The Educated Marketer


How to Capture Prospective Students’ Attention Today

by Leah Peters | Nov 22, 2016

 |  college recruitment, inbound marketing


The best lead generation strategies for higher education.


The first secret to generating great leads is this: lead generation begins with a great website.

In higher education these days, it’s all about digital lead generation. Sure, there’s still a place for the glossy viewbooks, brochures, and booths at college fairs, but the growing reality is that most of your prospective students will be looking for you long before you’re ever looking for them.

That’s why for lead generation, your website is key.

Ideally, every page on your website should drive lead generation. You should be able to provide a coherent and plausible answer to the question: “how does this page help generate more leads?” Asking the opposite question—“what’s keeping this page from being an optimal tool for lead generation?” is also important.

Professional appearance; easy access to a “real, live person”

To generate leads effectively, your website should appropriately reflect the ethos of your institution. Do you have a straight-laced, East Coast, preppy vibe, or a laid-back Southern California feel? Your website design as well as its content should harmonize well with the tenor of your institutional culture.

But that’s not all—to lend credibility and a sense of accessible transparency to your online lead generation efforts (which is, after all, what your website is all about), make sure to offer web visitors the opportunity talk to an admissions representative. A light touch is best—don’t pressure them into talking, simply make a phone number or a live chat option subtly available.

Make opting in easy

It should go without saying that the inherent, intrinsic value and quality of the content your site offers is one of the most important things you need to generate leads. But assuming you’ve got great content that’s optimized for mobile and for organic search results, the next thing you’ve got to do to make sure your site is poised for maximum lead generation success is to make access to the lead generation form as easy as possible.

Key to this step is not going overboard in the information you ask people to hand over. Prospective students and their parents are much more likely to opt in if they don’t have to answer a slew of questions to do so. Keep things simple at this stage of the admissions funnel…you’ll have time to reel them in later, but if you can’t get them to bite at first, chances are you never will.

So make your lead generation form easy to access and easy to complete.

Use photos and real words from real people

Who are your prospective students and their parents more likely to trust—the higher education marketer, or a current student or alum? As much as you can, use photos and quotations—or, even better, rich media such as video or audio—to support your lead generation efforts. Testimonials can have a big impact—and they lend credibility.

Use videos

Prospective students and their parents need to be able to picture themselves and their children attending your institution. Videos that offer a friendly virtual tour of the campus makes it easy for them to visualize themselves as students—such videos help students and their parents to trust your institution as a known entity instead of just a name and a verbal reputation.

Use powerful words

Don’t ask your prospective leads to “imagine” a feeling. Use strong verbs like “Picture Yourself Here,” “Get Your Guide Now.” You want the prospective student to feel empowered—to know that she can get her ultimate guide to navigating college applications, that she can take control of the college admissions process, that she can grasp an amazing opportunity by opting in now.

Know What You’re Aiming For

Set your goals with the end result in mind. What would count as success to you in the lead generation process? Do you simply want to garner the email addresses of rising juniors and seniors and their parents? Is someone who has opted in for a quiz or download considered a lead? It matters how you define a lead because this will help you decide how to set your conversion goals, and will make your testing and analytics more manageable.

Practice doesn’t make perfect – but testing does

It’s important to conduct testing as an ongoing part of your lead generation strategy. Knowing how many leads you’re getting—and how high in quality they are—is crucial. You want to see those numbers increase over time. Tools such as the Google Website Optimizer allow you to A/B test your website to see which strategies work best for lead generation.

Your college or university can’t afford not to go inbound. Check out our helpful infographic.

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