How To Survive the Consumerization of Higher Ed
By: John Gorup, Solutions Architect for Higher Education, Appirio
The term “consumerization” might make Higher Ed leadership roll their eyes a bit. Choosing an education is not like shopping for running shoes on Zappos, right? But still, are you sure about that? Of course, choosing a pair of shoes is not as big a decision as an education, but a lot of the same concepts apply. Colleges and Universities now live in the same perfect storm of competitive pressures that are driving best-in-class retailers toward consumerization:
- Consumer-like expectations of today’s students
- Increased competition from alternatives to traditional four-year schools, and
- The realities of demographics (i.e., fewer students)
Tackling these pressures are the key for every institution to elevate their brand and the outcomes for their students and alumni. Ultimately, institutions need to shift their thinking towards becoming a Connected Campus. Imagine always knowing your student and how to engage with them: before they’re enrolled, while they’re an active student, and once they become an alum. Imagine a faculty free of administrative burden. What would you be able to do?
You would know who your ideal students were before they even applied. You would know how to keep them engaged, on track, and successful for the entirety of their education. You could maintain a regular and meaningful relationship with your alumni and donors for a lifetime. You could empower your faculty to focus on what they are passionate about.
So, how do we get there? Here are three ways:
1. Think in terms of platform, not applications.
It’s been said that Higher Ed is not an industry — it’s all industries. While education is an institution’s primary aim, it’s also healthcare, housing and real estate, scientific research, sports teams, restaurants and so on. To support all these processes, “IT fiefdoms” tend to pop up. Each business unit tends to myopically look at their needs, then shop for an app that gives them the best demo to fulfill that need.
In the long term, this trend creates data silos that stifle innovation. The consumerization of Higher Ed requires data that is available and actionable. In the lifecycle of a student, they start as a prospect, become a student, and eventually become an alum. This should be one record on one platform.
2. Understand the personas in your community.
With the consumerization of Higher Ed, universities need to borrow the marketing concepts of the private sector. Brand, for example, is much more than colors and logo — it’s the emotional connection constituents have with the institution. For technology, that means the system’s faculty, staff, prospects, students, and alumni experience has to support that brand. And to understand brand, institutions need to understand the personas in their community. A persona is key to modern marketing. A persona “…is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” The better an institution understands the personas in their community, the better technology decisions they will make, and subsequently, their constituents will have a better experience.
3. Build the case for an enterprise (campus-wide) CRM.
Some advice is easier to give than to follow. Get eight hours of sleep a night. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Build an enterprise CRM.
Customer-centric organizations couldn’t exist without an enterprise CRM, and if Higher Ed is to thrive … it needs to follow that lead. (Again, easier said than done.) The key to gaining buy-in for an enterprise CRM is adhering to strong vision and standards, and showing success with small wins. Indiana University has done this by implementing Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud for some key departments. This can be a long process, but showing success with actual working software is more effective than slideware in making the case for enterprise CRM.
It makes sense that with the consumerization of Higher Ed, Salesforce — which has the market-leading position of #1 Enterprise CRM — is making big inroads in the education field. The best place to see this happening is at this year’s Higher Ed Summit in Washington DC. Institutions that are thriving in the age of consumerization will be on full display. It’s a great time to share ideas, get inspired, and bring your institution to the next level.
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