3 Warning Signs for Universities using Salesforce

If you’re a university using Salesforce CRM for your enrollments and if you’re not using apps like TargetX or Enrollment RX, you might be tracking your prospective and registered students using the native Salesforce objects like contacts, accounts and leads. With my experience in implementing Salesforce for more than 25 universities, I have seen huge issues stem from this kind of customization which could impact you sooner or later. Here are 3 warning signs so this doesn’t become an even bigger issue later:

Storing all your student records in one account record.


Since Salesforce doesn’t handle Business to Consumer student records well, some universities use one account record and put all the student records as contacts under that one account. This would certainly help you in the short run but once you get to more than 10,000 contacts, there’s a major negative impact:

a. If you build summary reports for your student record which involve both accounts and contacts, Salesforce does not display all the student records on the screen. This means that you have to export in Excel and do any custom filtering to meet your criteria.

b. If you use data loader or any import wizard to mass update student records which are contacts, you’re going to experience time out issues or record lock error messages. This happens because Salesforce does a re-calculation on permissions on the parent record every time a child record is updated, so every contact record updated would impact the single account record and cause issues.


Use the Non profit starter pack, person accounts, or the latest HEDA package where you can migrate your current contact in one account to a one account one contact model using the 3 packages. This would ensure that you never get impacted in the future if you do any mass updates or inserts of the student records.

Using custom objects in the place of  leads.

Another classic problem I’ve seen universities use is using custom objects like prospects or prospective students instead of leads. The reason is to avoid the crazy conversion scenario of leads where you have to manually convert a lead to an account or contact. Or if you have an integration with your student information system like Banner, it’s easy to deal with custom objects rather than leads or do any automatic conversion. This will work in the interim as long as the prospective student record is imported into Salesforce. But it follows with negative consequences:

a. If you want to have your prospective students complete your Request For Information forms, then the custom object does not work with the out of the box web to lead feature. So you have to use tools like form builder or custom code to import to your custom object on your website. Now if you have multiple RFI forms with different programs of interest, this becomes a huge maintenance problem and takes too much time to integrate the RFI forms.

b. You would lose the ability to track your campaigns which is offered Out of the Box. If you’re sending mass emails using mass email tools like Marketing Cloud, Constant Contact, Mailchimp or any other marketing automation tool, they don’t integrate with your custom objects very well . This means you have to do more customization to fit the custom object model.


 Move leads and slowly phase out the custom object so that it does not impact the current integration and your RFI forms on your website.Using leads, all the marketing tools will be integrated and you can easily run campaign reports Out of the Box to track the ROI on your email campaigns quickly.

Not capturing touch points and all programs of interest of prospective Students.

Once you have the student record stored as a contact, most of the prospective students continue to use the forms on your website to show interest on various programs of interest. Students also continue to respond to the emails sent on future courses which could end up no where. Now the multiple touch points which your student has with your university in the form of RFI forms, web forms, and emails are poorly tracked in Salesforce.

If the student uses different emails on different forms, or if the student applies for different programs, universities tend to update the current contact record and lose the key programs of interest which the students were interested in as well as the different touch points which the student interacts with your university. This is a great loss of key data which could offer a gold mine of opportunity to cross or up-sell student records and interact with them on the  most preferred channel of that particular student.


a. If you’re using contact records for storing your student record, using a custom object called program of interest which has a master detail record with the contact, will help to capture all the programs of interest which the student was interested in through out their life cycle.

b. Using a custom object called touch point which would be a master detail relationship to the contact record will help to track all the touch points which the student has with your university. So every inquiry, email, and social media interaction would be a touch point record. This helps to identify the most profitable students, effective channels, and measure your campaign ROI effectively.

By evaluating these 3 critical warning signs, you could be saving significant time in the future on maintenance issues. Here are the 3 key takeaways:

  1. Use Non profit starter pack, person accounts, or HEDA architecture to migrate your current one account multiple student model to one account, one contact model.
  2. Use leads to capture prospective students and phase out your custom object.
  3. Capture all your progams of interest and touch points of your students and never overwrite the student information

Feel free to reach out to me at buyan@eigenx.com at any time. We have automated solutions to quickly migrate your current structure to the new model within weeks rather than manually updating records to fit the new models.

Buyan Thyagarajan
Sr. Salesforce Consultant
Chief Subject Matter Expert
Salesforce Architect