Founded in 1863 as a land-grant university, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) has remained unwavering in its commitment to social change and creating a better world. The institution has stood at the forefront of some of our society’s most monumental shifts and over the past decade, UMass Amherst has risen to #26 in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Guide, making it one of the most improved institutions among top tier public universities in America. Referred to as the flagship campus, UMass Amherst is the largest of all campuses in the UMass system and a major economic engine for the state of Massachusetts.
Connecting the UMass Educational System with Salesforce
Prior to implementing Salesforce, the UMass Amherst campus utilized a variety of disparate systems and lacked the configurability UMass needed to scale and grow across its 12 distinct schools and colleges. The Central IT department received significant requests for a better CRM solution and a joint team of IT and marketing staff, with leadership approval, decided on Salesforce.
Sam Mead is the current CRM Director and part of the joint team that implemented and oversees Salesforce at UMass. The initial implementation leveraged Education Cloud for recruitment across campus for online programs. Coupled with Marketing Cloud, this gave the institution a flexible and powerful solution to reach its goals.
“Each school was operating semi-autonomously without a connective source of truth. Implementing Salesforce was a real change of direction where we were going to create a platform that would serve and work across the various schools at UMass,” said Mead.
Creating a Central Communications Platform
In partnership with Cloud for Good, UMass Amherst looked to enhance its communications across UMass schools, colleges, and business units using Marketing Cloud to improve the experience and engagement with various constituents, including prospective students, students, parents, faculty, and staff.
“Our goal was to improve communication across campus with our various constituencies, leveraging Salesforce CRM and Marketing Cloud to study and improve the relationship they have with the university,” said Mead. “We’re trying to be smarter about how we communicate.”
Cloud for Good’s implementation of MobileConnect and acquisition of two private short codes (one for COVID-related alerts and another for the UMass Isenberg School of Management), specifically, helped enhance UMass Amherst’s recruitment and communication processes through the dynamic tool’s ability to create, send, receive, and track SMS and MMS messages. And the new tool arrived at just the right time.
“MobileConnect became a reality through COVID as a way to send reminders for students to get tested and help support our safety efforts,” said Mead.
Empowered by MobileConnect’s ability to create a highly capable communication strategy, the UMass Public Health Promotion Center designed an information hub tracking testing results and enabling reliable SMS messaging to better meet constituents’ needs.
During a time shrouded in uncertainty, UMass students on and off-campus, its faculty, staff, and the surrounding local community were kept informed and allowed to feel safe and protected. The amount of data the hub compiled and dispersed was extraordinary, and its success caught the eye of UMass’s core leadership, leading to renewed support for the Salesforce platform.
Understanding Engagement + Preferences
One of UMass Amherst’s greatest Marketing Cloud successes has been the creation of journeys for recruitment programs. These programs help track current and prospective students engaging with the UMass brand through mass emails. “We’re cautious with our communication,” explained Mead. “We don’t want to just email anybody and everybody but to focus on those who have asked for communications and then respect when they don’t want them anymore.”
This deferential form of communication manifests itself, for example, through something as simple as enabling the ability to unsubscribe from a specific type of message as opposed to unsubscribing from them all at once. This is made possible by a custom content block developed by Marketing Cloud to help guide email builders in associating the proper subscription channel with each email being sent. This allows for more efficient directing of users to a subpage of the subscription center.
Students, parents of students, alumni, and the many other UMass constituencies have formed specific relationships with the university, so not every email or text message will pertain to every recipient. Understanding this view has led to functionality allowing recipients to modify email content and opt-out of texts, making way for open and engagement rates well above the industry standards.
UMass Amherst currently hovers around a 60% email open rate when factoring in commercial and transactional emails. Even when looking at strictly commercial emails, the open rates remain around 40%. According to Mead, “anything above 20% is considered “good,” and UMass Amherst has set a threshold of 30% as the minimum mark for good open rates and engagement.”
Cloud for Good developed a custom upload form for UMass Amherst in Marketing Cloud to help users handle ad-hoc sends without introducing duplicate records in Marketing Cloud, as well as developed a custom content block in Marketing Cloud to help guide email builders in associated the proper subscription channel with each email being sent. In addition to these enhancements, Cloud for Good also helped UMass Amherst staff set up email templates, journeys, and data architecture within Marketing Cloud that helps deliver targeted segments to all the university’s email end users.
A custom Preference Center has also helped UMass constituencies better control their respective experiences. For example, when SMS communication was rolled out as a preferred option for new students, over 50% of the most recent incoming class selected the text option. The fluidity and nimbleness of UMass Amherst’s communication strategy effectively reflect the evolving preferences of its audience and the ability to swiftly respond to those changes.
“The Preference Center has been a huge game-changer,” said Mead.
In the most recent phases of UMass Amherst’s steadily increasing Salesforce footprint, the Advancement teams across five UMass campuses were brought onto Marketing Cloud from iModules, bringing UMass one step closer to a completely connected Salesforce experience across campuses.
“This entire Salesforce experience has been terrific. Cloud for Good has provided us with hands-on learning that has saved time and connected us with other institutions willing to speak with us and share their challenges and successes,” said Mead in closing. “We’re benefitting and connecting through a shared collaborative spirit.”
For more information on the University of Massachusetts Amherst, visit umass.edu.