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Iowa State University

Iowa State University uses Salesforce to drive student-centered admissions.
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Building a Modern Recruitment and Admissions Strategy

To support an initiative to increase enrollment numbers, Iowa State University launched a plan to modernize its recruitment and admissions operations and how it engaged and supported prospective students. Iowa State’s Office of Admissions recognized that expanding its CRM capabilities was critical to better understanding the needs of students and how to best connect with them. It leveraged the Salesforce platform – including Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud – to increase visibility into its constituents, improve case management, and deliver impactful communications.

  • 25%
    increase in business process productivity
  • 30%
    increase in targeted email sends
  • 94%
    increase in email communications

Searching for a Single Source of Truth

Without the right technology, information, and processes, it was difficult for Iowa State’s admissions team to achieve its growth goals. Recruiters relied on disconnected systems, tools, and email platforms and weren’t tracking interactions in a single system. Marketing and communications personnel weren’t able to efficiently target and communicate with students. And visibility across the entire process was minimal, with little insight into who students were and how they were engaging with the institution.

To get where they wanted to go, the Iowa State admissions team knew they needed to deploy new recruitment and marketing strategies, as well as better case management to improve how they provided service and support. They also wanted to make it easier and more efficient for staff, especially recruiters, to do their jobs, with better tools, insights, and visibility.

Iowa State recognized it needed to unify its information and have a single source of truth. It required an efficient, central system for recruiters to work from and share information, and advanced communications tools to get its messaging out efficiently and on point.

“Salesforce is a collaborative space to not just organize work, but to also organize interactions with constituents and have that single source of information accessible to multiple users that are all working towards the same goal.” Ben Carlson, Associate Director for CRM Strategy, Office of Admissions
Iowa State University

Launching a Strategic Solution

Iowa State started building out its Salesforce solution in 2017 for a group of different college-based recruiters. In 2020, the Office of Admissions held a campfire planning session and set out to develop a strategy to developing a strategy to broaden its Salesforce use and achieve widespread adoption.

The department expanded the admissions functionality for graduate recruitment and college events and started utilizing custom objects to build a custom event solution for recruitment and hosted events, such as school visits and college fairs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa State increased its Salesforce reach to support virtual events and appointments. They also began logging events in the system and generating tasks for admissions counselors.

Using Marketing Cloud, the admissions team started building detailed journeys for new prospects entering the system and logging all related journey activity. Marketing Cloud is now used for all marketing communications being sent to prospective students and families. It’s also being used to automate communication flows to engage students at each step of their journey, right through the application process. Iowa State is also using Cloud Pages to handle registration information and gather additional information. It also added Ad Studio to strategically target audiences and analyze engagement.

Iowa State turned to Service Cloud to efficiently manage service cases as well as request and streamline its disjointed customer service processes. They are now using email to case [to] manage requests coming into shared inboxes and launched a web chat feature on the admissions website using Digital Engagement.

To accelerate onboarding and empower users to feel confident using the system, Iowa State took advantage of the expert coaching sessions and dedicated support included with its Premier Success Plan.

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Get Connected with the Right Message

After several years of rapid development and growth, Iowa State’s Office of Admissions is better positioned to engage and meet the needs of today’s prospective students. And it has the insights it needs to make better decisions and launch new strategies, as well as the tools to help staff work more efficiently.

“We’re much more nimble than before and we’re able to deploy innovative recruiting and marketing strategies that we would have never thought of implementing,” said Ben Carlson, Associate Director for CRM Strategy, Office of Admissions. “We also have the visibility to understand how work is getting done and how students are being responded to, which has greatly benefited the admissions office.”

With complex journey-building in Marketing Cloud, the team has been able to reach students more effectively. They’ve been able to align communications within a centralized hub and can deliver targeted, timely, and consistent messaging, without duplication or any confusion on the part of the student.

The team has achieved 94% increase in email communications as well as a 30% increase in targeted sends and a 84% increase in user overall adoption, after expansion.

“We’ve been able to really leverage the various Marketing Cloud tools to link the different channels of communication to improve how we do outreach to students,” said Carlson. “We’re able to make sure they receive the right message, at the right time, on the right channel, and make sure that it resonates.”

Improved Workflows and Collaboration

For staff, Salesforce is now the number one place to turn for information, to collaborate and get work done.

“Our recruiters can see what cases they have, what tasks they have assigned, what outreach visits are coming up and what communications have been sent, all by simply reviewing the student record,” said Carlson.

Salesforce has helped minimize the number of systems staff have to work with, streamlined processes, and improved overall productivity. They also have the ability to collaborate across the various Salesforce tools so everyone knows the status and needs of any given student. It’s helped develop a highly organized approach to communicating with students and families and with Marketing Cloud, Iowa State realized a 25% increase in productivity across its business processes.

“Salesforce is a collaborative space to not just organize work, but to also organize interactions with constituents and have that single source of information accessible to multiple users that are all working towards the same goal,” said Carlson.

Through expert coaching sessions, the team has been able to apply the learnings to inform Governance team structure and implement Salesforce features quicker than before enrolling in expert coaching sessions.

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About Iowa State University

Considered the nation’s most student-centered public research university, Iowa State is home to more than 30,000 students. With six undergraduate colleges, a graduate college, and a college of Veterinary medicine, students have access to more than 100 programs of study and 800 student clubs and organizations. It is known worldwide for its excellence in science and technology, discovery and innovation; and its student-centered culture with faculty and staff who are dedicated to student success.