By: Paul Napleton, Head of Digital & Marketing Automation Admissions, Recruitment and Marketing University of East Anglia

A 360º view of student data enables UEA to deliver increasingly personalized and better one-to-one communications

After over 20 years of working at financial services and other organizations leading digital adoption including content marketing & social media, I recently started a new challenge in higher education at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK as Head of Digital and Marketing Automation.

Even though I haven’t worked on campus yet because of the pandemic, I’m loving the genuine passion that our teams have for students. There’s a buzz and energy that permeates the institution. I’ve spent the last couple of months learning more acronyms than I thought possible, as well as understanding the various life cycles and stages of higher education – and their impact on marketing.

It’s clear that I made my switch during a time of rapid technological changes, accelerated by the pandemic, that definitely demands a new level of agility. In addition, changing student expectations and priorities and a more competitive landscape are very similar to what I experienced in the financial services industry over the past decade. Another similarity is the need to find ways to be noticed in student’s increasingly busy social media feeds and email inboxes. How do we create ‘thumb-stopping content’ and deliver increasingly personalized, dynamic communications and engaging touchpoints? This is what they expect and demand, and companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Monzo Bank have significantly raised the bar in this area.

“I’m excited about what the future holds as everything comes together. In yet another uncertain year, marketing and communications that engage, cut through and better reflect individual concerns, hopes and situations can only be of benefit to universities.”

More than ever, it’s key to be able to capture information across our student’s many touch points with UEA, and be able to integrate that data to help create real marketing insight. Considering the journey to make a significant decision such as choosing a university, which can take many months and involve many different stakeholders, our ability to have a cohesive, 360 view of the customer is vital. Interactions from social media, phone calls, website visits, CRM email engagement, event attendance, advertising interaction, peer to peer chat, third party sites – we want to see it all for every student. Until now it’s been elusive, but we’re beginning to have the ability to direct the right content, in the right tone, at the right time, in the right place…to the right ‘customer.’

In terms of prioritizing activities, it’s useful to identify themes that can make the biggest difference, and set a ‘North star’ of where you want to get to. Then identify quick wins and low hanging fruit that can build confidence and establish momentum. It also helps establish proof of concepts and gives the ability to scale – leading to additional metrics and testing options.

After mapping out a roadmap of key themes and activities, and the outcomes we want to see, the work begins. Our first challenge has really been to take stock of all of the differing data sources, understand how we can feed them into our CRM and enrich the inquiry and ‘customer’ records as well as boost our top of funnel growth.

At UEA we use a combination of Salesforce with TargetX, as well as the SITS database to connect the student journey from inquiry to prospect and beyond. Working with Salesforce and TargetX, we can increasingly unleash the power of Marketing Cloud to aid us with things like prospect scoring, understanding user behaviour and creating more efficient and effective omnichannel campaign activity (not just email – but SMS, whatsapp, social and more). Understanding our user journeys and personas, and having a 360 view of the student from all the integrated data, really enables us to deliver increasingly personalised and better one-to-one communications.

Other opportunities we’re exploring on our list of how we deliver on the power of our CRM include search engine optimization, site governance and optimization of web activity in general. Blending with new digital tools, technologies and APIs, we can ensure that great content is supporting students through their many touchpoints with the institution across an undergraduate or postgraduate lifecycle. We appreciate that TargetX designs truly mobile first. We’re considering how the ‘Holy Trinity’ of digital marketing (SEO, social media and content marketing) come together as a connected ecosystem.