The Importance of Lead Source in Increasing Student Lifetime Value

In 2017, 66% of admissions directors in higher education missed their enrollment goals. This figure is up from 62% in 2016 and 57% in 2015, a trend that has many higher education marketing departments scrambling for more leads and not necessarily better leads in order to meet enrollment benchmarks.

The focus on high-touch, high-quantity lead generation has led to antagonism between marketing departments and other downstream entities, particularly enrollment/admissions departments whose success hinges on converting lead flow into fully-populated cohorts.

As a result, these departments are often found operating in contrariety. Differential metrics of success, i.e. filling CRMs vs. filling classrooms, cause them to pull in opposite directions, when in reality they should be tied at the hip and share a singular goal: find and enroll qualified students who are going to succeed both inside and outside the walls of the institution.

Evaluating Lead Sources

Rather than solely focusing on lead quantity, higher ed institutions should take into account student Lifetime Value (LTV), or the qualitative factors involved in enrolling students who are likely to succeed throughout their educational career and become successful ambassadors for future prospects.

Lead source is of crucial importance in order to create a marketing strategy that coincides with student LTV. In order to get as many prospective students as possible, many institutions turn to mechanisms where they are purchasing leads rather than generating and cultivating them organically. An institution can, for example, purchase a list of prospective students who have taken college entrance exams and designate each student on that list as a lead. Affiliate marketing and mass media are also common tactics. Leads that are derived from these sources may be interested in higher education as a whole, but a particular school often has no way of knowing if they are a good fit for their institution.

Leads garnered organically and by utilizing an institution’s own assets are most likely to result in more engaged students who are a great fit for the school. A nicely laid out website is perhaps the best way to acquire leads who are interested in your particular institution. Social media and recruiting events are also good channels with which to talk to students about their aspirations and whether they might be a good fit. The optimal strategy uses a mix of lead source channels, and the particular mix differs from institution to institution depending on the goals and internal structure of the school.

Where a school gets their leads speaks to a crucial but often overseen factor in the current environment — lead quality, or the likelihood a lead will actually become a student, succeed in their educational journey and reflect well on the institution post-grad. By using lead generation strategies that focus on quantity over quality, it may be easy to demonstrate a large lead pool that makes it appear that marketing efforts are bearing fruit. But what matters most is enrollments and, beyond that, converting on quality leads that promise to engage in the classroom, matriculate, graduate, and make an impact in their career and on future prospects.

Considering lead source is an important step in order to make sure marketing and enrollment/admissions are aligned and that lead flow is turning into qualified enrollment.