Publications & Products
Volume 5, Issue 5

Blazing a New Trail in Communications and Marketing

Doug Wotherspoon was looking into the future…and he didn't like what he was seeing.

Algonquin College, a community college with more than 21,000 full-time students in Canada, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, was projecting a decline in its core demographic in the next 10 to 15 years.

That sobering statistic, combined with changing expectations of students—and the parents and others who influence college-going decisions—prompted the college to take a fresh look at its communications and marketing.

"Internally, we looked at how we were doing in comparison to recruitment and marketing, not just in higher education, but other products and services," says Wotherspoon, the vice president for international, communications and strategic priorities. "These are people who are being informed and influenced by major brands like Coca Cola. How do we stand out as an organization?"

After analyzing the institution's internal data, some of which existed on Excel spreadsheets, college officials realized they needed to improve their internal processes. They implemented Customer Relationship Management software that has transformed how they market and recruit students.

"The number one thing we need is for recruiters to make presentations and generate leads," Wotherspoon says. With their previous system, which included hand-written inquiry information and lots of data entry, recruiters were in front of students once every three days. Since implementing Salesforce as their CRM, recruiters have tripled their productivity.

Recruiters now hand out iPads in classrooms for students to enter data. That makes for more accurate information and allows the college to respond instantly instead of in days or weeks. That saved the college $27,000 in just the first six months because it didn't need people to manually enter data. That helped offset the $100,000 for initial implementation.

"This is about process improvement as much as it is about technology," Wotherspoon says.

Algonquin continues to expand the use of CRM throughout the college, creating a student application portal, so students can pull information that they want, rather than have the college push it out to them.  People throughout the college also use it for customer service to track how quickly the college responds to things like case management for students who request support.

"It has allowed us to quantify all of the work we've been doing so we can automate the non value-added work," Wotherspoon says. "Personal interactions are where we add value, and this helps us do that. If we can remove or reduce the amount of 'administrivia,' we can give our employees time back, and they can focus on value-added activities that make students more satisfied with their experience."

The implementation was not easy and required getting buy-in from people throughout the college. Wotherspoon will discuss how the college implemented CRM, and lessons learned during a CASE webinar on Nov. 17.

This article is from the Nov 2015 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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