June 12

7 Higher Ed CRM Leaders for 2023

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As the enrollment cliff looms, staying connected with your school’s prospective students, current students, and alumni is more important than ever. The right CRM can streamline your workflow so you can leverage your personalized data throughout the lifecycle of your students.

As schools compete over a shrinking student pool, an automated enrollment marketing strategy is no longer a luxury — it’s an absolute necessity.

But with so many available CRM platforms, vetting the “right” one can be strenuous.

How Do I Know Which CRM Is Right For Our School?

First, you have to nail down how your team and collaborators will use your CRM. For instance, consider how Jeurell Smith, formerly the Institutional Data Analyst at Otterbein University, and his team approached adopting a new CRM to replace their legacy platform.

In our conversation on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, Jeurell talked about how they included every stakeholder in their CRM migration process:

We first started with a request for proposal process, which brought together kind of a committee of leadership… anything from the top-level VP of enrollment management, to our marketing directors, admissions counselor managers, graduate office, and front-end users who actually have the hands-on responsibility with some of the data.

And, of course, IT was a part of this, but we put together that group just to start the process of inquiring what systems to even look at.

By including all relevant parties in their CRM adoption, the folks at Otterbein ensured they’d be less likely to lament their choice later. I highly encourage you to do the same.

In classic (and impartial) alphabetical order, here are seven CRM platforms that should be on your school’s shortlist for 2023!

1. Element451

Source: Element451.com

Element451 is a CRM that specializes in taking a personalized approach to admissions and enrollment.

Their platform supports easy-to-navigate audience segmentation, and its integration capabilities make it easy to bring all your relevant data to one place.

As of 2023, they’re driving their focus on personalized engagement with the rollout of their generative AI bots, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4. This includes a bot designed to help create and edit original content.

While I actively promote adopting AI tools to help with your marketing needs, I’d like to remind everyone that they are simply that — tools.

AI technology is making incredible strides, but it’s not perfect. I still encourage everyone to stay actively involved with their content creation.

2. Fire Engine Red: Fireworks CRM

Source: Fire-Engine-Red.com

In any industry, it’s rare to see a company that’s this transparent about its culture.

You may be wondering why that matters for your school’s CRM needs. Well, I’m a firm believer that internal culture reflects how a business will treat its clients.

A common struggle for schools trying to wrangle their CRM is training and support from their platform’s vendor, but I think that’s where Fireworks shines.

They have dedicated staff who will help walk you through the implementation process. So this is a great option for smaller marketing teams who don’t have a backlog of CRM experience.

3. Hubspot CRM

Source: Hubspot.com

I’m sure most people reading this are no strangers to HubSpot, but did you know they still offer a free version of their CRM?

Like a few other CRMs in this list, Hubspot’s platform caters to all kinds of industries, but their free CRM can get you started on your automation journey.

It allows one user to send up to 2,000/month in one automated action and also offers basic SEO recommendations.

And once you’re ready to expand your toolset, Hubspot’s Starter package is reasonably priced.

4. LeadSquared

Source: LeadSquared.com

If your CRM needs are limited to multi-channel lead generation, then LeadSquared might be just your ticket.

I’ve seen several of our clients have tremendous success leveling up their enrollment funnel using LeadSquared. Also, less experienced users may find it more intuitive than more robust platforms like Slate.

Their Basic plan includes most of your essential tools, like website integration, engagement tracking, list segmentation, and marketing automation. Those features alone will open whole new doors for your lead generation campaigns.

And if you want to add more capabilities down the road, LeadSquared offers full CRM integration and other advanced assets.

5. Salesforce Education Cloud

Source: Salesforce.org

Salesforce has been a dominant player in the CRM business for quite some time, and for good reason.

Their versatile platform offers an array of sophisticated tools, from lead management to integration with a wide variety of third-party applications.

If you’re looking for a powerful do-it-all platform, the Salesforce Education Cloud has got you covered. However, Salesforce has included many of their popular features in separately-priced packages.

For instance, their analytics dashboard and its necessary templates are separately priced from the offerings in their “Part-Time Reviewer” plan.

Basically, the most desired ingredients on your shopping list can add up pretty quickly.

But if your school is already using Salesforce in some capacity, you may want to consider this option.

6. Slate

Source: Technolutions.com

Used by over 1,700 schools nationwide, Technolution’s CRM platform is tailored specifically for higher education.

Slate is a powerful engagement tool that covers the entire student lifecycle by integrating a remarkable number of popular applications, including Banner, OnBase, and Colleague, to name a few.

Also, detailed comm flow statistics and analytics are already embedded in the platform.

As with many other CRMs, Slate’s multitude of features comes with a steep learning curve. Yet Technolutions offers a Learning Lab full of interactive courses to help get you on your feet, and it’s free of charge for the first three registered users.

7. Zoho CRM

Source: Zoho.com

While Zoho’s CRM isn’t marketed specifically for higher education, its intuitive flexibility makes it easy to mold the platform to your needs.

Zoho’s CRM allows you to create a layout that meets your specifications through module customization and a wide range of development kits (and some elbow grease).

Also, you can find whatever custom apps or tools you need in their readily accessible marketplace.

Their Standard plan includes basic email insights and dashboard components, but the customization and simple interface are where Zoho’s CRM really stands out.

Choosing a CRM for Your Institution Is a Big Decision

This system will form the backbone of your institution’s marketing efforts, handling critical data and shaping the interactions with your prospective students, current students, and alumni.

The wrong choice can result in wasted resources, lost opportunities, and a disjointed marketing strategy. So it’s crucial that you spend time evaluating the options, consider your specific needs, and select a CRM that’s fully aligned with your institution’s goals and marketing strategy.

You don’t have to try to do it alone. We can help.

Contact us today! The Caylor Solutions team has rich experience with CRM solutions, and we’d love to help you choose yours.


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Featured image by InputUX via Adobe Stock

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