Lead generation campaigns can cause any higher ed marketer to start biting their nails.
As the name suggests, these marketing campaigns are designed to bring in leads that can then be cultivated into enrolled students.
Uncertainty is a part of their nature as you launch your messaging into the large expanse of the general population who may have never heard of you before.
For many marketers, lead generation campaigns have little to no results, but there is a way to optimize them and get much better outcomes.
I’ve found there are at least seven things you’ve got to have in place to run successful lead generation campaigns consistently.
The process is a lot of work, but with these seven essentials, you’ll have a far better return on investment in terms of leads generated.
1. Identify the objective of each of your lead generation campaigns.
While the overall idea of a lead gen campaign is to (*ahem*) generate leads, I recommend taking a step back and considering the objective you have for each individual campaign.
This step will clarify any steps you’ll take later in the campaign and guide your decision-making process along the way.
Here are possible campaign objectives:
- New email list subscribers
- Campus visit registrants
- Requests for Info
- Content Downloads
- Event registrants
It is very likely that once you’ve established your lead generation campaign objective, you’ll repeat it over and over throughout the years.
Even so, keep your objective out in front of the team throughout the creation and launch of the campaign.
Clarity can make all the difference between success and failure.
2. Study your target audience.
Once you have set up your campaign objective, it’s time to identify your target audience.
Who is the ideal person you want to see your messaging?
More than likely, you want prospective students to see your campaign, but don’t just stop there!
What kind of prospective student do you want to see this campaign message?
Male or female?
Students interested in STEM or the humanities?
Homeschooled, private, tech or public school students?
Get as specific as you can about your target audience and study them closely.
What are they worried about?
What makes them excited? What kinds of things are they into?
Where did they grow up and how does that background shape how they see the world?
One thing to remember here is that while you identify the audiences for your lead generation campaigns, consider how your mission might connect with them.
While you might not be able to zero-in as closely at the beginning of your lead generation campaigns, it’s important to keep in mind that your real target audience isn’t prospective students of a certain age, region, or other high-level characteristic.
Your real target audience are mission-fit students within those larger demographic groups.
Below are some techniques I’ve found helpful in identifying mission-fit students:
- Analyze the demographics of your website traffic with Google Analytics
- Check the demographics of your followers on social media
- Talk with your enrollment team members for their thoughts on prospective students
- Send out surveys to your email lists and social media followers
- Interview your current students and alumni
Getting to know your audience through this discovery process will help you make better choices along the way as you build your lead generation campaigns.
3. Invest in SEO.
Not all lead generation has to be an outbound strategy.
There are also some great inbound strategies that you can use to generate leads.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long-term, inbound strategy that positions your website to rank well on the results pages of the major search engines.
Now that you’ve identified your target audience, you can increase your lead generation results by going through your existing content and making sure it’s showing up in search engine results.
4. Create an irresistible offer.
Offers come in all shapes and sizes, but the main idea here is to create something digital that will be of use to your target audience whether they ultimately enroll or not.
This digital content or digital tool is something you offer as a value-add to their lives in exchange for something you want them to do.
You might want them to subscribe to your email list, follow you on social media, share a piece of content you’ve made, or schedule a campus visit – what are you going to give them as a thank you for these actions?
Some digital tools or content that you can consider creating are:
- Financial aid calculators
- Questionnaire that offers suggested academic programs based on the interests of the user (consider how this popular Bible study software uses a questionnaire to help customers choose the right product for them)
- eBook on how to pick the right college or career
- eBook on preparing for success in their higher education journey
- Infographics on new research your school is doing
- Infographics with college life preparation checklists
Really, the kinds of content and the tools you can create for your audience are only limited by your imagination.
5. Write a killer landing page.
Once you’ve got an irresistible piece of content for your target audience, it’s time to craft a landing page that will motivate users to take advantage of your offer.
Using action-oriented language, landing pages create a sense of urgency compelling readers to take the prescribed action now rather than later (like downloading your eBook!).
Landing pages should have the following characteristics:
- Created for a campaign (a destination following a click on an ad).
- Content is focused on a specific call to action.
- Aims to collect visitor information.
- Offers something in exchange for this information.
- Attractive design with images and/or video.
Good landing pages also help you qualify the leads coming through.
For a lot of marketers, it’s enough for lead generation campaigns to simply generate leads.
But for me, lead generation campaigns are more about connecting with like-minded, mission-fit students that you haven’t met yet.
It’s not enough to simply keep the enrollment team busy with lead cultivation.
Busyness isn’t always a good indicator for success.
Your lead generation campaigns need to qualify the right candidates within your target audiences by introducing them to the values driving your mission.
Landing pages are a great tool for qualifying prospects as here you can set out the reasons why they should consider subscribing to your email list or scheduling a campus visit.
In the language of the landing page, you should be able to show enough of who you are as an institution so that the user can decide if this is the right place for them.
6. Diversify your marketing channels.
Successful lead generation campaigns use a diversity of marketing channels to get the messaging out.
First, you should definitely publish your campaign with your irresistible offer on all of your social media channels and even print channels that would reach your target audience.
7. Place your messaging in the right watering holes.
While diversifying your marketing channels, don’t just think about the platforms available to you, consider where your audience is already hanging out.
These are the digital watering holes they go to daily or weekly to get their entertainment, news, and social interaction.
You want your messaging to be where your target audience already is.
This is a powerful way to generate leads among mission-fit prospective students.
When a prospective student interacts with your lead generation campaigns, they should go directly into your CRM software for your enrollment team to follow up on.
Whether your enrollment and marketing team are the same unit or they are two distinct departments, this is the transitionary stage where your prospective student jumps from the marketing funnel to the enrollment funnel.
To help facilitate this hand-off, I recommend that these two teams, enrollment and marketing, come up with a lead nurturing plan to clarify what happens next to continue cultivating these important relationships.
There’s so much more that can be said about lead generation campaigns!
For more help optimizing your enrollment marketing results, just send us a note.
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