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Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a great way for higher education institutions to better communicate and engage with students through the admissions process. In addition to automating communications like email and SMS texts, Journey Builder allows you to map your entire business process within Marketing Cloud to incorporate things like wait steps and decision splits. The goal is to create a dynamic and personalized journey that delivers the right message to the right person at the right time.

Admissions Journeys in Journey Builder

There’s an art to translating your institution's unique admissions process into specific steps and journeys in Journey Builder. For a process as complicated as admissions you’re likely going to create several distinct journeys.

You might have a journey that starts with a prospect’s initial expression of interest in the school and ends when an application is started or a deadline passes. You might have another journey for the application process. And you might have separate journeys for each potential admission decision (offer, waitlist, denial, etc.)

Complications in the Admissions Journey

Journeys can get pretty complex, especially when they are interconnected in some way. For example, you may send similar messages to prospective students in parallel paths within a journey or across journeys. 

We recently helped a higher education client manage the complexity associated with using Journey Builder in their admissions process. They struggled with building journeys around offers of admission and students accepting those offers. Their goal was to have separate, parallel journeys for students offered admission and students who have accepted their offer.

The challenge is that a prospective student may formally accept an offer at any step in the process and they wanted a seamless experience for their students. They created separate journeys for “Admits” and “Accepts” that looked something like the diagram below:

Journey Hopping in Admissions

From the perspective of Journey Builder, they wanted a student to be able to exit the Admits journey at any step (after Activity 3 in the diagram above) and enter the Accepts journey at the “next” step (Activity 4 in the diagram above.)  In order to accomplish this, we utilized a concept called journey hopping.

What Is Journey Hopping?

Journey hopping refers to the process of a contact exiting one journey and entering another somewhere after step 1. It’s a great option if you’re creating journeys with decision points that lead to parallel or similar branches. Journey hopping lets you break up complex journeys and still offer a seamless experience for students with the right message at the right time.

Enabling the "Hop" - Think of a Subway System

Journey hopping is similar to how subway systems work. Subways are made up of multiple lines connected at transfer stations.

Subway Map

Riders can switch lines to connect from their origin to their destination via the route that makes the most sense for them. However, a rider can’t step from one train directly to another. Instead, riders use a transfer station to disembark from one train and then board a different train to their final destination.

The same concept applies in Journey Builder. In order to “hop” from one journey to another, you need to remove a contact from one journey and utilize some sort of staging mechanism to allow them to enter a different journey in the correct step, especially if it’s possible to enter the journey somewhere other than step 1.

Journey Hopping with Staging

A staging mechanism allows a contact to exit one journey and enter a different journey at the correct step. 

Selecting Your Staging Mechanism

When it comes to implementing a staging mechanism, there are three options to choose from based on your data architecture and needs. 

Staging options for Journey Hopping

We usually recommend using campaigns via the Campaign Member Activity step in Journey Builder. Campaigns are easy to set up and configure in Salesforce and are extremely flexible. You can name the campaigns and member status options to match your journey logic.

Unlike the other two options, Campaign Membership doesn’t require any changes or updates to core Salesforce data objects. Additionally, campaign membership provides a natural way for contacts to enter subsequent journeys and makes reporting easier in the CRM.

Putting The Pieces Together

The diagram below illustrates how a journey with journey hopping works. If someone exits the Admits journey, they’re added to the ADMITS_EXIT campaign with a status based on where they exited. The Accepts journey then checks for members of the ADMITS_EXIT campaign and determines their appropriate entry point based on their campaign member status.

Journey Hopping Complete

Benefits of Journey Hopping

The most obvious benefit of journey hopping is that it allows you to effectively organize, track and dynamically structure journeys rather than being limited by predefined assumptions of how and when people are expected to enter or exit a journey. 

In this specific case, our client was able to map 129 unique communication points into 10 distinct, interconnected journeys, several of which utilized this journey hopping concept. Each journey represented a distinct part of the admissions process they wanted to manage and measure separately. Journey hopping allowed them to do this.

To learn more about journeys, see - 5 Steps to Getting Started with Journey Builder.

If you have questions about automating your institution’s admissions process or want to get some help with Journey Builder and journey hopping, contact KELL Partners. We've helped over 1,000 clients get started with or expand their use of Salesforce. For more information about how we can help your marketing or admissions team, contact us today.