Intelligent Admissions

Spark451 is a unique company with a specific focus on higher education and a passion for smart, nimble, creative executions in a budget-conscious environment. Our team has significant experience with university media and marketing

Spark451 offers full-service strategic and creative partnerships that fuel the enrollments at colleges and universities. Significantly noteworthy, partnering institutions can license usage of Element451, an Intelligent Admissions platform with a comprehensive suite of CRM modules. This platform provides a vast number of tools to manage, communicate and market to prospects at all stages of the admissions lifecycle.

Our company name, Spark451, holds significance. We spark energy, creativity, and results. The burning point of paper is 451° Fahrenheit which, signifies a transition from a paper-based world to one that integrates the multitude of digital communication channels. 

We offer you a team with expertise not only in higher-ed marketing, but also in the broader areas of creative and advertising. We would be happy to put that expertise to work for you and hope you will strongly consider Spark451.

 
$1,000+
 
$100 - $149 / hr
 
50 - 249
 Founded
2011
Show all +
Westbury, NY
headquarters
  • 865 Merrick Avenue
    Westbury, NY 11590
    United States
other locations
  • 45 Main Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11201
    United States
  • 16 West Martin Street, 11th Floor
    Raleigh, NC 27601
    United States
  • Serbia

Portfolio

Key clients: 

The Admissions, New Student Enrollment Management or Communications offices at colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad.

Reviews

Sort by

Branding & Digital Marketing for Nonprofit University

“They’ve come up with unique ways to convey our brand themes.”

Quality: 
4.5
Schedule: 
4.5
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
 
June 2015 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

Spark451 assisted in a large branding and digital marketing initiative. They conducted extensive research via audience surveys to make data-driven improvements. They continually provide social media marketing.

The Reviewer
 
201-500 Employees
 
Springfield, Massachusetts
Bryan Gross
VP Enrollment Management, Western New England University
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Spark451’s branding efforts and improved student search system yielded the largest undergraduate population in the University’s history, with the fourth largest freshmen class. A forward thinking company, they provide unparalleled creative design and a partner-like management approach.

A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I’m the VP of enrollment management and marketing at Western New England University.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Spark451?

The primary project that I first reached out to them with was an undergraduate branding initiative. I also contracted them to assist with student search efforts to build our brand and strategically penetrate new markets with the value proposition that Western New England University offers to its prospective students.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Any branding project starts off with a solid base of research. To build this, Spark451 issued unique surveys to gather data on important audiences like prospective, non-matriculated, and current students as well as faculty, staff, and alumni. From that research base, we were interested in identifying our brand attributes and theme to shape the creation of a new suite of products that would go out to prospective students.

To improve our student search capabilities, Spark451 looked at the availability of names throughout different markets and built a predictive model based on previous enrollment data. This helps target students more likely to apply. Then, we considered various creative marketing vehicles like email, direct mail, and social media marketing to drive the targeted audience to action. Spark451 help us implement those digital marketing efforts. Since those initial projects, they’ve become partners with different departments around the university and continually help with social media and digital marketing.

What is the team composition?

We've always had a dedicated lead strategist and several project managers that organize our timeline and tasks. I’ve worked directly with the data team in terms of ensuring the transfer and integrity of data. I’ve also gotten to know their creative team throughout the engagement.

How did you come to work with Spark451?

Our University requires a request for information (RFI) process, so we always have to consider at least three different vendors. However, I contracted Spark451 at a previous institution to rebrand and reinvasion our customer experience. I was pleased with their work in that capacity, so I reached out to them in my new role.

How much have you invested with them?

The student search project cost $200,000–$300,000.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working together in June 2015 and the relationship is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

We’ve been very pleased with our relationship thus far and have hit some great tangible benchmarks as a result of working with them. For example, we opened the Fall 2017 class with the largest undergraduate population in the University’s history and the fourth largest incoming freshmen class its history as well.

How did Spark451 perform from a project management standpoint?

It's been a collaborative process that requires both parties to move swiftly and make adjustments when necessary. We communicate well with each other and are on the same page thematically. Most direction goes through the lead strategist, but we do have weekly calls that can include additional relevant team members. They're organized and on top of deadlines and priorities.

What did you find most impressive about them?

One of the things that separate Spark451 from other companies is that they really partner with us towards the achievement of our goals. Instead of nickel-and-diming us for different services they act as strategic partners. There’ve been times where we needed to recalibrate our approach and they offered additional surveys or tool at no additional cost. We keep them engaged with what we're doing and feel like they’re an extension of our team.

Additionally, they're really on the cutting edge of not only what's current in the field but also what's coming in the future. Having worked with them for a few years, I know they're constantly pushing themselves to anticipate where the market is headed and developing products to help institutions continue to be successful.

Finally, I want to emphasize the skills of their creative team. I’ve worked with many higher education marketing firms but they’ve impressed me and I can highly endorse them. From a design perspective, they’ve come up with unique ways to convey our brand themes.

Are there any areas they could improve?

I can’t think of anything that would be relevant to this review. No organization is perfect, but they’re more fine-tuned to our particular team and structure so any improvement would be nuanced.

Do you have any advice for potential customers?

Investing yourself in results is important. Spark451 has proven themselves to be trusted advisors instead of just another vendor. For educational institutions, that type of relationship is essential.

4.5
Overall Score
  • 4.5 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 4.5 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Custom CRM Platform for National University

“Sparks451 has designed a much more intuitive and modern student experience."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$50,000 to $199,999
 
June 2017 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

Sparks451 is developing a custom CRM that facilitates student registration and collects, manages, and analyzes data for admissions and marketing purposes.

The Reviewer
 
501-1,000 Employees
 
Madison, New Jersey
Eric Range
Director of Enrollment Systems, Drew University
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Previous issues with accessibility and functionality have dramatically decreased as a result of Sparks451’s CRM implementation. Streamlined student forms and customization options offer a much improved user experience. An accommodating, proactive, and innovative approach continues to impress.

A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I’m the director of enrollment information systems and operations at Drew University. We’re a national liberal arts college located in New Jersey.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Sparks451?

Another company built the CRM we used before. It was one of the mainstays in the higher education space and built against the Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The root platform was built well over 20 years ago around large, corporate sales and entities’ business concepts and then customized for the higher ed space. We were evaluating upgrading to the latest platform version, which required massive amounts of financial and human resources both from us and the vendor. Sparks451 just so happened to approach us as we were making that decision.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

We’ve been building out and testing their new all-in-one admissions CRM platform. The admission cycle is live for us, and we’ve been on the platform since July working in a new capacity with them beyond student search.

We launched the first events module in July which allows students to register for open houses, campus tours, and interviews. We also use it for advertising off-campus activities like college fairs and high school visits. Students don’t necessarily register, but it is a platform where we can announce our presence while traveling.  

By August, we had the data feeds from the common application we use here at Drew. We were writing a custom integration between it and our student information system, Banner®, to have that data flow from the app to the CRM. We insert variables such as student application and visitation history into our marketing initiatives and then use that data to send bulk emails through Element. We can also send SMS messages directly to students. The data drives all of these functions.

Ultimately, the app’s data is pushed to our student information system so we can do standard higher-ed business processes like financial aid and admissions.

What is the team composition?

I’ve been working closely with their CRM team which is comprised of most of the company at this point. I have two people on my team who are my points of contact and heavily involved on a daily basis. I also regularly speak to the CTO and the chief data team members on various things. They have at least 4–5 offices with maybe two dozen developers working on this CRM all over the world.

How did you come to work with Sparks451?

Steve [Principal, Sparks451] was involved in another company we used.

Sparks451 was our marketing partner when I arrived at Drew a little over five years ago. They conducted student search, email marketing campaigns, and other general marketing services for us. They’d find prospective students throughout the country who might be interested in our school.

During a rebidding process last spring, they offered Drew an opportunity to be a beta site for their new higher-ed CRM platform, Element451. Given our prior relationship with them, we had a lot of confidence that their CRM could offer more than our previous platform.

How much have you invested with them?

We’ve spent around $50,000.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working together in June 2017, and the project is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

The feedback has generally been really good. We also have fewer phone calls in our reception area from people who don’t understand the registration process, can’t find what they’re looking for, or who are encountering submission errors, etc. That wasn’t an uncommon experience for the student-facing staff with our previous website. Those issues have diminished dramatically.

Sparks451 has designed a much more intuitive and modern student experience. Their strategy has been a bit different, even down to how we display forms. Our old inquiry or campus event registration forms were very long and contained dozens of questions, and we always thought they scared people away. Sparks451 made these look better from a technological standpoint and also helped us streamline the questions.

One of their strategies involved breaking this process into a two-part form so we could obtain the information we really needed (i.e., what term students are coming and visitation dates). The students are now able to answer only five or six questions and then submit the form which is immediately stored in the CRM. We also present students with a more customized experience (e.g., individual majors). We are able to start communicating and building a relationship with students instead of losing them altogether during the registration process, which was what was happening before.

How did Sparks451 perform from a project management standpoint?

They’ve been really great. I called them the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with an issue and they pulled team members together to handle it over the holiday. Depending on the issue, they can solve it in a matter of hours.

As a beta site, we’re also asking them to develop or change things that are more complex, and they’ve been very responsive and proactive with those needs as well. They check in along the way as they build things out. They don’t disappear for weeks at a time and then come and show us something. We’ve been really engaged with them the entire time.

What did you find most impressive about them?

Their technology team is always thinking. Ardis [CTO, Spark451] always comes up with a concept or idea and asks our thoughts on it. They’re innovative. I’ve seen stuff they’re mapping out for the next couple of years and it’s all really impressive. The platform they’ve designed so far is really impressive as well. The things they’re going to continue to innovate within the Element451 platform in the next 12–18 months are incredible. If it ends up being half of what they’ve showed me, it will completely surpass other platforms.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    If I could give them a six, I would.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I’d 100% recommend their services, not only for the CRM, but for other marketing services that they offer as well.

Custom CRM Software for Liberal Arts College

“Our backend users find the application to be more user-friendly than the previous system.”

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.5
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$10,000 to $49,999
 
June 2017 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

Spark451 built custom customer relationship management software for a university, developing a system that for both backend staff and student applications. They are now working on automating some features.

The Reviewer
 
501-1,000 Employees
 
Westminster, Maryland
Kittie Pain
Director of Graduate Enrollment Management
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

All the users of the system find it to be an improvement on the previous application, with a good user experience and easier to use interface. The team were excellent throughout the project, responding to all issues rapidly, communicating well, and fixing glitches as soon as they arise.

A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

McDaniel College is a small, private, liberal arts institution located in rural Carroll County, Maryland. I serve as the director of graduate enrollment management.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Spark451?

When I came on board, the college had been told that the application system was sunsetting. I had reached out to Spark 451 regarding another matter and they also mentioned they were offering Element 451 (their application). We chose to launch with them after a demonstration.  

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

We signed a contract with them so we could start building the application, get it up, live, and running before the old one was phased out. We went live with them in the summer for the application period to start bringing in fall people. The CRM [customer relationship management] is for our prospects applying to graduate school and the applications. 

What is the team composition? 

We’ve had 3 different project managers. One handles the business side, one handles the technology development side, and one handles the overarching project. Everybody works in perfect tangent with the other person. Our team is made up of 5–6 individuals. 

How did you come to work with Spark451?

They had worked with the undergraduate side of things at my previous institution. Knowing what they were capable of, I called them in to talk about digital marketing with us. In the course of the conversation, Steve [Principal, Spark451] talked about the new application system that they had rolled out, Element451. We invited them back to talk with a different part of the team about it. Shortly after, it was decided that we wanted to go with them for the development.

How much have you invested with them?

$40,000. It was extremely affordable for what we received. 

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working together in June 2017 and the work is ongoing. 

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

Our backend users find the application to be more user-friendly than the previous system. There are some things the previous application could do automatically and Spark451 hasn’t developed that yet. When we bring it up, they’re not opposed to that. As for the student side, we’ve been able to make things a little easier for uploading documents and sending out letters of recommendation requests. Applicants can also look at everything along the way and see their progress. 

If there are any glitches, as soon as we contact Spark451, they respond immediately and try to figure out what they can do to fix it right away and make the user experience much better. The most recent thing was a fee waiver code wasn’t working properly. They came up with a solution for it within the day. Deadlines have all been met: if we need something by a certain date, we ask them what would be the sufficient timeline. We have to rely on other offices that are outside of our realm and they take that into account as well. We have a good rapport working out deadlines and calendars with them. 

How did Spark451 perform from a project management standpoint?

We’ve had a great response from the rest of the team. They set up an online portal for questions or things that we need tweaking and editing. The response has been fantastic. We laugh if they haven’t gotten to us in five minutes because they’re so quick to respond. They’ll look into and get back to us with a solution. 

We ask a lot of things that they haven’t tackled before on a graduate application so we’re pushing their boundaries as well. They are comfortable enough to come back and admit they don’t know something yet. They tell us they understand what we need and they are working to fulfill it for us. We get to see what they’ve come up with and they get to see what we have been used to. 

What did you find most impressive about them?

They’ve always been really personable. They can do the business and get everything done, but they get on a conference call and genuinely ask how your day is going or they remember something that you said about your personal life the last time. They follow up on it. That makes you feel better when the people are listening to what you’re saying and what your needs are. That really goes a long way.

Are there any areas they could improve?

No. I’ve only experienced the CRM, which is new to them. There was a little bit of a hesitation on our end, but they did a fantastic job. I’ll continue to refer back to them for their different services. So far, we’re really pleased with the CRM and application. 

Do you have any advice for potential customers?

I called other schools that have used their products and services. Even if it is a new product, I ask how they feel about other existing products. I have frank discussions with them about what they encounter and how their teams are. In our case, we have a small team so I needed to know how much time and energy our team would be putting into this. When I was getting the feedback from other projects that their schools had been doing with them, I knew that they could devote the manpower and the resources to help us get everything up and running.

5.0
Overall Score My experience has been fabulous from start to finish.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 4.5 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer