Lead Nurturing Strategy for Higher Education: Moving Beyond Email

Lead Nurturing Strategy for Higher Education: Moving Beyond Email

When it comes to higher ed lead nurturing, colleges have historically relied heavily on email marketing. Popping into a prospect’s inbox is still an important piece of every good enrollment strategy (email marketing is not dead, despite what some marketers claim). However, with more competition in the higher education landscape and multiple platforms vying for users’ attention, institutions need to develop and implement more advanced strategies to nurture their leads on their journey to application and enrollment.

Lead Nurturing Requires Multiple Touchpoints

More than ever, students researching their options in the higher education marketplace are doing so across a variety of channels. Our own experience working with many schools has shown that it takes, on average, 3-5 “touchpoints” before a user moves from one stage of the enrollment funnel to the next. 

Examples of those touchpoints might be visiting a website, engaging with a banner ad, or opening an email. Imagine receiving three emails in your inbox, all encouraging you to fill out an application. Now imagine getting the same encouragement on Facebook, as you’re browsing the web, and via text. One approach presents as annoying; the other, omnipresent.

If it takes a prospect 3-5 engagements before they are ready to take the next step through the enrollment process, it takes about 10+ total engagements to bring someone from prospect to enrollment. At the simplest level, a person has to move from prospect (an anonymous user) to lead (filled out a lead form); lead to applicant; and applicant to enrolled student. 

A Multi-Channel Approach to Lead Nurturing

Employing a multi-channel approach to lead nurturing helps move your prospects more efficiently through their buyer’s journey. With an email-only approach, best practices would require you to limit your communication to one or two emails per week. A multi-channel approach, on the other hand, could move a prospect through those 3-5 engagement touchpoints in a matter of hours or a couple of days.

Generating leads is expensive, and top of the funnel activities that drive demand generation will inevitably use about 90% of your available budget. However, some of your marketing budget should always be reserved for nurturing prospective students, considered mid-funnel and bottom-funnel activities. 

If lead nurturing can increase your conversion rates, even by 5%, your demand generation investment is going to be more efficient, allowing you to spend less money or generate more leads. Small improvements in your lead to application and application to enrollment conversion rates make a major impact on your enrollment, and bottom line. 

Multi-channel lead nurturing opportunities include: 

Digital Remarketing 

All of our clients utilize remarketing as a demand generation tool, but it’s also an effective lead nurturing technique for higher education. It’s become a foundational, and cost-effective, tactic way to re-engage with website users who bounce away from your school’s website without taking action. 

To further customize a digital remarketing strategy, segment your users with more personalized ads that can further increase the  impact on your mid-funnel results. Re-engage with users who visit high-value pieces of website content (such as application pages) and serve them relevant content that prompts them to take the next step. 

Customer Matching on Social Media

Use the data you’ve gathered about prospective students to target them with ads on relevant social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn. Both platforms allow you to upload your lead data (at minimum, an email address is required), match it to their user profiles, and then target these users with relevant, mid-funnel content. Content related to the application process, admissions deadlines, and class start dates are all effective for driving action.

Text Messaging 

With the right tools in place, automated text messaging is another channel available in higher ed lead nurturing strategies. It’s shown that text message marketing (SMS) has a 98% open rate and 45% response rate vs. only 20% and 6%, respectively, for email marketing

Part of that success may be due to the explicit “buy-in” that accompanies a good SMS campaign. Don’t assume that acquiring a prospect’s phone number gives you permission to send them text messages; always invite them to explicitly opt into text messaging. That allows you to offer leads more personalized communication and also prevents you from “spamming” or mass-sending unwelcome messages.

Texts should be quick hits, much shorter than email content. At MindMax, we’ve seen that the most successful text campaigns are time-sensitive with strong calls to action: for example, sending out a series of messages one month, two weeks, and one week before program application closes.

Phone Calls

As we’ve noted before, inbound and outbound calling is still an effective way to engage with your prospects. However, it’s important to build an outbound phone strategy that isn’t too aggressive or overwhelming—which could reflect poorly on your institution’s brand.

We typically recommend an outbound calling strategy that factors in where prospective students are in the consideration process, what their lead score is (based on specific online actions they’ve taken), and if they’ve requested personal communication with the school (be be sure to build in opportunities for prospective students to ask to be contacted).  

On the call itself, have an enrollment specialist coach a prospect through the next steps of the process, including how to complete the application and how to acquire and submit supporting documentation. 

Move Beyond Email into Multi-Channel Lead Nurturing

Email isn’t going anywhere, but it’s one of many available avenues for nurturing prospective students. That’s why every client engagement at MindMax focuses on a full-funnel strategy that not only generates leads but also nurtures those leads and converts them into enrolled students.

To learn more about MindMax’s digital marketing and demand generation services, contact us to set up a call with our team.