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Oxford Saïd Business School

Saïd Business School makes the grade with personalised student experiences, more data and better insights
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Saïd Business School makes the grade with personalised student experiences, more data and better insights

Business schools operate in a fiercely competitive sector. From bespoke executive training for large organisations to MBA degrees for future high-flyers, they provide education that demands a significant investment of time and money from participants. And that means current and prospective students have high expectations that need to be met from the outset.

Saïd Business School is the business school of the University of Oxford, providing a center of learning for undergraduate and graduate students in business, management and finance.

While Oxford University is one of the oldest universities in the world, the business school was founded just 21 years ago and aspires to be one of the top 10 global business schools. One of its core strengths is its focus on developing entrepeneurial and responsible business leaders, many of whom go on to build start-ups and social enterprises. The business school attracts top CEOs, such as Apple’s Tim Cook, to speak on campus.

To become recognised as a leading global business school, the institution set out on a digital transformation journey. “We interact with business professionals from around the world who expect the best customer experience,” said Iain Harper, Head of Digital at Saïd Business School. “A poor application process or fragmented communications could cloud their overall perception of the School. Our sales, marketing, and onboarding processes need to match the quality and flexibility of a consumer experience.”

Like many higher education organisations, the School’s complex and siloed approach was impacting its ability to offer a seamless experience to prospective and current students. With different teams using multiple CRM systems or spreadsheets, there was limited insight on students across departments. “Lack of visibility made it difficult to support students attending our short courses for example, and also attract them to longer courses, such as our Executive MBA programme,” explained Harper.

To deliver the best customer experience and attract students to other courses, the business school needed a more strategic approach supported by an effective and comprehensive platform.

A single platform enables a seamless journey for current and prospective students

In 2017, the School became a Trailblazer for delivering an integrated student experience when it deployed Salesforce.


“We can now focus on the student as a customer and on providing a seamless journey,” said Harper. “Salesforce has been a catalyst for real change.”

More than 300 people use Salesforce to capture data and complete key tasks, such as student onboarding, business development, and marketing communications. “Automating manual processes means our people can spend more time engaging with current and prospective students,” said Harper,

A single system will also facilitate compliance with legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as Harper explained: “With pockets of data dotted around the School, GDPR compliance would have been a nightmare. With Salesforce, we can define and execute policy on managing data much more easily.”

Better visibility of interactions boosts business development.

With a single platform supporting multiple processes, teams can now see the end-to-end journey as well as students’ individual interests. “With Salesforce, our relationships and interactions with students have gone from black and white to colour,” commented Harper.

This deeper view is particularly key for the business development teams when attracting new students or promoting other courses to existing students. “Our business development people now have a single view of a customer, including history, preferences and interactions, which means they can personalise their communications in a way that wasn’t possible before,” added Harper.

Engagement journeys enable greater segmentation and personalisation.

Saïd Business School wants to apply a personalised approach from the moment a prospective student starts their journey. “We offer more than 50 programmes, and they all appeal to different demographics – from undergraduates and postgraduates to senior executives,” said Harper. “We need to know what motivates different people to sign up to our programmes, so we can attract more participants in the future.”

With Marketing Cloud, the School can segment and target prospective participants in a more intelligent and focused way. The marketing team has created a series of engagement journeys, which are supported with content that matches the individual’s preferences and previous interactions.

“With Marketing Cloud, our content is more relevant, which means it is also more compelling,” said Harper. “We can also adapt the publishing channel and calendar to meet different customer needs and journeys.”

Actionable data drives smarter decision-making.

As the marketing team creates more digital content, they will use Social Studio to simplify publication across different channels and listen to conversations about the School and related topics, helping them shape the conversation and engage more effectively.

As well as simplifying marketing, it’s having a bigger impact. “With Marketing Cloud, we can see which channels perform the best for us, and align our investments and campaigns to match,” confirmed Harper.

And this is just one of many new insights available to the leaders at Saïd Business School. They can also see the cost per lead, customer lifetime value and the structure of a student cohort for a specific course.

“With Salesforce, we can access and analyse data more easily. This means we can make smarter decisions to help attract the best talent to the School and build a network of satisfied alumni,” said Harper.