McNally Smith Fine Tunes its Messaging with Enhanced Marketing Automation

The music college bolsters its email campaigns with data intelligence, sees a 23% increase in lead flows.

Generic messaging is no longer enough to engage prospective customers, even for a music college. McNally Smith is a for-profit music college that offers degrees in performance, composition, music production, audio engineering, and more.

Given that many students begin researching colleges at least two years before graduating high school, McNally Smith needed to stay at the forefront of prospective students' minds. It was therefore critical that the college improve its approach to engaging and recruiting new students.

"We had a basic follow-up email that was sent to students who asked for more information through our website, but it became clear that [the email] wasn't adequate for the kind of engagement we wanted, explains John Krogh, vice president of marketing at McNally Smith. "We also didn't have any visibility into the online behavior of our prospective students.

In 2013, the college selected marketing automation provider Act-On to help it bolster its communication efforts. Email and its website are among the school's largest channels for driving leads and connecting with prospective students. Therefore, McNally Smith focused on enhancing these channels by gathering intelligence about its online visitors.

For instance, in addition to allowing prospective students to check off their areas of their interested areas of study in an online form, a lead scoring system also keeps track of the content students download and the pages they click on to allow the school to personalize its messages with more relevant information.

"A lead scoring system helps us better focus our attention and efforts because we now have the benefit of finding the students who seem most interested in our programs based on their activity on our website," Krogh says. Prospective students are segmented based on several criteria such as whether they are eligible to enroll in the college this year; if they're a resident of Minnesota, as well as subsets of the programs in which they show interest.

The school doesn't have a traditional CRM system, so instead it stores the majority of its customer data on the marketing automation platform, which Krogh says helps the marketing team streamline customer journeys and run multiple automated programs.

Within two weeks, the marketing automation platform was up and running.The goal of the first email campaign that McNally Smith created with the platform was to drive leads and awareness of an upcoming open house. For prospective students who shared their email addresses with the school, the marketing team created a series of targeted emails based on their website activities and interests to encourage them to visit the school. These efforts contributed to a 23 percent year-over-year increase in lead flow.

The platform's analytics and reporting capabilities have also given the school better insights into the results of its ad spend. After discovering that it wasn't receiving a high return on investment in direct mail, radio, and TV advertising, the school reallocated more than $60,000 in broadcast advertising towards other initiatives, such as online advertising.

The school's next step is to continue enhancing its nurturing programs and optimizing its email campaigns with more content and additional segmentation, Krogh says. "My advice for other marketers looking into marketing automation is remember that data integrity is huge," he says. "Work with your IT department to make sure you have clean email lists. Also, start simple. Don't overcomplicate your lead nurturing programs. Start with simple conditions, monitor them, and add more as you get comfortable."