Cloud for Good

Realizing the Return on Investment of Salesforce Marketing Cloud with UMass Amherst

Cloud for Good 2023 customer success story Realizing the Return on Investment of Salesforce Marketing Cloud with UMass Amherst

In a previous customer success story, Cloud for Good outlined the transformational change Salesforce provided the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst).  In partnership with Cloud for Good, UMass Amherst has implemented Marketing Cloud, MobileConnect, and additional marketing solutions that have built intuitive communication practices at the university and increased engagement with students, staff, and faculty.

Analyzing Salesforce’s Effectiveness

Several months following the go-live of the marketing solutions, UMass Amherst performed an analysis to review the progress and improvements in mass communications made possible through the implementation of Marketing Cloud across the university.  This analysis, pulling data from the whole of 2022, included developing appropriate benchmarks to guide communicators, presenting engagement and delivery metrics, and delivering a comparison with industry standards.

Additionally, the analysis would help establish critical KPIs previously not analyzed, such as unsubscribe and bounce rates, while also granting deeper insight into audiences and into the impact of automation on recruitment journeys, applications, and enrollment.

The results have been eye-opening, to say the least.

email delivery

Consolidation of email communications to Marketing Cloud has positively impacted delivery and engagement. 

Partnering with campus communicators has increased commercial, opt-in communications. 

Senders are more strategic and successful in delivering information through tighter recipient data and more targeted content. 

Continued adoption of automations and journeys will grant additional efficiencies to senders. 

What UMass Amherst Accomplished in 2022

Starting with a high-level view of how Salesforce has been accepted at the university, 90% of the UMass org chart is utilizing Marketing Cloud, there are 112 newly licensed and trained Marketing Cloud communicators, and 17 additional business units were configured by the end of 2022.

From the beginning of Q1 2022 to the end of Q4 2022, UMass Amherst onboarded 100 users from Emma (the email marketing tool used prior to Marketing Cloud), archived all Emma data for each sub-account, and doubled both the number of proficient Marketing Cloud users and the number of configured business units.  With such great user adoption success, UMass can now benefit from a consolidated, single source of truth for marketing engagement with students campus-wide.

Looking at 2022 mass email by the numbers, 4,381 email communications (defined as a single message sent to multiple email addresses) were sent and 13.8M individual emails were delivered, resulting in a 99.8% deliverability, 63% open rate, and a 4% click rate.  The assessment is that Marketing Cloud is helping create high volume, excellent deliverability, above-average audience interest, and good engagement across the board.

“Cloud for Good has played a huge role in helping us utilize automations and journeys for efficiency, which helps get more people enrolled in programs and registered for classes,” says UMass Amherst CRM Director Sam Mead.  “We’re sending fewer of the less important emails and more of the important, appropriate emails.”  Critical emails like application deadline reminders weren’t performing well prior to automations created with Marketing Cloud.  “These emails,” Mead explains, “are now handled and segmented through automation that is very specific and timely that has yielded great results.”

Cloud for Good 2023 customer success story Realizing the Return on Investment of Salesforce Marketing Cloud with UMass Amherst Screenshot 1

Relying on Industry Best Practices to Generate Results

As part of the initial implementation, Cloud for Good helped advise UMass Amherst on industry best practices gathered from over a decade of experience in the Education Industry.  Themes like audience segmentation and robust preference centers have helped the institution communicate with the right audience, at the right time, using the methods they prefer.

This adherence to best practices from the UMass Amherst Salesforce users has also greatly benefited open rates (63%, +11% from 2021) and click rates (4%, +9%).  “The increases in open rates and click rates are directly related to our efforts around best practices and getting people to be more focused on sending a very specific message that is well crafted to suit a specific audience,” says Mead.

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With such great metrics backing up campaign efficiency, UMass Amherst has been able to introduce more campaigns built around new concepts, such as the UMass 4+1.  This is an accelerated master’s program that allows students to obtain their bachelor’s degree plus their master’s degree in a combined effort.  UMass Amherst has designed campaigns that notify current and prospective students that such a program exists at the university, allowing those students to mull over their educational path and decide, prior to their junior year, if they want to commit to the 4+1.

Deliverability Reliability

Bounced emails are a critical KPI tracked by Email Service Providers (ESPs), such as Microsoft Exchange and Gmail.  When emails bounce, deliverability goes down and campaigns can be adversely affected.  A variety of factors can cause bounced emails, including old or unrefreshed email lists, typos in email addresses, or fictitious email information purposely entered to inflate conversion.

“Overall, what we’re trying to do is reduce our bounces and make sure our team is very cognizant of that goal,” Mead elaborates.  To meet this goal, the UMass Amherst CRM team reviews weekly reports to quickly remediate bounced sends, offers list validation to senders across campus to limit bad email addresses, and works closely with IT to develop technical solutions for ensuring good data.  In 2022, these intentional steps resulted in a bounce rate comfortably below the industry standard at just 3%.

Nearly 8.5M emails were sent to UMass.edu recipients (students, faculty, and staff) in 2022.  According to Marketing Cloud analytics, no populations, including UMass Amherst’s ~30K students, have been saturated with email.  On the contrary, emails to students perform the best of any internal audience tracked in Marketing Cloud.  Students make up 75% of UMass Amherst’s total email sends and receive these emails with a 99.9% delivery rate and a 68.5% open rate.

“With Marketing Cloud, we’re able to segment our student data further, delivering them the information they need when they need it.  This translates into our students having a really high email engagement and ensuring that the health of our domain is supported while our students remain engaged and well-informed,” explains Mead.

Cloud for Good 2023 customer success story Realizing the Return on Investment of Salesforce Marketing Cloud with UMass Amherst Screenshot 3

Divide and Conquer

In order to better track engagement with constituents and the ROI on campaigns, UMass Amherst has found profound success in separating emails, and email metric analysis, into two distinct send classifications: transactional and commercial sends.  Transactional email examples are event registration confirmations, enrollment emails from the Dean, or outstanding balance reminders from the Bursar.  As these types of emails are necessary and critical to student success, transactional sends cannot be opted out of.  Transactional sends in 2022 totaled 7.1M (+25% YOY) with an open rate of 66% (+7% YOY) and a click rate of 4.8% (+9% YOY).

Commercial sends, on the other hand, do require an opt-out.  Examples of these emails are academic recruiting or marketing messages, event announcements, and newsletters.  UMass Amherst sent 6.7M commercial emails in 2022 (+87% YOY) with an open rate of 61% (20% YOY) and a click rate of 3.2% (no change YOY).  The unsubscribe rate for commercial sends was 0.10%, which is 50% lower than the industry standard.

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One of the biggest components of this efficiency is a custom “Campus Subscription Center,” or a preference center, that has been set up according to granular specifications that make it easier for recipients to choose the types of email they want to receive.  The net effect of this preference center is fewer global unsubscribes.  This translates to a reduction in the number of people flagging UMass emails as spam and an improvement in deliverability for all UMass emails.

Cloud for Good 2023 customer success story Realizing the Return on Investment of Salesforce Marketing Cloud with UMass Amherst Subscription Center
A screenshot showcasing an example of the UMass Amherst Campus Subscription Center.

Automated Efficiency

UMass Amherst has made great use of Marketing Cloud automation to build audiences based on Salesforce and SPIRE (the university’s secure online student information system) data.  These audiences feed email journeys with specific goals and exit criteria, and feature personalization and optimizations for sending emails when recipients are most likely to read them.  These timed reminders (application deadline reminders, for example) have resulted in better engagement and fewer opt-outs while saving staff approximately 180 hours over the year.

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Every hour saved pays great dividends, as internal staff average over 80 support tickets per month.  90% of these tickets are managed by the CRM team with a total of 250+ licensed Marketing Cloud users.  Quality change management is undoubtedly a priority at the institution.  Monthly meetings review updates, best practices, wins, and challenges, allowing staff to feel supported and encouraged to cross-pollinate ideas and lessons learned.

“Marketing Cloud is an incredibly powerful tool that creates great results when you use it correctly.  It’s like a fancy race car; you don’t just get in it and start driving, you have to get trained and adapt to how it operates.  Cloud for Good has been instrumental in both the implementation and our deepening understanding of Marketing Cloud.”

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As impressive as UMass Amherst’s Marketing Cloud success has been, the university has only begun to see the scope of Salesforce’s impact.  “It’s exciting to see how Marketing Cloud can help support so many different efforts,” muses Mead in closing.

UMass Amherst’s use of Marketing Cloud will only scale over time, resulting in more departments and initiatives reached, and a broader impact on the institution made possible through Salesforce technology.


Written by Blake Becker

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