The University of Alabama at Birmingham: Transforming Student Journeys Through Salesforce : Blake Becker

The University of Alabama at Birmingham: Transforming Student Journeys Through Salesforce
by: Blake Becker
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The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally-renowned, public doctoral research university and academic health center dedicated to transforming the student experience.  Since 1969, UAB has utilized its union of a university extension center and pioneering academic medical center to save lives, solve problems, expand knowledge, and open doors.   

Heading into the 2020 – 2021 academic year, UAB partnered with Cloud for Good in search of a better way to manage their communications, empower recruiting and admissions, and establish a centralized environment for management and engagement.  Now, after more than a year with their new technology, UAB’s Cloud for Good-implemented solutions are transforming student journeys and gaining industry-wide recognition for their innovation. 

Improving Internal & External Communications with Marketing Cloud

The university’s Salesforce success has been made possible through a migration from their legacy TargetX CRM into a customized Education Data Architecture (EDA) environment that was both integrated with Marketing Cloud and compatible with’s new Admissions Connect tool.  This migration couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Director of Digital Strategy Evan Thrailkill: “Marketing Cloud remedied internal communication challenges and replaced an email system that had become basically unusable.” 

UAB is now one of the first higher education Salesforce clients to utilize Marketing Cloud for internal communications, not just for advancement or recruitment and admissions purposes.  This Marketing Cloud integration allows the university’s many individual departments and schools of study to reach their faculty, staff, and students through targeted, relevant communications.  Over 350 internal UAB users currently utilize the solution for internal email communications, such as mass institutional emails and weekly newsletters. 

Communications can even sync with Human Resources data to better match employees with the most pertinent information relevant to their unique school affiliations and interests.  “The end goal is getting the right content in front of the right people at the right time so that they are more likely to open, click, and become informed,” said Thrailkill. 

On the external side of university communications, dynamic content and SMS functionality in Marketing Cloud is helping admissions reach students more effectively.  Thrailkill elaborates, stating, “We see with students that text messaging is how they want to receive communications, especially since COVID.  We’ve been sending short surveys and checklists to help students plan for upcoming semesters, send reminders to register for classes, etc.  We’ve seen really great response rates from these comms.”  

High-impact communication, both internally and externally, benefits UAB as a whole through a system that delivers on-brand messaging that is more intuitive and templated than anything possible within their previous system.  Internal staff saves valuable time that would have been spent managing lists while students receive in-time messaging to keep them safe, informed, and prepared to further their academic aspirations. 

Accelerating Recruitment & Admissions Efforts

With a foundational and scalable EDA Salesforce org in place, optimized and enhanced through Marketing Cloud, the next phase of UAB’s Salesforce roadmap led them to recruitment and admissions.  Graduate, Undergraduate, and Honors departments all utilize Marketing Cloud for recruitment and admissions purposes, partnering with individual marketing and recruitment teams within each school or college to help achieve their respective goals.  The results have been clear, according to Thrailkill: “Recruitment and admissions is definitely where we shine in the Marketing Cloud world.”   

Thrailkill’s confidence is the result of a simplified CRM administration made possible through an improved data model and experience for end-users, as well as empowered efforts through Cloud for Good’s Recruitment and Admissions Accelerator.  All programs have been enhanced and streamlined by the use of an online application portal built on Salesforce Experience Cloud that includes clear application processes, post-admission steps, and orientation registration directly in the portal. 

Integration with data from platforms like Visit Days, College Board Search, and ACT Search allows Marketing Cloud to help students progress through their individual journeys and help promote applying to the university.  Similar to abandoned cart-type emails, Marketing Cloud will send automatic emails and text messages to students that are individualized based on what each application is missing. 

All student applications are stored in Salesforce and displayed through the online application portal providing indicators on what’s been completed and what’s still pending.  Once an application and all supporting materials have been submitted, Marketing Cloud sends out dynamic messages to inform students on the next steps in the admissions process to keep them engaged. 

The Digital 360 Advantage

Digital 360 focuses on the complete integration of Salesforce’s top-rated cloud-based services: Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Experience Cloud.  UAB takes a Digital 360 approach in their recruiting and admissions efforts through the aforementioned Marketing Cloud use cases, as well as an online application via Experience Cloud coupled with Live Chat functionality.  On Experience Cloud, the previous system’s challenges of slow loading, cumbersome maintenance, and disjointed management have been made a thing of the past. 

“Cloud for Good has really built our system to be more flexible and easier to configure,” explained Thrailkill.  Taking a Digital 360 approach has helped Cloud for Good connect UAB’s data in one location and establish clear success metrics to ensure continued growth based on clear data. 

In closing, Thrailkill reflected on the partnership and technology applications that led to UAB being widely recognized as a high-impact innovator within the higher education space: “The Cloud for Good family has welcomed The University of Alabama at Birmingham with open arms since partnering up last year.  The entire Cloud for Good team has been fantastic to work with.  All team members are true experts in their field and have been extremely patient and helpful in implementation for Recruitment & Admissions on the Salesforce Platform.” 

Reach out to Cloud for Good to learn more about how Digital 360 can help your institution create more value, better experiences, and operate more effectively through technology. 

Written by Blake Becker

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August 05, 2021 at 07:56PM
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