So you're a college or university marketer who hasn't quite shed the shackles of the spreadsheet or is using an entry-level email platform to track user information... Have you considered a customer-relationship management (CRM) tool? Sure, they seem to be most often used by retailers, rather than institutions of higher education, but you'd be surprised how much value a college or university could get out of these very robust tools.

Here are just a few examples of how a higher ed marketer could make the most of a CRM.

Custom Messaging

When it comes to CRMs, your potential student recruits aren't that far off from a retail consumer in terms of how you approach them. They want to be catered to with customized messaging just like your average consumer would—which means having the staffing to personalize messaging in your emails, social posts and other forms of communication with potential "customers." This is where a CRM can be a huge help—automation. Pre-crafting messaging for a variety of different core audiences can go a long way toward increasing conversions—whether it's messaging specific to students who have shown interest in the arts or students who are high school sophomores or students who have already had their first campus visit and tour. According to a study from Aberdeen Research, personalized electronic communication improves click-throughs by as much as 14 percent.

Built-In Reminders

When it comes to application and enrollment processes, deadlines can become a significant burden to overcome for college admissions and marketing teams. With a CRM, though, your reps can track the progress of recruiting a given student through the sales tool, and you can subsequently queue up reminder messages as particular deadlines approach, whether it's housing apps, FAFSA submissions or class registration.

Real-Time Reporting

A university has a lot of moving parts. So when it comes to proving ROI and performance to administration, it can be difficult to put into measurable and reliable figures where a recruiting season is tracking. Where a CRM can assist in this process is offering real-time updates on demand—those with access can see how numbers are looking up to the minute, when the system is used properly and updated regularly by team members. Not only that, but stakeholders can also filter the data by demographics—how are reps faring in a particular target state or how many students have shown interest in the sciences? These are data points that can come in handy campus-wide when it comes to planning for a coming school year.

Web Optimization

So how might a CRM improve the performance of your university website? For starters, a CRM can use IPs to acknowledge a particular user once he or she has voluntarily identified him or herself. Many robust CRMs are able to functionally outline the website tendencies of individual users—which pages do they visit the most often, which CTAs do they most commonly click on and what are the likeliest pages on which a potential student is likeliest to convert? These are highly valuable pieces of information that can help you dictate which portions of your web presence into which you should invest more time, effort and budget. This could include data as seemingly simple as your page load speed—iFactory Digital found that a simple one-second delay in a page load can reduce potential conversions as much as seven percent.

Higher Education Freshman Insights Infographic Download