Generating good quality leads is the bread and butter of every establishment, be it a business or an institution. The pursuit behind strong lead generation runs at the backbone of all organizations and guess what; universities are no different.
A large and diverse applicant pipeline is extremely important for leading universities for many reasons. Having a wide applicant pool allows universities to be selective in admitting students. They can shortlist applicants based on criteria like educational record, extra-curricular activities, field-related research/work experience and essential soft skills, among other things. This improves the quality of students that a university accepts which positively impacts its graduation rate, financial programs and placement rates all of which contribute to the university’s overall ranking.
To develop this pipeline of strong applicants, you must attract the target student base towards your university and hook them in well enough that they hit ‘apply’. Doing this is not an easy feat given the intense competition out there but the secret to achieving it lies in plain sight: give your prospective students what they want. If you have a great university that deserves great student applications, here are four things that you need to do to make it happen.
1. Optimize your website
The quantity of leads that you get from your website is the function of two things:
a) The number of website visitors (traffic) that reach your website
b) The ability of your website to convert these visitors into leads
Bringing in the traffic
To make sure you maximize on the first aspect, you must first attempt to understand the traffic your website currently gets. Google Analytics is a great tool for doing this because it’s free and easy-to-use in tracking visitor details like location, demographics, and areas of interest.
Also, invest in both on-page and off-page SEO. The former optimizes your website content enabling search engines to rank your website higher when prospects use those specific keywords during the search. To make the most of this, thoroughly research relevant keywords that are likely to be used by your target audience during searches. Off-page SEO, on the other hand, helps your website build links with other respectable resources. This gives your website authority which leads to a higher search rank and increased website traffic.
Since your website’s success relies largely on its content, you should pay special attention towards developing a killer content strategy. The content should harmonize with the university culture and should aim to deliver real value to its visitors. A few ways of hitting the sweet spot between delivering valuable information to visitors that also brings them a step closer to becoming a lead include:
- Having informative articles that highlight the value of further education in securing a job and subtly showing how your university has helped its alumni get there.
- Publishing your research pieces on topics like the academic programs offered by your university and future scope of completing those programs.
- Inviting guest experts to write relevant blogs that you can publish on your website to become a thought leader.
- Publishing your content onto popular online directories.
Make sure that you have your content team writing for both the people and search engine spiders so that you attract relevant traffic and enhance search engine ranking simultaneously. Running paid campaigns on search engines is another popular way of reaching more people. Through PPC campaigns with well-researched and specific AdWords and banner ads, you can buy your audience’s attention by showing up amongst the top results whenever a relevant search is performed.
By enabling your website for mobile functionality, you further increase the number of people that can reach your website. Since 51.3% internet users log into the internet through mobile screens, it is crucial for your website to run seamlessly on mobile devices if you want to capture this sizable audience and boost your website traffic.
Congrats! You’ve directed relevant traffic onto your website. Now comes the most important part: getting them to engage with the website and convert into a lead. To achieve this, every page on your website should be optimized for lead generation. The easier you make it for visitors to feel like they’re in the driver’s seat navigating through your website, the longer they’ll stay and the closer they’ll get to qualifying as a lead. The first step to doing this is upgrading your web design so that the architecture is relatively flat and navigation is simple for first-time visitors.
Your website should have many conversion events that compel visitors to interact with the content and stay interested long enough to want to apply. To build a lead-nurturing environment on your website, offer visitors the opportunity to interact with an admissions representative directly through the website. You could leave a phone number or better yet, you could incorporate a live chat box that resolves visitor queries instantaneously. Doing this will lend credibility to your website and will keep visitors tuned in for longer.
Interactive videos, chat agents, information request forms, Newsletters, and E-books are all valuable content formats that act as critical junctures to capture leads. Leverage their use to bring visitors to complete your call-to-action. As for the landing page that hosts the lead capture form, there are a few simple rules. Keep your main landing page clean, informative and precise. Eliminate all unnecessary links and navigation menus to focus visitors’ attention towards completing the form and hitting the call-to-action button. Videos can work wonders here in delivering impactful information and substituting for distracting text. Make this form as-easy-as-possible to fill and make sure you show your visitors what is in it for them so they have the right motivation to submit their details bringing you more qualified leads.
2. Invest in a Virtual Open Day
More and more universities are hosting Virtual Open Days to showcase their merits to a global student base. Royal Holloway University, London School of Economics and University of Liverpool are only some of the many colleges that are shifting towards virtual open days as their go-to university exhibition platform.
By taking your university Open Day to a virtual space, you overcome many obstacles that plague a conventional event. Virtual Open Days cost a fraction of their physical counterparts which saves money for the host and they don’t require any travel for attendees which saves money for them. The events also offer added convenience for visitors since they can be accessed from mobile screens when people are on the go. This, coupled with no capacity constraints, boosts your chances of attracting and satisfying all your virtual event attendees and delivering an engaging Open Day.
When it comes to colleges, students prefer to do their research online which is why hosting an online open day is your best bet. Another benefit of virtual open days is that the content available on the platform is accessible on demand. Students can choose which webinar they want to attend, which presentation they want to see and which resource material they want to save and share. This puts your event visitors in control of their virtual experience which enables more meaningful event interactions and boosts the chances of your visitors converting into leads.
Students want to meet their faculty especially if they’re going after a post-graduate program but academics are usually far too busy in research or work to make it to physical open days. With a virtual open day, they can attend the event right from their desks or during a commute. Even the most celebrated academics can engage with prospective students through virtual booths and live chats to answer queries in detail and on time.
Perhaps the most distinguishing advantage of hosting a virtual open day, as opposed to a conventional one, is the hassle-free follow-up that it allows. With your registration landing page, it becomes very easy to capture information from visitors. These details can be used to share pre-event reminders, program-specific newsletters, and post-event promotional material with registrants. This back and forth communication keeps students connected with your university and if you deliver valuable content to them, even the most passive visitors can end up becoming warm student leads.
Note: People who actually turn up for events are a fraction of those who initially register. Don’t let this limit your lead list. You can also follow-up with people who registered but did not attend the event and if you play your cards right, you can even bring them into your applicant pipeline.
To learn about the best practices of organizing a Virtual Open Day, click here.
3. Try a Virtual Tour
A Virtual Tour is an application that allows students to check out the campus facilities and accommodation through a 360-degree tour. Many software companies like 3D Vista and Easypano facilitate the creation of immersive tours that allow visitors to get a sense of the campus premises by traveling through the university from the comfort of their homes.
The sense of atmosphere created through these 3D angles provides an all-round experience that is quite unique. This tour could be a part of your website or could be linked out in your virtual open day. You can also use Google Street View to provide panoramic views of your campus, the local area and the attractions surrounding the place to give prospective students a comprehensive view of what their life will be like if they select your college for further studies. Apps like Sphere can be useful in developing this experience for your visitors.
4. Leverage Social Media
Social Media is fast becoming the Search Engine for many millennials, therefore, it is crucial that your university maintains an active presence on all leading Social Media platforms. Besides keeping your posts informative and fresh, you should focus on your institute’s social brand by engaging in and heading discussions wherever a topic of relevance is being discussed. This will make you a thought leader in your areas of expertise and will lend credibility to your institute in the eyes of your target audience.
Work on your university’s presence on platforms like YouTube and Slideshare by uploading your study videos, lectures, and tutorials. Although YouTube rates lower as a lead-gen platform, it contributes massively towards turning your organization into a thought leader. By promoting valuable and informative lectures delivered during your best academic sessions, your university will become an authority on various subjects and will be sought out by people who want to learn more about those topics. Since these videos catch the interest of a niche population that searches for a particular lecture topic, the leads that it develops will be far more relevant and high quality.
Ted Talks is an example that has become a phenomenon owing to its premise and social media marketing. By bringing forward speakers with lessons worth sharing, the organization sells out stadiums for live talks. They also record and edit these talks for easy absorption on YouTube. Their social media followers are then compelled to attend paid Ted Talks in person feeding the lead generation cycle.
Another insightful observation is how successful human stories are on Social Media simply because they deliver impact without being sales-y. This is where alumni advocacy can do the trick. By hosting Live Q&A sessions on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you can enable four-way interactions between your prospective students, current students, alumni and admin in a real-time which is sure be to as informative as it is authentic. Initiate these group conversations to get people excited about your college by being honest and transparent.
Having your alumni host a webinar, participate in a video testimonial or write about your university infuses an unmatched credibility into your lead-gen campaign because these people represent the fruits of success achieved through that institute’s education and they don’t have any vested interests.
To make the most of lead-generation from Social Media, start expanding, add social autofill functionality to all your lead capture forms and get your social media icons everywhere. Add them as widgets to your website, in footers of your official emails and across your blogs. Once you gain some momentum, track activities through analytics to identify your best lead producing social media channels and optimize spend accordingly.
Educational institutions need leads just as much as the next organization but the service they expend is far more expensive and immersive than most others. You might certainly have a fantastic campus with leading infrastructure, diverse academic programs, and credentialed faculty but merely resting on these attributes without promoting them online can be detrimental to your lead generation strategy. Use these top-notch tips to get the most out of your digital presence and remember to keep A/B testing your practices until you get your desired results.