Tidewater Community College
Salesforce Helps Tidewater Community College Capture 100% More Prospects for its Funnel
All higher education institutions need to market themselves if they hope to fill their campuses with students each semester – but community colleges face a unique collection of challenges.
“Historically, a community college’s enrollment numbers have been closely tied to the economy,” said Curt Wynn, Director of Marketing, TCC. “When the economy isn’t doing so well, more people are interested in going back to school and brushing up on their skills. When the economy is doing well, enrollment tends to go down. The economy has been relatively strong for the past decade and community colleges across the country have been feeling the impact of that.”
Additionally, the typical community college student has more choices than ever when it comes to higher education, presenting another challenge to navigate.
“The internet has made the world a smaller place,” said Wynn. “There are several online universities that advertise nationwide and are very much interested in targeting the same type of student that we would recruit. Those students are no longer limited by geography if they want to go back to school or advance their career.”
While a four-year university always has the option to go deeper into its applicant pool to lessen the impact of these trends on enrollment numbers, community colleges do not – so they need to take a different tack.
“We needed to step up our game,” said Wynn. “Potential students have plenty of choices, so we needed to be more service-oriented, and to communicate and interact with students and prospects in a more thoughtful and intentional manner.”
Using Technology to Work Smarter
To start transforming its approach, TCC turned to Salesforce.org Education Cloud, including products like Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Pardot.
“I had some ideas about how we could borrow best practices from outside the education space to address our challenges,” said Wynn. “This isn’t just about how we market ourselves and handle enrollment for the college. This is about customer service, connected marketing, and a seamless customer experience – and Salesforce was the ideal way to make that happen.”
The CRM mirrors the student information system so that everything is tracked in one place. Whether someone is filling out a form on the TCC website, applying to the college, enrolling, or paying tuition, TCC can follow them from the very beginning of the experience, until they ultimately become a student.
TCC uses Marketing Cloud and Pardot together for communications. Pardot connects TCC’s web properties to the CRM, serving as an intake system for its marketing funnel.
“We have data capture mechanisms all over our web properties – for example, ‘If you’re interested in this particular area or topic, fill out this form for more information,’” explained Wynn. “Once the prospective student does that, they are entered into our CRM. From there, we can we use Marketing Cloud to manage automated communication with the students in our funnel.”
Doubling the Amount of Data Captured
With Salesforce in place, TCC has seen impressive results, most notably around front-end data capture.
“Since we went live with Salesforce, the number of users that are captured in our system – which allows us to communicate with them in an ongoing fashion – is up more than 100% from where it was before.”
As prospective students make their way through the funnel, TCC can easily follow up with targeted communications to help them figure out next steps they need to take to move along in the process.
“We have dashboards that can show in real time what’s happening with the applicant pool, and where any problem areas might lie, so that we can identify and eliminate any roadblocks,” said Wynn. “For example, if they’ve applied, but haven’t taken any further action, we can send communications explaining that the next step is to take their placement test, or to sign up for financial aid, or whatever the next step in the process might be.”
These types of ongoing, targeted communications have had an impact in several key focus areas that the college is tracking, including first-time college students, which TCC has been able to increase by 5%. Since deploying Salesforce solutions, TCC has also been able to notch a 1% increase in student retention, reversing an existing downward trend in the numbers.
“Proactive is the name of the game now for us,” said Wynn. “We’re communicating with people earlier and better to help them move through our enrollment process. We’re adopting best practices in marketing and customer service, and tailoring our messages to our audience instead of taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach. None of this is possible without an intelligent CRM platform, and that’s where Salesforce is really helping us.”