Articles

Why Your Alumni Software May Be Doomed to Fail

February 21, 2014

An alumni program without objectives embedded throughout it is like a building without foundations or a supporting structure: doomed to collapse.

Your alumni software is no exception to this rule. It more than anything else must be defined by your objectives, as it’s not only the gateway to your alumni program - it’s what captures and contains all of the data you will need to leverage in order to achieve your targets.

This means you need to know and prepare three things in advance:

  • What data you need to capture from your alumni
  • How you’ll extract/report on it
  • How you’ll capture it

What Data You Need - and How You’ll Report On It

These two are very closely interrelated. You’ll need a place to capture the data you need - but make sure you build in a way to report on that data as specifically as you need as well.

Reporting needs will usually go back to two things:

  • Usage statistics, to determine how your alumni are using the system, and
  • Segmenting and targeting your alumni for communications process.

The two go hand in hand, and should really be part of the same strategy. If you find that your alumni, or certain segments of them, are not using the system the way you want them to and therefore not taking the actions you want them to, target them as specifically as you desire to ramp up system usage.

Alternatively, if you discover that some of your alumni are using the alumni software in a way you hadn’t anticipated that benefits you and them both, leverage it in your strategy and promote it as it fits into your objectives.

Always keep in mind what it is you’re trying to achieve, whether that’s recruiting goals, brand awareness, new sales and/or partnerships or some combination thereof. Just some examples of specific data you might want to capture include:

  • Name changes (e.g., current last name vs. last name while at the organization that people knew they by)
  • Specific departmental information that will dramatically narrow the search
  • Specific company information to help achieve targeted business development objectives

Some examples of how you may want to report include:

  • Targeting alumni who are subscribed to your alumni magazine or other editorial subscriptions (and social sharing involved in it if one of your objectives is brand awareness)
  • Tracking messages sent between alumni to track usage of the system and networking between alumni
  • Targeting communications by region, industry, career level, registered or unregistered status, and/or how often specific content is accessed

How You’ll Capture Your Data

Once you’ve determined what data you need from your alumni and/or current employees, determine how you’re going to capture that data in your alumni software. Will you create specific fields for them to fill in? How will you direct users to that field and compel them to provide the information? Will filling in those fields be mandatory before moving on to the next step – whatever the “next step” may be?

All of this comes down to one overarching question: Have you created a path for alumni to follow and made this data capture an integral part of the process? Make the process of data capture part of a story they’re following in pursuit of an end goal. What that end goal and where that story is placed within the portal is up to you.

And as any marketer knows, be judicious in your capture of data. The general rule is only capture data you will use. Take it a step beyond this for your purposes – only require data that you and your alumni will both use. The alumni program is for the benefit of both of you. Don’t give your alumni reasons to disengage.

For our best practices for engaging your alumni, read our article "How to Engage Your Alumni and Win Their Business".


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