How To Implement & Utilize A School CRM: A Guide for Educational Leaders

April 28, 2024

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A well-implemented school CRM can streamline communication, strengthen relationships with students and families, and ultimately fuel a thriving school community. However, navigating the process of choosing and utilizing a school CRM can feel overwhelming. This guide will equip you with the knowledge and steps you need to successfully implement and leverage a CRM for your school's benefit.

As a senior business executive and consultant with more than 20 years of experience leading global organizations of all sizes, I understand the challenges educational institutions face in implementing and utilizing CRMs. I’m here to tell you how to implement and utilize a school CRM.

This article is for school leaders looking to:

  • Streamline communication
  • Strengthen relationships with students and families
  • Develop a thriving school community

This guide will delve into:

  • Why you need a school CRM.
  • How you can prepare a school CRM for school management.
  • How to train your school’s staff to use a CRM.
  • How to create CRM dashboards for your school.
  • Why schools should leverage StartingPoint.

Why Do You Need A School CRM?

From attracting new students with diverse needs to fostering lifelong engagement with alumni, building strong relationships in education is essential. A CRM empowers you to do just that by providing a centralized platform to manage interactions with all stakeholders in your school community.

Streamlined Admissions

A CRM system should capture inquiries from prospective families, efficiently manage applications with customizable forms and deadlines, and track communication seamlessly. It should eliminate data silos and ensure a smooth admissions process for both students and staff. Admissions officers can personalize communication with prospective families, answer questions promptly, and gain valuable insights into student demographics and interests to inform future recruitment efforts.

Enhanced Communication

When I'm working with schools, I often see communication gaps between departments, teachers, and families. A CRM centralizes contact information for students, parents, alumni, and staff, facilitating targeted communication through email, SMS, and personalized campaigns. Teachers can easily share updates with parents, counselors can track student progress and intervene early when needed, and administrators can send targeted announcements to specific groups within the school community. This streamlined communication fosters a more collaborative and supportive environment for everyone.

Improved Student Engagement

A CRM goes beyond simply storing contact information. It allows you to track student progress throughout their academic journey, identify at-risk students early on, and personalize communication with parents. Imagine being able to generate reports that highlight students who are falling behind in specific subjects or haven't participated in extracurricular activities lately.

This empowers teachers and administrators to provide targeted interventions, offer additional support, and personalize communication with parents to address any underlying concerns. Ultimately, a CRM helps create a more supportive learning environment and boosts student success.

Data-Driven Decision Making

From marketing campaigns to resource allocation, data is always king. A CRM provides valuable insights into student demographics, interests, past interactions, and even alumni-giving patterns. Use this data to make informed decisions that benefit your school community. For example, analyze enrollment trends to identify feeder schools or programs that require additional marketing efforts. Track alumni engagement to tailor outreach programs and cultivate a strong network of supporters for your school.

How Do You Prepare A School CRM For School Management?

Before diving into software options, consider these crucial steps that will lay the groundwork for successful CRM implementation:

1 - Define Your Needs

Every school has unique goals. Identify your school's specific priorities - are you looking to boost enrollment by 10% in the next year, improve communication with parents regarding student attendance, or personalize the college application process for graduating seniors? Clearly defining your goals will guide your CRM selection process and ensure you choose a system with the functionalities that best address your needs.

2 - Gather Input From Stakeholders

A CRM is most effective when it caters to the needs of everyone in your school community. Don't just rely on administrative decisions. Involve teachers, counselors, admissions officers, and even parents in the selection process. You can collect feedback through surveys, focus groups, or open forums. This ensures the CRM caters to their daily workflows and fosters buy-in from the entire school.

3 - Choose The Right CRM Software

With a plethora of CRM solutions available, research school-specific options that cater to the unique needs of educational institutions. Consider factors like scalability to accommodate future growth, integrations with existing systems like your student information system or learning management platform, ease of use for staff with varying technical skill sets, and of course, budget.

You shouldn’t be afraid to request demos from different CRM providers and ask in-depth questions about features, security protocols, and customer support options.

How To Train Your School’s Staff

Even the most powerful CRM system remains underutilized without proper staff training.  Here's how to ensure your team is equipped to leverage the CRM effectively:

Develop A Comprehensive Training Program

A carefully considered training program is an important part of the staff adoption process. This program could include a combination of:

Interactive Workshops

I would recommend delivering hands-on training sessions that introduce staff to the CRM's functionalities. Tailor these sessions to different user groups, such as administrators focusing on data management and reporting, and teachers focusing on communication tools and student progress tracking. Encourage active participation through role-playing exercises and case studies that simulate real-world scenarios.

User Guides & Tutorials

You should create easy-to-follow resources like video tutorials, cheat sheets, and step-by-step guides that staff can access for quick reference. These resources should be readily available within the CRM platform or on a shared internal drive.

Ongoing Support

Don't expect staff to become CRM experts overnight. You will need to offer ongoing support through dedicated staff members or the CRM provider's support team to address any questions or challenges that arise after initial training. This could include hosting Q&A sessions, providing a help desk function within the CRM, or offering webinars on specific features.

Championing CRM Adopting: My Checklist For School Leaders

As a school leader, your active involvement is vital for successful CRM implementation. Here's my checklist to guide you:

Be An Advocate

Communication is key. Clearly communicate the benefits of the CRM to staff and emphasize how it improves their daily workflow. Highlight features that address common pain points and showcase how the CRM can streamline communication, reduce administrative tasks, and ultimately free up time for them to focus on what matters most – student success.

Lead By Example

Actions speak louder than words. Actively use the CRM yourself and model the behaviors you expect from your staff. This demonstrates your commitment to the system and encourages others to follow suit.

Gather Feedback

Successful CRM implementation is an ongoing process. Regularly collect feedback from staff on the CRM's functionalities and identify areas for improvement. Conduct surveys, hold focus groups, or create anonymous feedback channels to gather honest insights. Use this feedback to refine training programs, adjust workflows within the CRM, and ensure the system continues to meet the evolving needs of your school community.

Creating CRM Dashboards For Your School

A well-designed dashboard is your window into the health of your school community. It provides real-time data and insights that empower you to make informed decisions. I like to customize dashboards to display key metrics that align with your school's specific goals. Here are some examples:

Enrollment Trends

Track applications, admissions, and enrollment rates across different grade levels and programs. Identify feeder schools or programs that require additional marketing efforts.

Student Engagement

Monitor student attendance, participation in extracurricular activities, and communication with teachers. Use this data to identify at-risk students early on and provide targeted interventions.

Communication Activity

Analyze the effectiveness of different communication channels like email, SMS, and social media. Track open rates, click-through rates, and parent engagement with school announcements.

By regularly monitoring these metrics and other relevant data points on your CRM dashboard, you can gain valuable insights to optimize your school's operations, improve communication strategies, and ultimately create a thriving learning environment for all.

School CRM Software: Getting Started

Now you're ready to explore school CRM software options. Here are some initial steps to guide you through the selection process:

Identify Your Budget

Determine how much your school can realistically allocate for a CRM system. CRM solutions come with varying price points depending on features, scalability, and the number of users. Consider long-term costs as well, including potential maintenance fees and additional user licenses as your school grows.

Research & Compare

Don't limit yourself to the first CRM you come across. Take some time to research different school-specific CRM solutions. Utilize online resources, industry publications, and educational technology blogs to compare features, pricing models, and user reviews.

Request A Free Trial

Many CRM providers offer free trials. Leverage this opportunity to test the software and ensure it aligns with your needs. Involve key stakeholders from different departments in the trial process to gather feedback on user experience and functionality. Don't hesitate to ask questions during the trial period and explore all the features the CRM has to offer.

By following these steps and leveraging the power of a CRM, you can transform your school's communication strategy, build stronger relationships with students and families, and ultimately create a thriving learning environment that fosters student success. Remember, a successful CRM implementation is an ongoing process. Here are some additional tips to ensure long-term success:

Maintain Data Quality

A CRM is only as good as the data it houses. Establish clear data entry protocols to ensure accurate and up-to-date information. Regularly review and clean your data to eliminate duplicates and inconsistencies. Empower staff to take ownership of data quality by highlighting the importance of accurate information for effective communication and reporting.

Promote User Adoption

Don't underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Recognize and celebrate staff members who actively use the CRM and showcase success stories of how the CRM has improved communication or streamlined processes. Create a culture of CRM usage by integrating it into regular workflows and staff meetings.

Embrace Continuous Improvement

The educational landscape is constantly evolving. Regularly evaluate your CRM's effectiveness and adapt it to meet your school's changing needs. Stay updated on new features and functionalities offered by your CRM provider and explore ways to leverage them to further enhance your school's operations.

Using StartingPoint As Your School CRM

With a range of in-built features designed to meet the needs of school leaders, StartingPoint has immense potential as a school CRM. The platform will enable teams to begin embracing workflow automation and use it to develop successful learning experiences. The best bit? It’s remarkably easy to hit the ground running with StartingPoint, without any technical expertise required. Try StartingPoint for free today.