Charles Sturt University invests in marketing automation

Education institution's executive director of marketing hopes marketing automation will prove a big step forward in addressing end-to-end student experiences

Better engaging prospective students at every stage of the decision-making journey, as well as providing tailored and timely information to existing university goers, has prompted Charles Sturt University to invest in a marketing automation platform.

Executive director of CSU’s marketing and communication division, Sarah Ansell, told CMO the decision to bring on Marketo’s platform was initially prompted by the desire to keep people thinking about their study choices.

While CSU’s contact centre, research and feedback provide a strong backbone for student queries, that’s where things have stopped, Ansell said. The university manages 12 campus locations across Australia as well as a raft of online education services.

“Once people get the information they need on a course, for example, we don’t have a system in place which allows us to go back and back again to them,” Ansell said. “In the short term, we wanted to address the ability to keep people thinking about their study choices as they’re making those course decisions by giving them information they need when they need it, and mapping that against the customer journey.”

The other part of the equation is personalising information at scale to current students. CSU has a CRM in place but Ansell said this had limitations and there was a desire to build a layer of sophistication on top.

“Using Marketo, we can also boost our engagement with current students and alumni by delivering personalised and tailored information,” she said.

Ansell started reading about the capabilities of marketing automation online and via events and said the list of reasons to adopt such a platform at CSU just kept getting bigger. The opportunity came when she was given responsibility for an end-to-end ‘applicant experience’ project.

“We had this project running and some money to do things like improve the application form, and make that journey more streamlined and easier for students,” she explained. “It was also about technology that would allow us to populate the information we needed [from students], rather than have everyone repeating things. So we had a lot of little bits and pieces set aside in that project, and this was the opportunity to bring in marketing automation alongside it.”

CSU first engaged with Marketo a few months ago and is now in the process of preparing its first small-scale trials. This includes staff training, getting the content ready, and building out assets to use.

The first two targeted acquisition campaigns, one for undergraduate prospects and another for post-graduate prospects, will go live in January. CSU will conduct an A/B test comparing the results of its marketing automation efforts with communication out of its CRM system to see what works and how it works, she said.

“We’ll keep things small, test heavily to see if it’s all working well, and the responsiveness from our audience to this kind of thing is important too,” Ansell said. “Then we can look at rolling it out further.”

The project is being driven by the marketing division, but Ansell said it was important to collaborate with IT from the outset in order to ensure things are done properly and that systems can be integrated effectively across the business. For example, the team hopes to unite marketing automation with its CRM platform long-term to maximise impact.

Ansell was hopeful this initial foray into marketing automation will lead long-term to CSU closing the loop on end-to-end student experience management.

“We’re in the business of enrolling students, which we’ll try and do first and foremost, but this is actually about the provision of better information to all of our students and improving student experiences,” she said.

“If we can start to show some wins in that area, we will hopefully be able to grow from there. What we’re really trying to do is consolidate our understanding of our students and improve that entire journey.”

Marketo’s new regional director, Greg Taylor, said the interest from CSU demonstrates how diverse the use cases are for marketing engagement solutions.

“It’s not just a nurturing tool to drive prospects to a sale. Here is an example of how tailored messaging can help create a community for university students and contribute to their engagement with the institution,” he said in a statement announcing the new deal.

“It’s all about building an affinity with people, based on what we know about them and how they interact online”.

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