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9 Things to Consider When Choosing a School CRM
Connor Gleason

Finding the right CRM for your school requires careful consideration. Choosing the perfect platform isn't just about finding a better way to manage data; it's also about creating and nurturing meaningful connections within your school community.  

While a CRM platform typically stands for "Customer Relationship Management," at Finalsite, we've taken a unique approach and designed a Community Relationship Management platform specifically for schools.

This first-of-its-kind, comprehensive suite includes everything from websites and communications to mobile apps, enrollment management, and marketing services— everything to empower schools to manage their interactions with students, families, and staff more effectively.

So, when it comes to selecting a CRM for K-12 education, it's not simply about keeping track of data but also a chance to improve communications to grow and sustain your community's relationships.

Selecting a full suite for your school is an investment that requires weighing various choices, such as an intuitive user experience, personalization features, seamless integration, and reporting capabilities.

But there’s even more than that to cover, so we’ve broken down the essentials of what to look for when choosing the best CRM for your school.

1. Personalized Communications

Families want and expect a personalized experience, so personalized communication is not just a nicety; it's a necessity. In fact, 71% of families expect personalization. Look into whether the CRM software your school is considering can auto-personalize messages based on form submission data and tap into their names, interests, or grade and division level.

Some school software may require manual input for personalization for emails and mass notifications, which could be time-consuming and prone to errors, but the ability to create profiles and accounts when a family inquires or submits a form while downloading marketing materials is important.

inquiry form screenshot

Take a look at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School's inquiry form- they're collecting helpful information to send personalized and relevant communications to interested families.

2. Customization Features

A one-size-fits-all approach seldom works with school CRM systems, as every school has unique needs. The ability to tailor the system, from your email templates, mobile app layouts, and candidate scoring criteria to the aesthetics of the portals, can enhance the experience for families.

Carefully assess which solutions offer these features and to what extent they allow customization, especially with the features of a tuition and billing system in terms of payment plans and scheduling. Remember, a good CRM system adapts to your needs, not the other way around.
 

Keep Reading: CRM Software for K-12 Education: How to Make the Right Choice

3. The User Experience for Families and Staff

Consider the range of technical competencies within your teams and your families. A well-designed school CRM is intuitive, mobile-friendly, easy to use, and accessible even to staff with minimal tech skills. If a system is too complicated for users, it'll be underused.

EMS Tour

4. Integration with Existing Tools

A CRM solution should integrate with your existing software tools, such as school information systems, payment software, and especially your school’s web platform or content management system (CMS). This is crucial to avoid data silos and ensure all relevant information is accessible from a central location. Easy integrations streamline processes and improve efficiency for families and staff.

Finalsite Product Flywheel

5. Reporting Capabilities

The ability to generate insightful reports is another crucial aspect. Even if you're not a data wizard, pulling detailed admission and enrollment reports assists in tracking progress and identifying trends. Furthermore, making the data available for your senior leadership, admissions committee, and administrators gives you and your team the ability to review admission and enrollment trends and make informed decisions that can make all the difference in your enrollment strategy.

Look for:

  • User-friendly dashboards with the most up-to-date data in real-time
  • The ability to track year-over-year enrollment data
  • Reporting at the diocesan level

The admissions staff at Wayland Academy wanted software that could allow their team to focus on prospective students and families and less on the “technology triage.” With regular meetings with the finance committee, the trustees, and other members of Wayland’s administration, the school understood the importance of admissions having better tools and actionable insights.

a graduate giving a hug

With real-time reporting, Wayland’s admissions team now relies less on instincts and more on data and updated enrollment stats to support its marketing and admissions strategies. Inquiries are up 245%, and applications have grown 200% since switching to Finalsite's enrollment management system.

Learn more about Wayland Academy's success

6. Support for Implementation and Training

CRM implementation requires a structured approach and a supportive provider who offers a comprehensive training component to help you maximize your investment. This ensures your team has the knowledge and confidence to get you up and running with the ability to use the system effectively from day one.

British School Manila Testimonials

As British School Manila prepared its website for launch, support was available every step of the way.  "I found Composer to be by far the easiest CMS I have ever worked with," said Scott Justice, the school's marketing, events, and admissions senior manager. "I've been constantly impressed by Finalsite's effort to improve and advance the services and functions it offers schools and the comprehensive range of training and development it offers the teams that use its products."

"Finalsite provided training in the form of self-study modules, recordings, and online sessions that our whole team could attend, and the deployment team was great at answering our queries or helping us figure out how to achieve what we sought."

7. Customer Support

Review the quality of customer support offered by the provider. When assessing this, consider the accessibility, responsiveness, and potential additional fees for support requests. Remember, good customer service solves issues when they arise, but it's also about providing assistance to prevent minor setbacks from escalating into major hurdles.

8. Positive Reviews and Case Studies

Case studies and reviews offer invaluable insights into a system's competence and reliability. Seek these stories out, and pay particular attention to reviews from other schools with similar needs and challenges to yours. Positive feedback from a similar school can provide reassurance about a provider's ability to understand and cater to your school's specific needs and how it's supported the community's relationship with the school. 

“I'm a relationship-builder, not a tech person," said Christine Pratt, director of admissions at The Joy School. Now that the office leverages the integration of its EMS with the school's CMS, the schools can prioritize what really matters—supporting students and families. "With Finalsite Enrollment, I can do everything myself," she added. "It's super user-friendly, and I don't have to involve IT or a database administrator."

9. The Option to Demo the Software

Before making any commitments, it's imperative to see the software yourself. Many CRM providers offer self-guided tours or demonstrations of their products. Take advantage of this opportunity to test the software's functionality and ease of use. Engage your team in this process; ask them to try the demo as well and gather their feedback.

Evaluate the software's ability to handle scenarios that your school encounters regularly, like collecting data for reports. This hands-on experience will give you insights into how the CRM fits into your school's workflow or how it can start to shape a new experience for your team and prospective families.

Key Takeaway

Remember, the goal is to create an experience that not only meets your current needs but also has the flexibility and ability to grow with your school. Ultimately, the CRM should enhance your school’s processes, improve communication with families, and contribute to your enrollment success.

Finalsite Enrollment Tour

Connor Gleason Headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.


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