CRM Software for K-12 Education: How to Make the Right Choice
In recent years, CRM software has transitioned from a “nice to have” tool to an essential piece of technology. As we become more reliant on digital communication, the need for a reliable school CRM for private school K-12 education will only continue to grow.
As a busy admission and enrollment pro, you know keeping up with candidates and their families using manual processes is tedious and exhausting. From sending out carefully timed correspondences to tracking forms and materials, this seemingly incessant clerical work can consume a significant chunk of your workday (and your energy). Worse, it can detract from your ability to build genuine connections with potential students.
Not to mention the challenges associated with managing candidate files during the decision phase. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, critical information disappears in a folder’s journey from one department to the next. Or, a parent misses a form deadline — which can slow your timeline and frustrate everyone involved.
Now, imagine you have access to technology that automates many of these processes. Imagine implementing a system that streamlines admissions and enrollment, alleviates the weight on your shoulders and frees up time for crucial relationship-building efforts.
That’s precisely what a school CRM can do — plus more.
But what, exactly, is a CRM? Which factors should you consider when comparing solutions? And how can you convince senior leadership teams to invest in one of these powerful tools?
Here’s a helpful, in-depth overview.
- What is a CRM?
- Benefits of CRMs for Schools
- How Do You Know It’s Time to Switch Admission and Enrollment Software?”
- 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a CRM for Education
- How to Convince Leadership to Invest in a CRM
What is a CRM?
A CRM (customer relationship management) platform is a type of software that helps organizations of all sizes across a vast array of industries manage their contacts, contact data, and contact communications. It’s useful for tracking correspondences and engagement, generating reports, and performing data analyses. It’s also a huge part of admission and enrollment management for schools.
There are hundreds of CRM solutions on the market today, but only a fraction of those technologies serve the education vertical — and even fewer were explicitly built for K-12 admission and enrollment purposes.
A powerful K-12 CRM can perform the following functions:
- Contact/prospect management
The software will help you build out profiles for each prospective student and keep their data organized, safe, and easily accessible by approved parties.
- Communication tools
Many solutions give you the ability to send messages to students and their families directly from the software so you can track those correspondences within the students’ profiles. The best tools also provide personalization functionality to enhance the candidate experience.
CRMs give you the power to run customizable reports so you can analyze whatever data you’d like, measure campaign performance, and identify areas of opportunity within your processes. In most cases, you can export data to easily share with other teams across your institution.
>> Offloading administrative tasks will help you focus more on the big picture and earn the respect you deserve. Here are a few more tips to help you gain a seat at the decision-making table.
CRMs for schools generally fall into one of two buckets:
This type of CRM serves a wide range of functions to help you achieve a spectrum of duties. Often, investing in this type of software means you’ll only have to work with one vendor. All functions will be integrated, and, in some cases, it’s easier to roll out. But because these solutions focus more on the number of functions rather than industry-specific use cases, you’re often paying for components you’ll never use.
2. Best of Breed
This type of CRM is purpose-built to complete a handful of functions very well. Usually, they’re created for a particular niche, like a CRM for private school K-12 education, and provide a superior user experience customized to their markets’ specific needs. They usually also integrate with other popular industry tools.
>> Learn more about the differences between all-in-one and best of breed Admission and Enrollment Software.
Benefits of CRMs for Schools
The right CRM can help you save time and eliminate headaches by automating many tedious admission and enrollment processes. Plus, it provides greater visibility into your efforts and keeps data centralized so everyone can stay on the same page.
After all, when all teams have access to the same information, it’s much easier to collaborate and make decisions.
Here are a few specific benefits you’ll enjoy:
- Streamline efforts
School CRM systems give you both high-level and granular views into your processes and track communications with each individual candidate. This way, you can quickly pinpoint and resolve obstacles to alleviate bottlenecks in your operations.
- Improve candidate experience
Instead of sending generalized emails that often fail to engage candidates, admissions and enrollment software with customization tools allow you to tailor messages directly to prospective students and their families. Additionally, you can codify your efforts with customizable workflows to ensure contacts are receiving exactly the right message at whichever point in the process makes the most sense.
- Keeps the process moving
Enrollment professionals know all-too-well how challenging it can be to keep applications on track and moving forward. By scheduling automatic touch points and reminders, you can prevent stalls. Moreover, you can identify whether candidates’ parents have questions or concerns you need to address.
- Power personalization
Personalization works — mainly because most people want and expect it. A whopping 88 percent of marketers say targeted personalization helped them generate a measurable lift in business results, according to data from evergage.
Moreover, once you’ve gathered and compiled data within your CRM, you can use that information to create highly personalized messages and continue to optimize your communications around contacts’ behaviors.
- Eliminate messy data
Gone are the days of file cabinets, sorting through paper forms, and manually trying to keep everything in order. A school CRM will help you clean and organize records for easier access and fewer headaches. Additionally, it should provide you with instant access to important data for leadership teams and key decision-makers.
>> Discover all the benefits of a reliable private school K-12 CRM in this handy breakdown.
How Do You Know It’s Time to Switch Admission and Enrollment Software?
Even if you recognize what a school CRM can do for you, it can still be challenging to justify the money and time investments associated with any software implementation. And if you’ve already purchased technology to help manage your contacts, you may feel stuck. Especially if it’s not yielding the results you expected.
However, while choosing, purchasing, and spinning up a new enrollment management software requires you to allocate valuable resources, the benefits often far outweigh the initial cost.
Here are a few signals it’s time to invest:
1. Your current solution is too complicated
Whether you’re using a technology-based solution or more traditional methods to handle your admission and enrollment efforts, anything adding an unnecessary layer of complexity to your processes is siphoning your resources. Ultimately, your solution should make you and your team more efficient, not slow you down.
2. You still employ people to handle data entry
Manual data entry is a burden admission and enrollment professionals have born for time immemorial. But, thanks to advancements in technology, those days are long past. Just imagine how much faster and more productive you and your team would be if you didn’t have to dedicate employees to data entry duties.
3. You have no centralized communication system
In many schools, communications happen across multiple channels and platforms — from “snail mail” and in-person chats to phone calls and email. With no easy way to record these correspondences, you never know who has been in touch last, or when. CRMs track all this activity so everyone on your team can see. This prevents duplicate efforts and ensures no one slips through the cracks.
4. You can’t run a report without help from IT
What do you do when you need to analyze a specific data set? If you continually ask for help from your IT team just to run reports, you don’t have the right software. A school CRM should be so user-friendly, you and your team can manage it alone. In addition, your provider should offer their own support for moments when you need extra assistance.
5. You’re still using paper files to track admission/enrollment documents
Paper can be lost or damaged, and files can be misplaced. Plus, they’re a pain to organize. School admission software will help modernize your processes and ensure you can access the data you need, even if you’re miles away from the file room.
>> Those are just a few examples. Here are several more reasons your admission software is holding you back.
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8 Things to Consider When Choosing a CRM for Education
Whether you’re on the market for CRMs for the first time, or you’re looking to replace an ineffective solution, there are a few things to pay close attention to. While most systems offer the same core functions, not every CRM is equal. For example, some school admission software allows for more customization than others. Likewise, some enrollment management software offers free customer support, while others require an additional payment.
To ensure you’re choosing the right CRM for your school, consider the following when comparing options:
1. Testimonials/case studies
Review the provider’s website for customer success stories or quotes from satisfied users. If you can’t find any, be sure to ask. And, if possible, look for testimonials from other admissions and enrollment professionals who share your same needs and challenges.
2. Ability to customize
First, identify which solutions offer customization functionality. Then, determine what, exactly, you’re able to customize. A powerful CRM not only allows you to customize email messages, but also entire workflows, forms, and scoring criteria. Additionally, you should be able to customize the look and feel of the candidate portal and more.
3. User experience
The more straightforward and intuitive the software, the better chance you have of using it to the fullest. Just because a tool is robust doesn’t mean it has to be complicated to use. Ask yourself, “Will the least tech-savvy person on my team still be able to use this?” If not, it may not be the right choice.
4. Communication personalization features
Does the admission software allow you to personalize your communication efforts? Furthermore, does it automate personalization using the data you’ve entered into the system? Some solutions will claim they offer personalization, but be sure they clarify how much of that process is manual.
It’s essential for any technology you invest in to integrate with other tools you’re already using, like your school information system (SIS), fundraising tools, payment software, and more.
>> Easy integrations are just one benefit of working with SchoolAdmin. Learn five more benefits of SchoolAdmin.
6. Reporting capabilities
Most CRMs offer at least basic reporting functionality, though some tools are better than others. Even if you’re not accustomed to pulling in-depth reports or comparing data, it’s a good idea to choose software that offers those features. Having this information will help you make better-calculated decisions and communicate success to senior leadership.
Make sure you work with a provider who can support you throughout the implementation process and offers an educational component to help you get the most from your technology investment. Additionally, find out if their implementation and training resources come at an additional cost.
8. Customer support
Last, but certainly not least, take time to evaluate a provider’s customer support. Identify whether there are any additional fees for support requests. Furthermore, find out how easily you’ll be able to get in touch with someone when you need them. The last thing you want is to invest a significant chunk of your budget in a powerful software, then have to shell out extra money each time you need assistance using it.
To make sure the CRM you choose has all the features you need, You can even use it during demos or product overviews to help you ensure all of the essential CRM functions included on the chart are offered in the admission software you’re evaluating. If something isn’t mentioned, follow up and ask about it! The more you know about the enrollment management software you choose, the more prepared your school will be to implement the new system and use it to its full potential.
>>Looking for more help comparing solutions? Here are ten questions to ask when comparing admission and enrollment management software.
How to Convince Leadership to Invest in a School CRM
Often, the final frontier, when it comes to choosing a CRM for your private school, is convincing your senior leadership team it’s worth the budget. You may know what CRM is best for your school, but in order to implement a new system, you’ll likely need backing and an ok on the budget decision. However, focusing on the right things in your conversations with leadership can make all the difference in the result of the conversation.
Here are three things to focus on when making your case:
When the C-suite is deciding whether or not to make a purchase, the first question they ask is, “How much does it cost?” which is usually followed by “Will the benefits justify the cost?” By demonstrating how a school CRM can yield a positive ROI, you’ll have a better chance of earning their buy-in.
Few leadership teams would be opposed to investing in something that helps their staff work more efficiently and effectively. Break down how investing in this technology will help you boost your department’s output without increasing its headcount.
3. Cross-departmental collaboration
Showing top decision-makers how helping one department be more effective is useful. However, illustrating how an investment can benefit all departments is much more powerful. A great CRM will help your organization break down silos, collaborate, and share information faster and easier than ever — which is music to any leader’s ears.
>>Looking for more help preparing your speaking points? Learn more about convincing leadership to invest.
Wrapping It Up
Admission and enrollment teams are the lifeblood of any institution, and your efforts literally keep students coming in the doors. But the burden on your shoulders is growing heavier as candidates and parents begin to expect constant, highly tailored communication and a digital-friendly experience.
However, by investing in a CRM (and especially one designed for K-12 education), you can ease your burden and streamline your candidates’ journeys, too.
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