McNally Smith

McNally Smith is a for-profit music college that offers degrees in performance, composition, songwriting, music production, audio engineering, hip-hop studies and music business. Most faculty members are active musicians, songwriters and music industry professionals. Over its 30-year history, McNally Smith has built a strong reputation for preparing students to make and sustain careers in music.


When John Krogh became vice president of marketing in 2013, McNally Smith was facing a number of challenging market headwinds: Increased tuition price sensitivity, prospective students questioning the value of college degrees, and a projected decline in high school graduation rates in the Mid-West through 2020. In response, the school needed to reinvigorate their approach to the market.

“While we are a music school, it’s also important to think of the college as a business. From this viewpoint, prospective students who request information about our programs are considered ‘leads,’ which is a common B2B or B2C business concept. And most businesses today depend upon modern marketing techniques to nurture leads throughout their purchase decision,” says Krogh. “Our extended buying cycle also required significantly more visibility, tracking and lead nurturing than we had in place, because our typical incoming student can take up to two years to decide which college they want to attend.”

McNally needed a marketing solution that could:

  • Assist in the recruiting process
  • Keep the college at the forefront of prospective students’ minds
  • Leverage segmentation to get the right message to the right prospective student at the right time
  • Personalize communication between college admissions reps and potential students
  • Accelerate response times to student inquiries
Industry: Education
Act-On Customer Since: 2013
About McNally Smith
A Saint Paul, Minnesota-based music college offering a range of degrees associated with the music industry.

“Our extended buying cycle also required significantly more visibility, tracking and lead nurturing than we had in place, because our typical incoming student can take up to two years to decide which college they want to attend.”
– John Krough,
Vice President of Marketing
McNally Smith



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McNally evaluated several marketing automation solutions before they selected Act-On, basing the decision on the product’s strong feature set, ease of implementation and the availability of APIs for WebEx and other tools that would make importing data simple.

McNally implemented Act-On and the company was up and running in under two weeks. Since then, the marketing software has enabled multi-touch lead-nurturing campaigns that cover everything from key recruitment events to tuition discount programs.

Because they lack a complementary CRM solution, McNally creatively leverages Act-On to gain all the intelligence they need to close the loop with prospective students. Today, the school tracks everything, and Act-On reporting capabilities provide them with a snapshot of all prospect interaction over a given period of time. They can use this information to identify who’s ready for the next step, or run automated programs triggered by specific student behaviors. These campaigns keep students interested and excited about attending the college.


Act-On has rapidly become the number one student acquisition channel for McNally, vital in driving student traffic, bolstering recruitment and saving the college money. Where they used to spend tens of thousands of dollars in direct mail, radio and TV advertising, without any visibility into the results of those programs, Act-On analytics have allowed them to see the real outcomes of their campaigns. And with that information, they’ve reallocated over $60,000 in broadcast advertising towards more productive programs.

Today, individuals on the marketing team can easily construct and run their own campaigns. And through Act-On, the company has created automated lead notifications for reps that have cut average inquiry response times from 4 or 5 days to less than 24 hours.

While there are many venues available to communicate with students, the school finds email the most effective for students in the early to middle stage of engaging with the college. At around 45%, their open and click through rates are in the top percentile for the higher education sector. And that has translated to a 23% year-over-year increase in lead flow and improved registration numbers.