Education Lead Generation: 10 Strategies to Drive Enrollment
June 30, 2023
Digital is quickly becoming ground zero for all things branding and marketing across industries.
But interestingly, for today’s guide, we’ll be opening the doors to an industry conventionally associated with pen, paper and stacked books.
We’re talking ‘education’!
In the last few years, we’ve seen ads pop up extensively for schools and universities—some completely online institutions. Having looked at these campaigns, we found that many educational institutions could generate leads more successfully.
And that’s why we created this guide.
But first, what does lead generation in education achieve?
Education lead generation identifies, attracts and captures prospective students to develop their interest in your institution. These students seek courses or products that you offer. They must be contacted to influence them into becoming customers.
All leads enter the sales funnel from where they can be contacted easily during the lead management process. You could connect with them using organic or paid campaigns across multiple channels.
The marketing channels you use must be platforms where you can visually and tastefully promote your programs as well as student experiences. Online is certainly popular, but some universities use traditional channels well, too.
Why does education lead generation need to evolve?
One of the most widely used techniques is lead generation forms, wherein users fill out a form with their information. But these forms don’t singularly bring in high-quality leads.
In education, the customer journey isn’t linear. Purchasing a degree is a life-changing decision for young minds. Naturally, prospective students aren’t going to choose a university without research. They spend several months researching and getting relevant information from multiple sources—websites, webinars, past and current student reviews, student groups, social media, and more.
Herein lies a chance for your higher education lead generation to stand out from other institutions.
A well-rounded lead generation strategy understands that students use multiple channels and follow multiple content assets.
What can you gain from an effective higher education lead generation strategy?
There are many benefits to gain from influential lead generation campaigns.
Keep the momentum going with recruitment
Higher education institutions need an active pipeline of prospective and current students to remain profitable. Lead generation keeps the pipeline full of quality leads.
Create broader awareness
Lead generation lets you move beyond boundaries. You can reach national and international students, getting them to enrol for your programs. Online campaigns also offer unique and deeper insights into your audience.
Stand out from the crowd
As we mentioned earlier, we’ve seen several ads from not just traditional institutions but also young and online universities. They deliver a unique and compelling message about their programs, attracting students to their programs.
Cover student touchpoints
Running campaigns on multiple platforms lets you contact students across the buyer journey. Even if it’s non-linear, you get full-funnel visibility. You can also tap into the younger generation’s tech-savvy side through digital platforms.
Increased lead generation brings in more quality leads, which further improves enrollments and helps grow your revenue.
Now, let’s see what strategies you can use to get these benefits with your higher education lead generation.
10 digital strategies for education lead generation
Since the education industry is so competitive, creating a personalised experience for students and parents is important. Before you even begin strategising, identify the channels best suited to putting your brand front and centre for your audience.
Then dig in.
1. Run organic SEO & content marketing campaigns
If students want to know more about an institution, they'll first turn to a search engine. And that's what makes SEO so important.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) organically improves visibility for your school or university on search engines—increasing traffic from relevant leads. But marketers know 'content' is the real hero of a successful SEO strategy.
Content marketing uses new content pieces and updates existing ones to make them more keyword-rich, informative, valuable, current and simpler. It uses various formats to put forth a strong brand message.
Content marketing has been so successful that 76% of marketers use it to generate leads.
Here’s how you can build a powerful SEO and content marketing strategy for your brand:
- Do your keyword research
Keywords are the foundation of an SEO strategy. Ensure that yours are the most relevant to your brand by recognising key audience interests. Use a combination of short and long-tail keywords to guide your SEO activities.
- Check competitors
Analyse your competitor’s performance, and check what they’re doing right or wrong. Adapt your campaign to include strategies competitors use for success and avoid those that don’t work.
- Get your website experience on point
This includes improving your website pages, optimising them for mobile, making them load faster and, overall, improving user experience. Gen Z, specifically, prefers fast-loading and mobile-friendly websites. And since they’re your primary audience in the current scenario, your website must meet their expectations.
- Develop backlinking and link building
Use quality inbound links with high domain authority. Higher the domain authority, greater the chances of your content ranking higher on the search engine.
- Optimise content for search snippets
Search snippets rank first on the search engine results page (SERP). If your content becomes a search snippet, there are higher chances that users will visit your page before any of the others.
After creating or optimising your content with the above, you can use a lead generation form to make it easier for educational leads to contact you. You can place the form on your home page, solutions page, contact page, case studies, and more.
Pro tip: Use lead generation forms directly in the video content on your website. It’s a creative and refined way to attract interested leads while engaging with them.
2. Amplify campaigns with paid media
While SEO and content marketing can focus on the organic side of your campaign, paid media helps you reach a wider audience. Today, paid advertising works on several channels—display, PPC, social media or even magazines and newspapers (if you want to go offline).
It’s easier to measure ROI with online paid advertising. But to maximise the ROI, consider what’s unique to your institution and use that in your ad copy. Avoid making the ad too promotional and generic.
Each ad copy must focus on the program you’re promoting and offer concise information. Going overboard with program details will take away the key points' attention.
Before going live and all out, test and optimise your ads to reach the right audience. Check each platform’s targeting options to improve the overall ROI.
Pro-tip: We know that doing all of this yourself can be overwhelming. But there are a few tools that help. Check out Google Optimize 360, Semrush, Ad Badger and AdEspresso to optimise your paid campaigns for education lead generation.
3. Ramp up social media
Much is already known about social media’s impact. As of 2023, people spend nearly 15% of their waking lives on social media. And the typical social media user actively visits 6.6 different social media platforms each month, on average.
More importantly, younger generations like Gen Z and millennials are highly active on social media platforms because they love that it provides them with:
- Faster communication
- Easy access to information
- A sense of community
That pays off well for brands. For instance, eCornell (Cornell University’s online learning platform) used lead generation forms on Facebook and reduced their cost per lead by 88%.
Use social media platforms to amplify your lead generation campaigns and encourage sign-ups. We’ve listed some interesting ways to attract students to your programs.
- How your program impacts student lives through testimonials
- The student life and campus culture
- How current students are using your social media platform to tell their story. For example, students can use Instagram to share photo essays
- How you encourage community building on and off campus
- Details and photos of events
You can attach lead generation forms to your social media posts or ads for students to provide their information easily. Some major social media platforms for education lead generation include Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.
Pro-tip: Don’t forget LinkedIn and community sites like Quora and Reddit. This is where a prospective student who's a working professional or of a more mature age hangs out.
4. Leverage the age-old email marketing
Yes, we know emails have been around forever!
But they’re still widely in use, specifically in education. Prospective students (who often come from different locations globally) use emails to contact institutions they’re interested in.
Being a universal tool has its perks. In the education industry, emails have an open rate as high as 28.5%, compared to an overall average of 21.5%. Most times, the first interactions between many universities and students happen via email. You can use this to your advantage and nurture these leads from enquiry to conversion with continued email communication.
Some email marketing examples include:
- Sharing announcements and updates about existing programs.
- Introducing new programs.
- Newsletters about your institution, student life, culture, vision, mission, and more.
- Share invitations for events—virtual and offline.
Source: Mississippi State University
To run a successful email campaign, here’s what you must do:
- Segment your audience (for example, new and remarketing)
- Use catchy subject lines
- Create a meaningful email copy
- Share adequate information but don’t overwhelm the leads
- Add a clear CTA so it’s visible upfront
5. Hop onto webinars or virtual events
Webinars and virtual events sound fairly old-school (pun intended). But in case you haven’t noticed already, thus far, all education lead generation strategies have been mainly impersonal.
Webinars and virtual events can switch things up. They’re a more personal and interactive way of engaging with student leads, making it more interesting for students. Use this interest to drive them further into the sales funnel, all the way to conversion.
And if you’re worried about addressing an empty virtual room on your webinar, know this—as much as 24% of social media users between 16 and 24 years of age watch live streams. Plus, only education leads who are highly interested in your institution will attend these events. It means that while they receive special information about your programs, you generate high quality leads.
For your webinars, you can choose to discuss:
- Specific programs
- Their impact on career paths, campus life and available financial aid
- Related topics on career and professional development
- Or simply live stream an ongoing event
Source: Imperial College London
To get more attendees, consider giving them something in return—like early access to an upcoming event or expert tips on navigating your admission process.
Pro-tip: Webinars and virtual events aren’t a one-way communication medium. Leverage available engagement tools like Q&As, post-webinar surveys, live polling, quizzes and more to keep students interested.
6. Keep landing pages focused on conversion
Sharing all the information you can about the program may be tempting. But keeping it concise encourages prospective students to explore more of the program on your website.
To make a landing page work, ensure they’re well-designed—they load quickly, are attractive and SEO-friendly.
Source: Queen Mary University of London
Provide site visitors only the key information that they seek. Other than the program or university information, here’s what high quality landing pages must include:
- Headline (should be compelling so leads read the rest of the information)
- Good design
- Smooth user experience and easy navigation
- Clearly visible CTA with a lead form
- Student testimonials
- Any awards and third-party accreditations
You can use conversion-focused landing pages in your paid media campaigns on display ads, social media and PPC ads.
Pro-tip: Instead of the usual landing page, you may also use an interactive tool. For instance, if you have a financial aid calculator, use that as a landing page for a few campaigns.
7. Leverage student testimonials for social proof
Social proof is a powerful influencer which educational institutions can leverage.
We’ve already spoken about how enrolling for school or university is a big step for most students. That’s precisely why they seek social assurance from family, friends and peers. And one of the best ways to get this assurance is from students who are currently enrolled or were previously enrolled in your university.
Instead of students seeking this out, share it with them. Have your current and past students tell their firsthand experience—how the program impacted their lives and how they’re building a successful career path.
Present a motivating and positive picture which encourages more leads to consider your program. Promote these testimonials as much as you can. They should be easily visible on your website home page, social media, program-specific landing pages, email newsletters, paid ads and blogs.
Remember: While you want to present a positive brand image, always stick to genuine student testimonials.
8. Let chatbots do the talking
Don’t go about replacing your team with chatbots just yet!
Chatbots are particularly useful when interacting with a prospective student online. Place them on your website, social media pages and messaging apps (like WhatsApp). You could even consider using voice-based chatbots.
Even if the information students seek is already available on the website, going through a university website with multiple programs and resources can be confusing.
Source: Iowa State University
Chatbots can step in and help navigate your programs. It becomes easier and quicker for students to get answers to their questions. This can ease your workload, too, and resolve student queries 24*7.
Pro-tip: Direct incoming student leads to your recruitment team before or after their queries have been answered by collecting basic lead information. The recruitment team can give them a complete download of the program.
9. Create remarketing campaigns and lookalike audiences
Let’s face it. So much information is being shared in today’s digital world; it can be really distracting. That’s where remarketing comes in. Use it to reinforce your presence and remind leads of your offerings.
Do this by displaying ads to prospects who’ve visited your website or other links before. Encourage these leads to take action and begin a conversation. For example, if a lead has viewed your MBA program, you can direct a retargeting ad with previous student testimonials and offer a discount if the student fills your lead form within a limited time.
Similarly, you can create lookalike audiences and market your offerings to those with similar interests, behaviours and demographics as your target audience.
10. Automate your lead management
If you think generating leads is complicated, managing leads is even tougher. With automated lead management tools, though, you can streamline leads through the sales funnel.
You can automatically sync new leads with the CRM, so all contact data is in one place. It sets you up for remarketing and future campaigns.
Pro-tip: Automating lead management with no prior experience can be overwhelming. Use lead management software like Driftrock to simplify and speed up the process.
Follow these best practices for education lead generation strategies
Using multiple marketing channels may become challenging to maintain. Luckily, here are 5 best practices that can help.
- Distinct CTAs
Use clear and distinct CTAs for each campaign and channel. They should change depending on your strategy. Examples of unique CTAs could be:
- Download brochure
- Subscribe to our newsletter
- Use our financial calculator
- Emotional appeal
While sharing information is important, don’t leave out the emotional appeal. Use it, particularly for your social media campaigns showcasing student stories.
- Student data protection
Considering privacy and data security are a big concern, specifically amongst Gen Z and millennials, ask for student information by providing genuinely helpful content and following data-compliant policies.
- Quick responses
Keep the wait time to resolve queries short. If you don’t have the resources to set up a chatbot, give students a timeframe for when they should expect a response from you.
- Performance measurement
Measure and track your lead generation campaign performance regularly. Infuse your current and future campaigns with these insights for better ROI.
KPIs you must track include:
- Volume and cost per lead per channel
- MQLs and SQLs
- Revenue per channel
- No. of applications per channel
- Cost per application submitted
- Cost per enrolled candidate
- Net promoter score
Wrapping it up
To successfully generate student leads, create an all-around lead generation strategy spanning multiple channels. Not just that, but back it up with effective and solid lead management for long-term success.