Last March, UB launched Marketing Cloud, a mass digital communications platform, with a pilot group representing a variety of the university’s communication and marketing needs.
Now, eight months in, the pilot is already proving to be a success.
“More than 60 million emails are sent from buffalo.edu email addresses each year,” John Della Contrada, vice president for university communications, explains. “Marketing Cloud provides a new model for university-wide digital communications — elevating the value of UB communications to its constituents through personalized, dynamic content and targeted audience segmentation.”
Adoption of Marketing Cloud is part of UB’s multi-phase journey to implement a new enterprise constituent relationship management (eCRM) platform. Powered by Salesforce, an enterprise solution used by many prominent peer institutions, the eCRM will integrate updated constituent data across the university as the foundation for more effective and efficient personalized interactions and digital communication.
The Marketing Cloud pilot supports the university’s enterprise-wide CRM objectives:
- Strengthen relationships with students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and key stakeholders through branded and personalized digital messaging and experiences in support of the university’s pursuit of its Top 25 Ambition.
- Realize operational efficiencies to support student success, increase constituent engagement and improve university-wide coordination in digital communication.
- Adoption of a single, accurate and accessible source of demographic data for all constituent groups and develop a governance process for the use of data and protection of privacy.
“The effort is also focused on reducing the volume and redundancy of digital communications sent to key stakeholders, particularly to students,” Della Contrada says. “Achieving our objectives will require the collaboration of the entire university, and we’ve developed governance principles to support cross-unit collaboration in terms of message coordination and calendaring, data sharing and use of best practices in content creation.”
The Marketing Cloud pilot includes representatives from the Office of the President, University Advancement, Office of the Provost/Faculty Affairs, UB Information Technology, College of Arts and Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Student Life and University Communications.
Through the summer, pilot users worked closely with Salesforce partners to build the platform. Initial training was completed, and since August, the units have been sending newsletters, event invitations, emergency messages and other communications that support student success and retention services with support from University Communications and Enterprise Application Services.
“One wide-reaching example has been the State of the University invitation from the President’s Office, which was sent to the entire UB community,” says Jessica Kane, digital communications product manager and Marketing Cloud Implementation Committee co-lead. “We also saw great success with Advancement’s Homecoming and Family Weekend communications. Through targeted, concise messaging, they met their goal for an alumni giveaway within the first few hours.”
Pilot units have also begun optimizing their communications using the platform’s A/B testing, personalization, audience-targeting and journey automations.
“Marketing Cloud is tracking data in real time and providing students with the version of the journey we designed specifically for them,” Kane says. “It also allows us to add personalization that we would not have the capacity to do manually.”
The pilot period has also presented opportunities for collaboration across units.
“Communications from different departments have been coordinated to create a seamless experience for students, and we’ve discovered opportunities to grow the potential of each initiative in partnership,” Kane says. “We’re reviewing the key performance indicators on each email send and using that data to evolve our strategies.”
In this phase, the implementation committee is developing systems and tools, standardizing operations, empowering users through training and planning for future resource needs. They’re also beginning to implement curated constituent groups, which will allow for more precise targeting based on roles — such as academic chairs, unit diversity officers, senior communicators and community leaders.
The committee aims to expand the user base beyond the current pilot groups in fall 2024.
Two additional components of the eCRM initiative that support UB’s digital communication goals are currently in development. An event-management component will serve as a university-wide platform that easily allows constituents to register for events and provides powerful reports for event planners and engagement officers. An alumni and donor constituent management tool will foster purposeful affinity through a single source of demographic data that combines donor recognition, gift processing, campaign management and automated workflows.
“We need to collaborate to modernize our policies and maintain consistency in our institutional communications,” Della Contrada says. “The early successes of our pilot prove that we’re on the right track coordinating those efforts.”