Unlocking the Power of Slate CRM for Enrollment Marketing

Once you have Slate CRM up and running at your institution, it's time to evaluate your approach to reporting and campaign optimization to set your enrollment marketing team up for success. 

Sometimes it can feel like your Slate CRM instance is a Porsche idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic — there’s a lot of potential, but it’s going unused. This is actually one of the most common issues we run into while working with clients, and questions around how to best set up and optimize an institution’s Slate instance are often top-of-mind. 

While every college and university has different priorities, processes and KPIs, we’ve identified a few areas of focus that most often yield the highest ROI with relatively modest investments of time and resources when it comes to optimizing and improving an institution’s enrollment marketing efforts. Typically, this work begins somewhere after year 1 on the implementation roadmap, and it provides the foundation for deeper and more specific reporting and optimization down the road. The first areas we recommend colleges and universities focus are:

  • First Source Reporting: Lead gen sources and channel ROI
  • Paid Media Reporting: Data across the enrollment funnel about campaign performance
  • Email: A/B testing, focused campaigns, and tracking and reporting

Diving Deeper into Lead Sources

Using sources and first source reporting in Slate CRM is an invaluable first step to begin making performance-based investments. But taking a deeper dive into your sources can unearth crucial insights about prospective student behavior and the value of your marketing spend. Beyond merely counting leads and their origins, source reporting can help you understand channel costs on a granular level, such as cost per application or cost per enroll. Pairing this data with source creation data can reveal which channels work best at different points in the enrollment cycle.

Optimizing Your Data for Source Reports in Slate CRM

Setting up your first source report can be an arduous task. Slate provides solid documentation on the topic in the Knowledge Base, so take the time to review this information and build time into your implementation roadmap to set up this reporting. Including categories for your sources is helpful when you later go to build reporting and conduct analysis. For example, including a Paid Media category will allow you to quickly filter organic leads from paid leads so you can analyze channel costs and ROI. 

Calculate your cost per inquiry, application, admit and enroll based on each channel, but be aware that even though a channel might not be a record’s first source, other sources can contribute to conversion and might still be worthwhile investments. For example, a paid campaign on Facebook might generate first source leads who also have Niche as a source. While Facebook will get the credit for generating the lead, Niche may help drive awareness and provide valuable information for the student, so consider those factors while allocating enrollment marketing dollars.

Time is an often overlooked component of source reporting. Try looking at when leads become records in your database and to see if particular times of year are more productive for certain channels. Many schools find that reporting around channel and time of record creation can help them refine their media spend to those times that are most effective. 

Refining Paid Campaigns for Maximum Impact

Despite improved performance marketing metrics, marketing managers can still relate to the old adage: "Half my advertising spend is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half." Ad campaign tracking in Slate goes beyond aggregate numbers from ad platforms and Google Analytics. It allows admissions and marketing teams to understand specific ad and campaign performance across the funnel. Even simple reporting utilizing UTM codes and conversions for discrete actions can reveal which messages and campaigns are most effective, helping to drive not only click-through rates but also applications and enrollments.

Tracking Campaign Performance

Your ability to track campaign performance depends on your ability to accurately and consistently capture UTM data. Slate forms capture UTM data automatically, however, if you’re using a form embedded on your website, you'll need to use a dynamic rather than a simple embed to capture UTM data. Test your form prior to campaign launch to ensure UTM data is being captured. You'll also want to make sure your landing page/lead gen forms are set up as first sources. This gives you the ability to find students who have the form as a first source and you can then refine reporting based on the campaign or other UTM parameters — so you can attribute applicants, admits and enrolls to specific campaigns or creative within campaigns.

Keep in mind that campaign tracking can be done at an aggregate level or on a form-by-form basis, depending on how many lead forms an institution is using. Try starting with a single form report and then expand your reporting across additional forms.

Making Email Work For You in Slate CRM

Despite the myriad communication options available to enrollment marketing teams, email remains one of the most potent tools for enrollment marketing. Year after year, higher ed research demonstrates it’s still the most useful channel when engaging students who are interested in your institution. The right message at the right time can be a powerful tool to convert a prospect to an inquiry or an inquiry to an applicant. When planning and developing your email campaigns, there are three components that will help you achieve better results: focused campaigns, A/B testing, and tracking and reporting.

Creating Focused Campaigns

Sometimes it pays to think like an ecommerce site. We’ve all had the experience of browsing, adding an item to our cart, not purchasing it and then getting a series of emails over the next 5 days reminding us to complete that purchase. Those follow up emails drive huge conversion rates for companies like Amazon, and taking a similar approach to designing and building your campaigns can yield similar results.  

Campaign Best Practices

  • While you’ll have some bigger, longer campaigns (inquiry campaigns, application push campaigns etc.), look for specific events and activities to build short focused campaigns around. 
  • A short campaign—1 to 2 weeks in duration with 3 to 7 messages—immediately after the completion of an RFI form, event registration or decision release will yield vastly better results than longer term campaigns. When you have the prospective student’s attention, use it. 
  • Be sure to prioritize the next actions you want a prospect to take and carefully think about where they are in the customer journey and what info will be most relevant and helpful. Did a prospect just complete an RFI form? Help them find information about their program of interest or upcoming events. Did an applicant just get an admit decision? Connect them with their admission counselor and other new admits, provide financial aid info and steps to enrolling.    
  • Look for points of engagement where you’ve missed an opportunity for conversion. Running a paid media campaign to drive campus visits? Set up a query using Ping and UTM data to identify students who might have clicked thru but not registered—that campus visit is sitting in their shopping cart, they might just need a couple nudges to register. (And be aware of the messaging: Don’t say, “We noticed you were just checking out campus visits”—creepy. Do say, “Fall is a great time to visit campus—come see what we’re all about.”)

Measuring Email Success

While some recent changes to Apple's privacy policies have impacted email campaign tracking, standard success metrics like open rate and CTR (click-through rate) are still the best performance indicators for your email campaigns. 

While it can be tempting to turn to A/B testing to help you finess your email campaigns, it has the potential to become a proverbial rabbit hole. Testing every CTA, button color, header image, subject line (and the list goes on…) can end up being a full-time job. For this reason — at least at the outset — we recommend a narrow focus on A/B testing subject lines and leaving other variables to the side. Create small test populations for each campaign you intend to run and test a few different subject lines for each email. Once you find the most effective subject lines, use those for your larger mailing populations.  

Tracking and Reporting

Your initial email reporting should be simple and focus on 3 KPIs: deliverability, open rates, and click-to-open rate (CTOR). With those pieces in place you can later include tracking UTMs and conversion rates for calls-to-action (CTAs) so you can refine your email strategies. 

Deliverability: Bounces happen, but high bounce rates (typically anything more than 7-8%+) are a red flag. There’s some alchemy to deliverability but segmented mailings to smaller populations, highly target subject lines and avoiding spammy language can help alleviate these issues. Slate’s Email Deliverability tool is a good place to start if you’re encountering issues.  

Open Rates: Unique opens / emails delivered = Open Rate %. Obviously, the higher the better. A/B testing subject lines and focusing on the right message at the right time are the keys to improving open rates. 

CTOR: Unique clicks / unique opens = CTOR %. Again, higher is better. Your CTOR will tell you how well your subject line is aligned with the content of your email and the CTA. To improve these rates, focus on the design of your emails, the language used for the CTA, the location of the CTA and the action you’re trying to elicit. Trying to drive the wrong action at a given point in time in the customer journey is most often the reason for low CTOR.

Building Reporting: Schools typically have hundreds of thousands if not millions of emails that are sent over the course of the enrollment cycle. That’s a lot of data for Slate to churn and return results on. This can lead to email reports getting bogged down and timing out. If this is an issue you encounter, one solution is to use smaller queries and and exporting data to third-party reporting tools.

Taking the Next Steps

Slate is an often underutilized asset in the world of enrollment marketing. It allows admissions and marketing teams to go beyond the aggregate numbers provided by ad and analytics platforms, diving into the details of communications, lead sources, and paid campaign performance. These three areas of focus provide impactful insights, following the prospect's journey from inquiry to application, from admission to enrollment.

You don't have to embark on this journey alone. We have the expertise to help you strategize and build out impactful marketing performance reporting using Slate. To start unlocking the potential of your Slate CRM and transforming your enrollment marketing strategy, contact us today