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What Can Marketing Cloud Do for Education?

Often campuses come to Cloud for Good with their data spread out across various systems, departments, and sometimes even spreadsheets. Because of this, they lack a true 360-view of their students, alumni, faculty, staff, and where an individual might be in the campus’s lifecycle. On top of that, staff often execute manual sends that could be automated to free up their time to think more strategically, innovate, and be more hands-on with communications that need more human intervention.

In our work with our higher education clients, we have seen the value that Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s automation tools can bring to a campus in solving these sorts of problems. Marketing Cloud gives campuses a better understanding of their community members, allows them to provide these contacts with an experience that meets them where they are in the lifecycle, and ultimately gives students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors the information they need to move on to the next step or keep that relationship warm. All through the power of automation.

With Marketing Cloud’s ability to ingest all of the data you have on an individual, whether that be stored in Salesforce (which we would highly recommend) via Marketing Cloud Connect or perhaps a wide variety of systems via Automation Studio, you’re able to create and automate cross-channel communications to the right people at the right time.

Below are some real-world examples of journeys we’ve created with some of our clients across the campus lifecycle.

Recruitment & Admissions

Prospective students have plenty of options when it comes to where to pursue their education. And in our digital world, they are expecting a personalized experience that’s tailored to what they want out of a school, the information they still need to make that decision, and where they are at in the process. To take the prospective students from an inquiry to an applicant, we’ve leveraged the following journeys in the past.

Inquiry Nurturing

After a prospective student fills out an inquiry form, we’ve found that it’s best practice to nurture them with an informational and personalized journey that helps them understand why your university is the perfect fit for them. In this journey, they will receive emails personalized based on the information included in their form submission, like anticipating a major or high school graduation year, as well as pertinent information about the university as a whole with the ultimate goal of getting them to start their application, meet with an admissions counselor, or schedule a visit to campus.

Application Deadline Journey

Sometimes, prospective students just need a little nudge to complete their applications. In this journey, prospective students are typically added six weeks prior to the deadline date and are sent a series of three emails to encourage them to complete their application by the deadline. If at any point they complete the application process, they are removed from the journey because they have reached the desired goal.

Matriculated Undergrad Students

After students have been accepted and made their deposit, we want to encourage them to get plugged into campus culture and prepare for their orientation experience. Matriculated students enter this journey after they’ve made their deposit. From there, we encourage them through a series of emails, including a welcome message from university leadership, to take the following actions: update their emergency contact information and register for an orientation session. Following this registration, we could enter them into another journey focused on preparing for orientation.

Student Success & Experience

These journeys all focus on how to help your enrolled students achieve the most success and find fulfilling experiences at your college or university. Whether that be through reminding them about an upcoming deadline or reaching out to students who seem to be struggling, the main goal of these journeys is to retain and push your students toward success at scale.

One-Email Reminder Journeys

Journeys don’t always have to be multiple steps! Sometimes students just need a single email reminder about important reoccurring dates and deadlines. These can be automated based on the data you’ve gathered about the student, their involvement on campus, enrollment status, etc. Here are some examples of some of those journeys we’ve helped our clients create:

  • Course Start Reminders: The day before a course starts, this journey triggers an email to all students enrolled, providing them with a digest of what they need to know about their upcoming course. Emails have included links to the course site, syllabi, and other important course information, such as time and location.
  • Post-Course Evaluation: Once a course completes, this journey will trigger an email to all students who have completed the course with a link to complete an evaluation on the course and its instructor, so that improvements can continue to be made! This could also be modified into a multi-step journey that reminds those who haven’t submitted their evaluation.

At-Risk Student Journey

Many of our clients have expressed that retention is an issue on their campus and that they are starting to identify trends on what might indicate that a student will transfer or drop altogether in order to mitigate that issue before it happens. With these identifiers, they can then use a journey made up of emails and Salesforce activities to reach out to these seemingly at-risk students to get them back on track by providing them services and suggestions and even creating a task for the appropriate staff member to engage with them personally.


Now that the students have graduated, we switch our focus to keeping them as active and engaged alumni, who ideally are also, or eventually will become, donors! In our work with various Advancement groups, we have leveraged Journey Builder to invite alumni and donors to events, celebrate with them, and even ask them to give back to the university that gave so much to them.

Welcome to Alumnihood

Upon graduation, a new alumnus is entered into this journey that welcomes them to this new phase of a relationship with the school they just graduated from. Through a series of emails, we typically suggest asking for their updated contact information, showing them the various networking and social opportunities that exist, and even highlighting upcoming events like Homecoming to help keep them engaged.

Event Invitations

Speaking of events, most of our Advancement clients request a journey template for events that can be repurposed and modified for all upcoming events. In most cases, this journey starts with a save the date or invitation email, from there we send reminders to those who haven’t registered until the registration window has closed. Anyone who has registered is automatically removed from the journey and could now be eligible for a Day-Of or Post-Event Survey email!


Many campuses have seen great success with sending an email to their donors ahead of the anniversary of their last gift to remind them of the impact they’ve had in the past and encourage them to keep their streak alive! This two-email series will remind them that their gift-iversary is coming up in a week, and for those that do not make a gift after the first email, we’ll send them a gift-iversary follow-up exactly one year from their last gift.

Birthday Emails

One of the most popular journeys we create for our Advancement clients is the birthday journey! These journeys serve as a great introduction to journey building in Marketing Cloud. Most of the time, these journeys contain one email that’s personalized to the individual with an offer for a discount at the campus bookstore or another campus partner, but recently we’ve been seeing campuses use dynamic content or decision splits to personalize the message based on what school or college someone graduated from or activities they were involved in on campus.

At the end of the day, the most important part of utilizing Journey Builder in your marketing mix is understanding who your audience is and what information they need or want based on where they are at in their lifecycle with your institution. The journey examples above are just a launchpad and should be customized to fit your audience, the data you have, and the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve.

With our expertise in higher education, cross-campus Salesforce Marketing Cloud implementations, and digital marketing best practices, we can assist you in strategizing, customizing, and building automation to best fit the needs of your students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members, and ultimately drive optimization, innovation, efficiency, and success for your college or university.

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