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18th July 2023

How the tech landscapes of higher education and housing & care are converging

James Stevens, Senior Martech Manager, explains Salesforce's role in aligning tech requirements of higher education and housing/care industries.

Higher Education and Housing & Care’s efforts underscore the importance of embracing digital transformation and the power of CRM customisation.

Higher Education (HE) and the Housing & Care sector do not traditionally have a lot of crossover, especially in the marketing and sales tech they use and how they use it. Of course, market-leading CRMs will be used in both spaces, but how they are used varies wildly. However, as these systems become more and more ingrained in our daily lives and commercial processes, adoption and complexity will naturally increase. As both sectors search for efficiencies, there are striking resemblances in how they are trying to achieve this.

Salesforce is well known for its customisability. As a system, it does work out of the box, but Salesforce operates very much on a ‘return on investment’ model when it comes to setup. The quality and efficiency of the system is a direct reflection of the effort and thoughtfulness invested during its configuration.

For example, in HE, Salesforce customisation allows universities to manage contact relationships with key data like open day events, applications, and accommodation. Likewise, in the Housing/Care sector, properties, maintenance and other business-critical details are managed in a similar fashion.

In Salesforce, a custom object is like a custom-made folder in a filing cabinet. While Salesforce comes with many standard ‘folders’ (standard objects) to keep track of common business data like contact details or sales information, sometimes businesses have unique data that doesn’t fit into these pre-existing categories. In these cases, they can create their own custom ‘folders’ (custom objects) to store and manage this unique data. This feature gives businesses the flexibility to tailor Salesforce to their specific needs.

This customisation has been instrumental in streamlining their sales and marketing processes, enabling these institutions to connect with their prospects at the right moment and nurture them through the marketing funnel efficiently. For example, Housing/Care companies, through custom objects for each property, can understand their sales pipeline across all their sites better and manage the sales process more effectively. Equally, universities, by leveraging Salesforce’s opportunity tracking and mapping lead data across, can measure the ROI on their application journeys.

However, the journey to customisation is not without challenges. Both sectors grapple with the fact that Salesforce and any potentially connected marketing automation systems like Pardot and HubSpot do not offer well-regarded, out-of-the-box solutions that fit their needs perfectly. Specifically, in HE, Salesforce’s custom education data schema, although designed for education, is not meeting their expectations, leading them to build their own custom schemas.

Think of a data schema as a blueprint for how information is organised and accessed in a database, much like how a floorplan lays out where to find the kitchen, bathroom, or bedrooms in a house, a data schema maps out where different types of information are stored and how they are related to each other. This helps computer systems quickly find and retrieve the specific data they need to perform tasks.

In addition to the schema issues, HE contends with a high attrition rate in technology-focused roles, exacerbated by salaries that fail to compete with those offered in traditional tech-centric industries. This, coupled with the expected challenges of digital transformation in a sizable organisation, only serves to widen the skills gap further.

Meanwhile, the Housing/Care sector, which caters to a less digitally-capable audience, has the task of capturing and processing data accurately, a struggle that has led many in the industry to lag in technical maturity.

Looking forward, we expect that Salesforce and related marketing automation platforms will evolve to better address these sectors’ needs. Salesforce will likely refine its education data schema, and marketing automation systems will create automation templates for more efficient student application journeys. For Housing/Care, it is less likely to have anything developed specifically for it as it is far closer to market norms in terms of commercial processes. Therefore, advancements made for other industries, or with the platform in general, will indirectly benefit it.

To summarise, the HE and Housing/Care sectors are leveraging Salesforce customisation to drive efficiencies in their marketing and sales processes. While the journey has been wrought with challenges, particularly around out-of-the-box solutions and tech staffing in HE and low drive for digital change in Housing/Care, these industries are progressively overcoming these hurdles. Their ongoing efforts and successes in these areas underscore the importance of embracing digital transformation and the power of CRM customisation.

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