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Drive Student Enrollment with Online Lead Generation

The internet is revolutionizing higher education, especially in driving student enrollment.
University Business, Jul 2006

Just as the internet has created opportunities in the business world that were once unimaginable, it is also revolutionizing higher education, especially in driving student enrollment.

According to a Consumer Preference Index (CPI) by Prospectiv, a provider of online lead generation solutions and owner/operator of, the internet is a valuable tool for consumers seeking information about university degree and certificate programs. Nearly 82 percent of CPI respondents said they begin their education research efforts through online channels such as websites, e-mail, and online advertisements. In addition, 84 percent of consumers surveyed believe the reputation and value of online educational programs is improving.

Increasing consumer confidence in online programs is in line with the growing number of educational institutions offering more courses and degree programs via the internet. A survey by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), entitled "Distance Learning at Degree-Granting Post-Secondary Institutions: 2000-2001," reported that enrollment in distance education courses nearly doubled between 1995 and 2001, with 56 percent of the nation's two- and four-year degree-granting institutions offering such courses in the 2000-2001 academic year.

As the internet becomes an increasingly popular and credible place to research and enroll in education programs, marketers of leading educational institutions are seeking ways to market their offerings online.

Internet marketing allows for a highly targeted approach in promoting both online and campus-based programs, especially when compared to traditional direct mail campaigns and college fair enrollment/recruitment events. Enrollment programs that use online marketing channels are also easily measurable in terms of success since education marketers pay only for the qualified leads they acquire.

Online lead generation is one innovative approach for using online channels to drive enrollment. In this approach, potential students actually request to be marketed to--saving educational institutions time and effort by ensuring their enrollment service reps are focusing only on those students who are most likely to enroll in their courses or degree programs.

A Closer Look at Online Lead Generation

Online lead generation campaigns can help marketers cost-effectively identify people interested in specific educational offerings. The approach also gives marketers access to detailed consumer profile data that can be used for other multi-channel marketing initiatives such as targeted telemarketing, e-mail, and direct mail. This invaluable self-profiled data provides the information necessary to ultimately tailor direct communications based on the prospects' specific educational interests.

Online lead generation strategies enable education marketers to:

Quickly build a high volume of targeted leads that have proactively expressed an interest in their programs.

Pay for results--not clicks or impressions.

Lower lead generation costs and show an immediate ROI.

Gain insight into market trends and access to demographic and attitudinal data.

In this new online marketing model, an online lead generation partner assumes responsibility for all aspects of your campaign, from strategy through execution, while education marketers maintain ownership of consumer leads delivered on a pay-for-performance basis.

Successful online lead generation campaigns include several critical steps, and an online lead generation provider's adherence to such steps will ultimately determine the success of a campaign. The first step is to develop a campaign strategy customized to achieve enrollment goals and a media plan that leverages a mix of online channels to reach millions of highly targeted consumers and drive traffic to education programs. Leveraging a variety of online channels is important since each consumer has unique preferences and online habits. Typical online channels for online student acquisition include e-mail, co-registration, vertically targeted web properties, dynamic polls, and advertising networks. By implementing a multi-channel strategy, marketers optimize their opportunities for getting the right information to the right individual at the right time.

Leading online marketing service providers will also apply advanced optimization technology across these online channels based on extensive personal, behavioral, and contextual targeting criteria to make sure the offer is presented to the right consumers, ensuring a steady stream of qualified student leads and ROI.

It is also vitally important that an online lead generation provider verify the quality of all student leads using a strong lead verification and data cleansing process. This ensures the accuracy of critical contact data such as telephone, e-mail, postal address, and much more. It also guarantees that marketers and their clients will be working with high-quality leads. A college or university should only pay for the data that has been verified to be accurate and usable.

Finally, be certain the chosen online service provider analyzes campaign results and provides recommendations for future campaigns. Thorough campaign analysis will give insight to maximize future opportunities and brand communications.

How to Select an Online Lead Generation Services Provider

It's critical to select an established online marketing services provider that abides by best practices and is trusted by leading higher education institutions. The vendor should develop a campaign strategy that is customized to achieve specific goals and a media plan that leverages a mix of online channels. That will help reach millions of highly targeted consumers to drive traffic to offers, ultimately helping build a list of qualified leads to drive enrollment efforts.

Leading online marketing service providers will also apply advanced optimization technology across these online channels. Optimization technology automatically presents the best offers to consumers based on in-depth behavioral, contextual, and personal targeting criteria, ensuring that you find consumers who are interested in your education program offerings, in addition to helping you to maximize campaign results and ROI. Basically, it's an intelligence technology that goes a step further than less-advanced tools that simply deliver the same offers to every consumer online, regardless of their online behavior or personal profile criteria.

Interested consumers will opt in for your offer and complete a registration form providing personal contact data as well as demographic, geographic, and attitudinal information, and specific areas of interest in education programs.

As mentioned above, it is also vitally important to verify the quality of all consumers by using a strong data authentication, cleansing, and validation process. This ensures the accuracy of critical contact data such as telephone number. You should only pay for the data that has been verified to be accurate and usable.

Finally, be certain your online services provider continually optimizes your campaign, analyzes your campaign results, and provides recommendations for future campaigns.

But don't stop here! Once you've found consumers interested in your curriculum offerings, immediately begin your enrollment campaign; use their vital profile information to contact them with the information they need to make the decision to enroll in your institution.

Guiding Principles for Successful Campaigns

To ensure the success of an online lead generation campaign, as well as your direct-to-student marketing efforts, it is important to also abide by the following principles:

Seek Permission

A quality lead must be permission-based. That means the consumer has provided you explicit permission to use his or her personal information to market course or degree program information to them. Once permission is granted, you now have the foundation to promote your educational offerings.

Respect Privacy

Education marketers must state how consumers' personal information will be used through a clear and simple privacy policy. Without building this trust, your efforts will suffer.

Communicate Something Meaningful

Be certain to deliver relevant, compelling messages in a timely manner. Busy consumers only want to receive information that is meaningful to them. Not only does this increase the chances that they will respond to your marketing efforts, but it is also key to securing their enrollment.

Also, be ready to contact consumers immediately.

Give Prospects Final Authority

Give prospects what they want: control. Let them tell you what educational offerings information they are interested in, and how they want to receive it.

Effective online lead generation programs, based on proven best practices, are ideal for quickly connecting your educational offerings with prospective students in a cost-effective manner, and ultimately driving enrollment numbers.

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