. So make sure that the software you choose and its processes are easy to use.

Provide training them and have an efficient support system in place. Simplifying the operations will be a huge step towards process improvement.

Make sure the processes also cater to the needs of people without technical know-how. They should be user-friendly and intuitive. This ensures that everyone can work with the new systems without relying on others to help them all the time.

6.  Ensuring Efficient Communication

Without seamless communication, automation will not work. Involve everyone from different departments. Education managers cite that 56 percent of their problems emanate from poor communication.

To ensure efficiency, use digital automation tools that prioritize communication. Have alerts that provide updates and allow the necessary people to act immediately.

7.  Reducing Bottlenecks

Create seamless digital processes that allow for fast issue handling. These ensure that stakeholders can react to problems from anywhere.

Taking advantage of your automation tools reduces the need for manual data input and ensures that processes flow seamlessly. Unlocking the benefits of automation can transform your institution.

Students will see an improvement in the skills taught and courses offered. And faculty members will find it easy to cater to the needs of their students.

8.  Taking it one Step at a Time

You don’t have to automate everything in one day. Take it slowly. Give your staff time to get used to every piece of new software. Then show them the power of integration.

Wrapping Things Up

Industries and corporations are being transformed by automation. There is no need for higher learning institutions to be left behind.

Attracting, engaging, and retaining students depends on the methods you use and whether they meet students at their point of need. Ensure you develop a relationship with the students while helping them achieve their goals.

This will not only help you enroll the best students, local or foreign, but also turn the ones you have into brand ambassadors.

Through marketing automation and integration, your university’s marketing will work like a well-oiled machine.

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