As the world moves from a product-centric economy to a customer-centric economy, marketers must move in tandem to ensure the customer experience is always at the heart of their efforts. Tim Gilbert, Chief Marketing Officer of Campus Management, a provider of enterprise software for the higher education industry, addressed this issue during a session at today’s Revenue-Driven Marketing Summit
held by Aberdeen Group in Boston, MA.

Appropriate for a presentation involving college, Gilbert took the stage to the strains of hard rock superstars AC/DC and began his explanation of customer-centric marketing by using Apple as an example. “Apple used to be a product category for graphic designers in the art department,” he said. “Now I don’t know an executive who doesn’t check their iPhone regularly.”

Gilbert said Apple made this marketing breakthrough with an iterative process that kept the needs of customers at its core, developing services such as iTunes as well as devices such as the iPhone to provide a complete branded experience.

Marketing in the Age of Self-Advocacy

In the customer-centric economy, Gilbert said the entire experience from seller to buyer has changed. “There must be a meaningful interaction,” he advised. “We’re in an age of self-advocacy. Complaints go on Facebook. And our customers must compel college students. It’s a strange relationship where the customer pays a lot of money, gets judged every term, and incurs a lot of debt when they’re done. Colleges are having trouble maintaining that relationship.” (also read: Customer Experience: Serving the Customer, Building the Brand)

To help higher education clients place their customers (students and parents who often foot part or all of the bill), Gilbert said Campus Management helps them create a single, unified view of a student across all channels of interaction. In addition, since rejecting applicants is not good for the school’s brand (although necessary), Gilbert said Campus Management software helps colleges locate, attract and maintain relationships with the “right” students who possess the “right” qualifications, such as SAT scores in a specific range.

In a specific example of how colleges can put the customer at the center of their marketing efforts, Gilbert said the University of Ottawa collects testimonials from current students in the local area of a prospective student and compiles them in a personalized e-book.

CRM Case Study: Ball State University

Gilbert concluded his remarks by reviewing the CRM objectives of Campus Management client Ball State University in Indiana, perhaps best known as the alma mater of late night talk show host David Letterman:

  • Enhance recruitment/admissions efficiency by X, Y and Z within 12 months.
  • Improve student experience by A,B,C.
  • Train and empower non-IT users to do segmenting, prospecting and targeting of prospective students via automated and integrated marketing communications programs.

“Job number one is buy-in from C-level executives,” stated Gilbert. “Dream big, then write it, When you budget it, get real. Know the risks and prepare for the ‘domino effect.’ Use small steps rather than a ‘Big Bang’ approach. Set milestones and celebrate success. And always be transparent, whether good, bad or ugly."