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Cornell Tech Case Study

Cornell Tech required a genuine admissions CRM with marketing automation. So the new graduate school of Cornell University turned to Element451.

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In his first week as Senior Director of Enrollment and Admissions at Cornell Tech in New York City, Ray Lutzky dug into the software he had inherited to recruit students like never before in his career.

What he found were two products that on their own may have worked well, but in combination were never going to give Lutzky what his team needed to nurture leads into enrolled students.

Cornell Tech required a genuine admissions CRM with marketing automation. So the new graduate school of Cornell University turned to Element451.

Our work together has focused on several key priorities:

  • Implementing an automated communications plan that delivers personalized content to prospects and admitted students
  • Integrating Salesforce (the system Cornell Tech uses for application data management) with Element451
  • Empowering Lutzky and his team with analytics about prospects and communication performance
“It’s important to work with a partner like Element451 that knows our business of higher ed,” explains Lutzky. “They get our use cases. We don’t have to explain over and over what we’re trying to do.”

Automating Student Search with Workflows

One of the most attractive aspects of marketing automation is efficiency. As Lutzky notes, “It takes the same number of staff to manage 10 leads as it does 10,000.”

That’s all made possible by workflows, which are like recipes that tell Element451 how to automate actions.

To automate Cornell Tech’s student search emails, we started by working with our sister company, Spark451, to devise a communications plan. The goal was to engage leads by incrementally laying out the case for why they should apply.

The automation works like this: people enter the Element451 system and are “enrolled” in a workflow with steps that match the communication plan. At various points they receive an email that’s personalized to characteristics about them, for example, their undergraduate field of study.

A screenshot of a Cornell Tech Email campaign.

When Cornell Tech prospects turn into applicants and then into admitted students, they enter another workflow designed to help them make their final choice for a graduate school.

Personas: A Framework for Personalized Prospect Engagement

An automated marketing approach differs from traditional higher-ed marketing because content is crafted for ultimate relevance to the recipient. To achieve that for Cornell Tech, the communication plan we devised with Spark451 included personas.

Personas help envision the motivations, work experience, educational background, and other factors that influence a person’s needs and wants. They help writers “know your audience” and inform the segments that messages are sent to.

We created personas for general groups of prospective Cornell Tech students, such as the career changer and the recent college graduate.

Managing Personalized Content Creation

If you imagine all the graduate programs a school like Cornell Tech has and multiply that by three or four personas and then think about the number of emails in a full student search plan, it becomes clear that a manual content creation approach isn’t feasible.

Scaling a personalized communication plan is what marketing automation was made for. The writing team first identified aspects of a message that would change depending on the message topic (usually an academic program), the persona, and the point the recipient was in the communication plan or funnel. Components that varied from one message to another included images, intro sentences, and call-to-action buttons. Behind the scenes, Element451 mixed and matched the message components automatically using a feature called dynamic content.

Enhancing Recruiting Event Data

Any lead nurturing effort for higher-ed admissions requires strong visiting and event programming that informs and attracts students.

Like many schools, Cornell Tech was using an off-the-shelf product to manage its events. We helped Cornell Tech transition to Element451’s event management module.

Because things like sign-up forms are customizable in Element451, Cornell Tech was able to fill in the information gap it previously had about things like which academic program an attendee is interested in.

Engagement data also gives Cornell Tech important feedback. “We look week by week and make course corrections. Writing event descriptions differently, for example,” Lutzky explains.

Mission-critical Analytics for a New Graduate School

Before adopting Element451, Cornell Tech lacked a reliable tool for tracking things like where leads came from and how they were progressing through the funnel.

For Lutzky, who aimed to establish the Cornell Tech brand and instil confidence with internal stakeholders, that was a significant pain point.

Now, with Element451, that information is at Lutzky’s fingertips. “Visibility into our data gives us confidence that we’re focused on the right priorities,” he says.

What We’ve Accomplished with Cornell Tech

We can look to the changes in operations and reporting to understand how our work together has positively impacted Cornell Tech.

Delivering on the promising of marketing automation is a big win. As Lutzky notes: “Marketing automation removes the anxiety of wondering if everyone in the funnel is being communicated with, especially those you spent resources acquiring.”

The day-to-day experience of using Element451 has also gone a long way to make his team more effective.

“It’s helpful that the interface, the steps, they’re all built around the use cases of higher ed,” says Lutzky. Also, “the tremendous support Element451 offers is a key differentiator.”


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