Published on 2014/03/06

Three Tips for Successful Lead-Nurturing Campaigns

Three Tips for Successful Lead-Nurturing Campaigns
Lack of a lead-nurturing strategy is one key reason many institutions have difficulty attracting non-traditional students.
There is a common theme emerging from the marketing suites of higher education, both domestically and internationally; a move from quantity to quality as it relates to customer acquisition and, more specifically, lead generation. It is relatively easy to extract value out of a high volume of leads if adequate systems are in place. However, most institutions have limited resources and thus can’t establish the necessary filters. In fact, lack of a lead-nurturing solution is one of the most common reasons why prospect inquiries aren’t fully used.

On average, only 25 percent of leads are followed up on, leaving the remaining three-quarters ignored.[1] Out of those leads where action is taken, 92 percent receive up to five follow up attempts, yet response is often not generated until the eighth try.[2] This is especially true when targeting non-traditional students, who can be hard to reach because they are building their work and family life in addition to exploring opportunities to start or complete their education.

Nevertheless, it’s important to optimize marketing spend. Here are three things to consider when implementing a lead-nurturing program:

1.    Differentiate Between Leads

The goal in a successful lead-generation program is two-fold: identify students with high probability of enrollment and establish follow-up processes that will further increase that likelihood of conversion. In terms of the first, when a prospect enters your institutional database, you should be able to identify his or her potential based on historical data. This means rating the candidate against variables such as area of study, geography, time to start, source of inquiry, professional background and career path. In evaluating these criteria, a determination can be made as to whether or not a potential student should be considered high priority. Those with high-priority status should be put into a different sales funnel than those with mid or low-likelihood of conversion. What can you do to move those high-likelihood candidates through the sales funnel? I’ve seen institutions use highly-targeted weekly emails, personalized phone calls and SMS messaging effectively. The concept of differentiation of treatment based on potential value (scoring prospects) is a simple one, yet this is an area often overlooked by many schools.

2.    Develop a Multi-Touch Strategy

Student acquisition is not a one-time event but a process. It is important to develop a multi-touch strategy that both captures the attention of non-traditional prospective students and creates a relevant conversation based on the data that you have collected about a prospect’s specific goals and interests. For example, you can design trigger-based communications derived from web-based activities completed by prospects. (i.e. if a prospect clicks on the link to a particular psychology program, send the individual more information about that specific program as well as your entire profile of psychology programs). Integration of channels such as email, SMS, display and social media through the use of a marketing campaign automation platform can further improve the likelihood of success. When creating multi-touch programs, segmentation allows you to create greater relevance which, in turn, will garner you an invitation into the enrollment conversation with your prospective students.

 3.    Test and Refine

You may find that student value changes over time as you introduce new programs and new geographies. A one-size-fits-all approach to lead follow-up rarely works. For example, you might determine that for male prospects over the age of 35, it is best to communicate more regularly by email and phone and focus on telling them about students like them who have found success upon graduation. Other non-traditional students might prefer a sequence of email communication and SMS messages as less intrusive than a phone call. Also, as new marketing channels emerge — such as mobile capabilities — you may also discover that what worked for a particular segment in the past may not work in the future. Creating a program of trigger-based communications, on the other hand, has the potential to turn leads into students. It is important to think about your lead-nurturing program as a living, breathing organism that will need to adapt based on new data. Be sure to diligently track student value and the changes you make to continuously improve your efforts.

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[1] Dayna Rothman, “Why Salespeople Don’t Follow Up on Good Leads,” Marketo Blog, January 31, 2013. Accessed at

[2] Marius Fermi, “Surprising Sales Facts and Figures You Need to Know to Win More Deals,” Baseline: Base CRM Blog, October 18, 2013. Accessed at

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Readers Comments

Zandra Thomas 2014/03/06 at 9:59 am

This is good advice, particularly in regards to having multiple ‘touch points’ to reach our audience. We know that prospective students today access information about our institution from different platforms. Despite the fact that we engage different audiences on these different platforms, it’s important to have consistent branding and messaging throughout. This makes the institution look professional and transparent, and strengthens its overall messaging.

Natalie Miller 2014/03/06 at 5:12 pm

Helpful article. I would just add that during the differentiation process, it’s important to distinguish between those your institution wants to target and those who are actually responding to you — and these aren’t always one and the same. Part of the thrill (and challenge) of marketing, particularly on multiple digital platforms, is that you never truly know who you will reach. Predictive analysis and marketing experience can only take you so far in this fast-changing digital world. With this in mind, it’s important to be flexible in your stakeholder outreach to maximize your effectiveness. If your target audience isn’t responding, but another one is, maybe it’s time to put in effort into the responsive group.

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