For educational institutions, the need for efficient and effective data management has never been more critical. To streamline their processes and improve their operations, schools and universities are increasingly turning to the highly-powered business CRM systems previously reserved for corporations. However, the unique challenges and considerations of the education sector often require specialized solutions. HubGem, a Diamond HubSpot Solutions Partner specializing in implementing HubSpot software in the education and nonprofit sectors, has stepped in to fill this gap. HubGem helps clients set up HubSpot, teaches them to use the software and helps them streamline their processes.
"We offer assistance from beginning to end. HubSpot, as a service, often requires training because it can become quite a complex tool. We help set it up for their specific use case while teaching them how to use it,” HubGem marketing and CRM consultant Olly Kenyon told us in a recent interview.
Kenyon spoke with us about the role of CRM systems in education, the unique challenges faced by schools and universities, and how HubGem is helping them navigate these issues.
His insights provide a fascinating look into the intersection of technology and education, revealing how CRM systems like HubSpot can transform the way schools and universities manage their data and interact with their students. From managing the relationship between parents and children to integrating various systems for better data hygiene, HubGem's work is helping companies reshape their approach to data management.
CRM Adoption Challenges in the Education Sector
The education sector presents its own unique set of challenges when it comes to data management, Kenyon told us. Schools and universities often deal with large volumes of data including student records, parental records, and faculty information, and this data needs to be managed efficiently and securely.
Resistance to Change
One of the key challenges that HubGem encounters in the education sector is resistance to change. This resistance often stems from long-standing practices and a reluctance to move away from familiar systems. However, as Kenyon points out, embracing change can lead to significant improvements in data management.
"A lot of schools can be stuck in their old ways, so to speak, and reluctant to embrace new processes. But trusting the CRM, trusting the new processes, and really being open to trying out the new tools like Insycle as well, can lead to cleaner data and improved processes," he said
Financial constraints also pose a significant challenge in the education sector. Schools and universities often operate on tight budgets, which can limit their ability to invest in new technologies or data management tools. However, as Kenyon noted, using a CRM like HubSpot can help keep data tidy and organized, even on a limited budget.
Keeping up with technological advancements is another challenge faced by educational institutions. As new tools and technologies emerge, schools and universities need to adapt quickly to stay ahead. However, this can be a daunting task, especially for institutions that are already struggling with data management
"Embrace that change," Kenyon advised. "You'll find that your data's way cleaner and that feeds into all of your processes being better off."
Unique CRM Data Management Challenges for Universities and Schools
Schools, universities, and education companies face multiple unique data management challenges compared to typical corporations. Kenyon spoke about each of these.
Identifying Records for Parents and Children
One of the main challenges HubGem helps schools and universities overcome is managing the relationship between the parent contact records and their child’s record. This is especially relevant for primary and secondary schools and the districts that house them: elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
Schools that do not use a modern CRM system rarely are able to manage this issue, Kenyon said. A common solution for this problem would be to create a custom object aside from the Contacts object—like one titled “Parents”—to track parental contact information. But it’s not the only solution.
Kenyon described a unique solution that HubGem had implemented for a client, allowing them to use standard record types while still properly categorizing parent and child information in an approachable way. This solution involved storing parent data on a contact record and child data as an associated deal. Through HubSpot's object association, the client is able to keep these relationships visible and neat—and easily accessible to users.
Another common approach Olly detailed would be to use the contact object for parents, and keep child data on the deal record, especially in situations where the parent is the primary contact. This allows for adequate separation of the records, without the requirement of an enterprise account.
Lack of Integration With Legacy Systems
Another common challenge arises when schools use many different systems that aren't integrated, leading to data hygiene problems and security risks. Many schools struggle with old methods, like relying on spreadsheets, which isn't sustainable. HubSpot provides an all-in-one solution where everything is tidy and located in one place, which is great for reporting, marketing processes, and data management.
Specific Deduplication Challenges
Schools in particular have many issues with deduplication, Kenyon said. They collect data from students and parents for many events—registration for classes, events on the campus, community information, scholarship programs, and others. This means that data is flowing into their CRM from many different sources. Add onto that the industry’s reliance on legacy systems, and you can see how duplicate records can become a problem that quickly gets out of control.
Sensitive Data and Compliance Considerations
Sensitive school data, like fees and bursary or scholarship information, is another consideration. Schools that use legacy systems spend a lot of time moving data back and forth to make sure they have it in all the right places.
But with HubSpot permissions, HubGem can help its clients control who can see what. Different teams, like admissions and marketing, would need access to different things, but they don't necessarily need to see the wider picture. Using a CRM like HubSpot provides granular control.
"For those new to HubSpot, we encourage them to trust the CRM,” Kenyon said. “Many schools can be stuck in their old ways and reluctant to embrace new processes. However, trusting the CRM and being open to trying out new tools like Insycle can lead to cleaner data and improved processes."
The Impact of Data Quality: A Game Changer in Education
Data quality is not just a buzzword; it's a critical factor that can significantly impact an educational institution's operations, decision-making processes, and overall success.
"We try to emphasize the importance of data quality early on because there's no point in using HubSpot if they're just going to be doing the same thing they've done before just in another system," Kenyon said.
Clean Data Supports Reporting and Personalization
Schools can’t report accurately if they don’t have reliable data. Accurate data allows schools to generate precise reports, which are crucial for strategic planning and decision-making. Moreover, clean data enhances marketing efforts and email communications.
"The positives of having clean data are immense," Kenyon said. "If data is clean and tidy, the numbers that schools report on a monthly or annual basis are a lot more accurate. It also helps with marketing and email communications. With clean, tidy data in one place, you can take advantage of features in HubSpot emails, like smart content and personalization tokens."
On the other hand, poor data quality can lead to a host of problems. Disjointed and inaccurate data can make reporting a daunting task. Without real-time reporting, schools have to generate new reports every time, which is not only time-consuming but also prone to errors, Kenyon said.
Modern CRMs With Clean Data Help Protect Compliance
Compliance is a critical consideration for universities and schools at all levels. Being able to track and prove communications and data handling is often a part of a school’s compliance considerations, depending on where the school resides.
"Their communications might be more disjointed, and managing GDPR and permissions might be more challenging," Kenyon pointed out.
Schools that do not use a CRM like HubSpot might struggle with sending out communications effectively. But HubSpot’s marketing contacts and subscription types can help manage this.
Protect Schools Reputation
Clean data also prevents schools from making costly, but unavoidable errors in their communications with students, parents, and other institutions. Schools need to ensure they are only contacting individuals who have opted in for communications, Kenyon explained.
"There can be problems getting in touch with people that don't necessarily want to be contacted. If you've got an old database, it's hard to know who has and hasn't opted in for those communications," he warned.
The Growing Understanding of the Importance of Data Quality
When schools approach HubGem, data quality is often a top priority.
"Many schools and universities that come to us understand the importance of data quality, and that's probably one of the reasons why they've gotten in touch with us," Kenyon said.
HubGem emphasizes the importance of data hygiene and encourages schools to adopt clean practices for efficient data management.
The benefits of maintaining high data quality are manifold. Accurate and reliable data lead to better decision-making, improved operational efficiency, and increased customer satisfaction. But fostering that understanding among schools and universities and the stakeholders within those organizations is only half the battle.
"Part of our onboarding is to set up a data hygiene reporting dashboard where they can see records with missing details," Kenyon explained.
This proactive approach helps schools identify and rectify data issues promptly, ensuring their data remains clean and reliable. To ensure data quality, Kenyon recommends implementing data validation processes, regular data audits, and investing in data cleansing tools like Insycle.
The Role of Insycle in Data Management for Schools
Insycle is a complete data management solution for HubSpot and other popular CRMs. It plays a crucial role in HubGem's data management strategy.
"Almost every client has Insycle at some point because it solves another bit of a pain point,” Kenyon explained. “HubSpot can't inherently de-duplicate deals. It does have a managed duplicates feature for companies and contacts, but it's a manual thing that you have to check through. Insycle is way more bespoke."
The unique challenges that schools and universities face, such as managing relationships between students and parents, or departmental hierarchies within a college, can be addressed effectively with Insycle.
Allow Schools To Deduplicate in Advanced Ways
Kenyon shared a common scenario where a parent might fill out an inquiry form, creating a contact record and a deal record. Then the same parent might sign up to an event or fill out a registration form, and that will create another deal record.
"In HubSpot, there's no direct way for those to de-duplicate upon submission. Using Insycle, we can automate that," he said.
With Insycle, you've got the freedom to pick any field in HubSpot for duplicate matching, and you can choose whether you want an exact match or just a close one. Plus, if there are certain parts of the matching records you want to overlook, no problem! It's all about flexibility here.
Insycle also offers advanced data retention features, so that you can always ensure that you keep your most important data during a merge, down to the field level.
Manage Record Associations and Hierarchies
With Insycle, you can add associations in bulk, using any field as a potential matching field. For example, in the screenshot below, we are matching contacts to companies using the contact’s email domain, and the company’s domain name. You can also manage labels in bulk, and parse data in interesting ways to identify more missing associations in HubSpot CRM.
Help Schools Automate Data Cleaning Processes
Insycle's capabilities extend beyond deduplication. Kenyon shared an example of a training provider client who hosted online webinars and used Insycle’s Bulk Operations module to associate contacts with tickets.
Without an automate solution, tickets can be associated to contacts, but those associations must be set manually, one by one. With Insycle, Olly and HubGem were able to associate tickets to contacts in bulk, and implement automation that allowed for these associations to happen automatically as soon as the ticket is created.
"Without that automation, they wouldn't have been able to manage the process effectively," Olly adds.
Clean Data and Smooth Operations For Schools
During the interview, Kenyon was clear that embracing new technologies and methodologies can significantly improve efficiency and data management. The combination of HubGem and Insycle can help education sector entities address their unique challenges, such as managing relationships between students and parents.
The impact of HubGem and Insycle on data management cannot be overstated, allowing schools to adopt and maximize the value of HubSpot, while taking care of their most pressing data issues, despite complex relationships. Want to learn more about how Insycle can help improve your HubSpot data management and operations?