Modernize Recruitment with a Salesforce Events App: USC Marshall’s Quest for Efficiency

Using a third-party event solution outside of Salesforce to plan and run events, USC Marshall staff members found little to like in using an outdated, paper-based system. Their complaints in included:

  • Limited customization options for event landing pages and registration forms.
  • A cumbersome registration process for prospective students.
  • Inefficiencies for the admissions team tasked with planning multiple events.
  • Difficulties getting the right information to and from prospective students viewing and registering for admissions events.
  • Time-consuming task of manually transferring data from paper check-in forms to Salesforce database after each event.

For Alexi Waul, then serving as senior associate director of MBA admissions, the onerous process reflected poorly on the university. He thought there had to be a better way.

“We needed a better event management system,” Waul says. “It had to be simple to navigate, efficient, and look inviting to prospective students.”

The USC Marshall team had a wish list for streamlining its events processes:

  • Flexible, editable event pages and forms: an events platform that makes it easy to customize event landing pages and quick-to-complete registration forms, all branded to USC Marshall.
  • Ability to scale admissions events: quickly duplicate events using event clone features and easily add multiple session dates for one admissions event.
  • Automated check-in process for event attendees.
  • An easier way to analyze the success of each event inside of the existing Salesforce platform, right next to other institutional goals.

Blackthorn Benefits

USC Marshall turned to Blackthorn for an event management solution. By adopting the Salesforce events app, the team now seamlessly creates and manages events within Salesforce. The event registration information automatically integrates into the Salesforce contact database, generating attendee records linked to leads or contacts. Matthew Wilson, USC Marshall’s Salesforce administrator, attests to the impressive outcomes this transformation has yielded.

Using Blackthorn, the team found it could create admissions events in half the time. Online registrations became streamlined and attendance at events is up by 10%. Ease and speed have been positives for the school, Wilson says. About 20% of event attendees subsequently applied to USC Marshall. “The experience has made a great first impression for our prospective students,” he notes.

Waul found much-needed relief in streamlining admissions events processes with easy-to-use features that help the team get usable attendee data much more quickly, saving 10 hours of manual data entry work per week.

“Blackthorn is more customizable with what you can do on event and registration pages,” Waul says. The app is equally helpful in analyzing data on the back end, he adds. “We’re looking forward to using the speaker highlights, schedules and other features. We’ve used it for our classroom visit setup, and we’re planning to use the recurring event feature for admissions events with multiple time options.”

Waul lauds the plug-and-play nature of Blackthorn’s native Salesforce events app and notes how the staff is chasing away that old paper bugaboo. “We tried the mobile check-in app and it worked great,” he says. “It’s helping us avoid using paper and having to log attendee information twice.”

When USC Marshall adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the school suspended in-person information sessions and pivoted to virtual sessions, all implemented through the Blackthorn Events app. Attendance at the virtual events averaged 67, a 10% increase over previous in-person sessions.

“Blackthorn has definitely been a huge benefit to Marshall, and I think this is even more obvious with our need to quickly move to online events,” Wilson says. “We’re also working with our executive education group to help them implement Blackthorn for some of their online webinars and we found that it scales very nicely.”

While streamlining the event management and registration, Blackthorn has also simplified the school’s outreach efforts. The admissions team can trigger an email to send automatically after attendees register with a link to event information and a QR code to use during check-in. Virtual event registrants receive an email with a link to join the meeting or session online.

The collaboration has worked so well, the campus is taking the next step. As Waul moves into a new role as USC’s head of university-wide Salesforce implementation, he hopes to expand Blackthorn’s use beyond the business school and to the university as a whole.