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Strategic Higher Education Communication with Marketing Cloud

Today’s higher education landscape presents a variety of challenges to colleges and universities across all business areas. U.S. high school graduation rates have continued to rise since 2011, but when faced with an increasingly competitive pool of potential students, how can higher education institutions best execute their recruitment efforts and communicate their value in a timely and personalized way? Once these students enroll, more data than ever before is generated from their academic activity, and graduating students’ donation information can help development officers manage fundraising. With all this data, how can institutions move toward a more strategic communication approach?

With Salesforce Sales and Marketing Clouds, higher education institutions can build a system of record for their marketing efforts and integrate with their existing student information systems. This approach allows schools to leverage students’ related data, like the major listed on an application or courses they’ve completed, to provide a more personalized communication experience and track the success of those marketing efforts – all in one system.


Campaigns are Salesforce’s way of grouping your Contacts together in meaningful ways – they can represent anything from event attendees to a list of holiday card recipients. Each person added to a Campaign can have their own status in that Campaign, and one person can also be tracked in multiple Campaigns at the same time.

The power of Salesforce campaigns is apparent when combined with Marketing Cloud. After sending out an email with Marketing Cloud, for example, the Marketing Cloud Connector can sync tracking activity like email opens or unsubscribes directly to the Salesforce campaign. With different audiences – prospective students, enrolled students, or alumni – success might be defined differently across them. Since all this data is tied directly to that person’s Contact record, you can easily report on everyone’s interactions with your marketing efforts and adjust your strategies as needed for each group.

Dynamic Content

Marketing Cloud’s dynamic content functionality allows you personalize email content based on an individual recipient’s existing data points. In short, if you can think of the content, Marketing Cloud email templates can be configured to automatically show the most relevant content for each recipient.

For example, sending a single email built with dynamic content to all prospective students can provide a highly customized experience based on previously expressed interest. The email could display biology-themed images and text to science majors, while students interested in music would see important links to rehearsal information instead. Sending these types of personalized emails helps get the right content to the right audience, and tends to lead to improved email open- and click-rates in the future.

Business Units

Maybe your institution needs to separate audiences by prospective, current, and graduated students; or perhaps each school or college in the university is responsible for marketing to their own set of contacts. Marketing Cloud can help keep your contact data and marketing assets separated with business units. Using your Sales Cloud data, Marketing Cloud can sync all your contact data to a top-level business unit (i.e. the institutional business unit), and funnel your contacts to the appropriate business unit based on criteria that you specify.

For example, this could prevent an alumnus of the engineering school from ever being able emailed by the business school’s advancement team, since their contact data would only be funneled to the engineering business unit. Likewise, marketing teams can keep their email templates and assets within their business units, or share out common assets like images and templates to other business units to increase collaboration.

Journey Builder

Marketing Cloud’s Automation Studio tools are the real horsepower behind the platform. In particular, the Journey Builder tool allows you to develop automated, multi-channel marketing paths to engage your audience. What makes them special? They’re dynamic – as your audience members open and click emails or text messages, or their Salesforce data is updated, you can automatically route them to receive the appropriate messages.

For example, if a prospective student changed the major they’re interested in, you could route them to receive information on their new major in the future. Or if an alumnus reached a fundraising milestone with your university in Salesforce, you can automatically enter them in a special journey mixing text messages, emails, social media ads, and more. Once you’ve decided on a strategy, Journey Builder is the tool that can help do the heavy lifting and automate it.

These are just some of the Marketing Cloud features that can help higher ed institutions become more strategic with their marketing efforts. Depending on how imaginative you can get with these and many other included tools, the possibilities are virtually unlimited.

Don’t miss our webinar on March 27, 2018 covering Marketing Cloud for Higher Ed and Nonprofits. Register today!

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