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Getting Schooled in CRM

This week we are heading to the higher side of the continent, just along the divide, to check out some schools. My son is shopping and the subject of his prospective purchase is four years at an institution that will mould him into an environmental scientist. I have been assisting him with his shopping and I am impressed with the process.

Back in 1977 I went on a buying spree for the same thing. It was a lot of fun and I ended up picking Tulane, but at the last minute I changed my mind and fell into a school at the other end of the Mississippi. As I think back on that period I am finding some things to be quite interesting now, 33 years later.

Last week as we were making our final preparations for our trip that will span Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and a brief spell in Idaho, we were contacted by the schools. They wanted to make sure that everything was on track and we were ready. Prior to that point there were e-mails with interesting stories, maps and brochures that came via postman, and just a lot of contact. We were being courted just like any prospective buyer of a big purchase.

That summer so long ago when I changed my mind and backed out of a trip down to New Orleans, I had never once been contacted except to learn of my acceptance. I never got pictures of the campus or an offer to come and visit for a day to sit in on some classes. They never sent a decal for my parents’ car. They assumed that I was going to buy and they spent their attention on shoppers who were perhaps more elusive. As a result the good folks in the admissions office lost a customer.

Things are pretty different today, at least with some of the schools we are looking into. For example, in Montana we registered for our visit on line. Since that time we have been in contact via newsletter with regularity. We were reminded of our logistics as we approached our visit date and the whole process has been surprisingly easy. They are using CRM (or at least a college recruiting version of the software) along with modern marketing techniques to nurture their buyers. The nice thing about these software packages is that they tie into other university systems just like any other good CRM platform is integrated to ERP or MRP. Ironically, a recent customer of mine just happens to be in the business of selling this nifty software.

I think there is a very good chance that I would have not ended up at Valparaiso if my original selection had been using this same CRM orientation. They did not have the software back then, but they could have been more focused on me as a prospective buyer. They could have communicated much better. They could have kept me interested. This vicarious college shopping has been a learning for me in that I have been reeducated about the pervasive value of CRM beyond its core application. Managing customers correctly is fundamental. If you know who your customers are, you can improve your success with them. Tulane did not view me as a customer or if they did they were not very customer focused.

Naturally, I want my son to pick the school that is right for him but I secretly want him to choose Montana State. Not just because it is strategically positioned between world class skiing resorts, but also because it has demonstrated the best CRM on our list.

Go Bobcats!


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