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5 Proven EDU Lead Gen Tactics

by Brian Colling - July 14, 2020

5 Proven EDU Lead Gen Tactics

EDU lead gen is the art of capturing prospects interested in obtaining skills to launch or relaunch a career. The level of competition among higher education institutions to capture potential student information has never been higher. In addition, COVID-19 has many schools scrambling to add full online degrees and keep the on-campus student count at pre-lock down levels. All of this combines in making the role of a school CMO or Marketing Director even more complex and stressful. Consistently delivering qualified student leads into the admissions team is critical to achieving enrollment and start goals. Keep pace with your competition by using the 5 Proven EDU Lead Gen Tactics.

1. Paid Social Media

As an EDU marketer, you understand the importance of social media ads. Social media is a key communication channel used by your target demographic. To stay in front of your potential students, a school still needs to place ads on social media channels. Adobe’s State of Digital Advertising report reveals 42% of millennials (ages 20-36), and 50% of Gen Z (18-19) feel social media is the most relevant channel for ads. Despite the negativity surrounding social media content, especially Facebook, avoid giving up on paid social media campaigns for generating leads for your school. Social media continues to be important for branding and capturing leads at the top of the funnel.

Our experience confirms Facebook leads have a lower conversion rate. And if you stop there because your admissions team wants leads who enroll during the first outbound call, then ads on Facebook should be paused immediately. However, Facebook is vital for getting leads to your marketing ecosystem (retargeting, email, and display campaigns, etc.). We have found Facebook leads convert much higher and more regularly when combined with these and other marketing tactics.

If your school’s enrollment conversion is typical, 70% or 80% of enrollments come from leads generated in the previous month. Nurturing social media leads, either by your marketing efforts or by your admissions team, becomes pivotal for hitting monthly enrollment and start goals.

2. Website Lead Optimization

Your school’s website remains the best lead generator in your marketing toolkit. At the most basic level, an EDU website needs to be mobile-friendly. Not all prospects fill out a lead form on mobile, but they are more than likely viewing your website on a smartphone. So, the website must at least function and look good on a small screen. In today’s world, how your website looks, and functions is a reflection of the school and what it is like being a student there. What is your website saying about the school?

We could spend hours reviewing user experience (UX) on websites. Regularly review UX tools to understand how your school website is functioning.  We recommend SEMRush, HubSpot Website Grader, SEOptimer, and Google Page Speed tools.

Website lead optimization should include testing lead forms. The amount of information you require a potential student to give affects the conversion rate. If all forms are the same across the website, consider adjusting the number of input fields required to submit them. Experiment with buyer journey, sales funnel position and intent. Perhaps the homepage form converts best with five required fields and the degree program pages convert higher with eight required fields.

Ideas for increasing your school’s website conversion:

• Post blog articles highlighting the value of higher learning like how the skills in your programs help secure a job in the industry, lead to a better financial future, or shine the spotlight on a successful graduate.

• Partner with industry experts/instructors/professors/thought leaders on articles describing exciting things going on in the industries your school’s graduates are joining.

• Publish research on topics pertaining to your academic programs.

• Incorporate site bots for aiding navigation and answering standard prospect questions.

3. Student Buyer Personas

Student Buyer Personas are descriptions of your target student combing data and anecdotal information. Having accurate and well-defined student personas is key to increasing the number of qualified leads. What does your ideal student look like? What is their age, background, home life, etc.? Your student persona answers these questions.

Because parents heavily influence educations decisions, include a section defining influencers. Influencer buyer personas help shape messaging for campaigns in areas you may not have tapped yet. What if you put a radio commercial on the local news/talk station aimed at parents? What if you created a messaging document for your admissions team on how to address influencer concerns?

Colling Media’s content manager Jordan Walsh, explains the importance of student buyer personas:

“When combined with a lead lifecycle stage [i.e. how far along a prospect is in your admissions cycle], student buyer personas allow you to create highly targeted content. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to every potential student in your database, you can segment by persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about them.

Consider creating negative student buyer personas giving you the added advantage of identifying leads with a lower chance of converting to enrollments. Negative buyer personas help push down the cost per enrollment, and cost per start. You may also see admissions productivity increase, as admissions representatives have less chance of complaining about lead quality.”

Jordan Walsh, Colling Media content manager

4. Virtual Tours or Virtual Open Days

Social distancing is changing the ways schools interact with prospective students. Many admissions teams are embracing virtual tools to show off all programs offered. Consider Zoom, Skype, Facebook Live, or Facetime options in place of hosting traditional on-campus tours. Virtual open houses cost a fraction to organize, to staff, and put into place. Plus, potential students can “visit” your school from anywhere in the world, expanding edu lead gen.

Tips for hosting virtual tours:

• Create and outline and stick to it

• Conduct run-throughs to work out kinks

• Ensure the audio is high quality

• Ensure the lighting is flattering

• Make the experience about the student and/parents

• Answer questions a prospective student cannot Google

• Set follow up appointments with every attendee

5. Email, Email, Email

Despite the evolution of digital marketing, email remains an essential marketing communication channel. Abandon email marketing at your peril.

Email allows you to keep your school top of mind with prospective students and influencers. With information like student buyer persona, campus, program, start date, website page views, etc., you can deliver the perfect message at the perfect time to your email database. 

For the best results, we recommend a quarterly review of all active email campaigns. Your school’s email marketing needs to keep pace with rapid changes to social distancing, COVID-19 safety procedures, and other information your prospects are searching for. You may be surprised at how many outdated or inaccurate email messages are sending to your leads.

An area worth investigating is one-to-one emails sent from your admissions representatives. Without realizing it, your admissions team could be using off-brand images, non-compliant language, outdated statistics, or poorly written emails. Completing a review of preapproved templates, admission rep-created templates, and other on-off communication may give you insight into what your prospects and influencer are receiving.


EDU lead generation has never been more difficult. Your job as CMO or Marketing Director is stressful and generally thankless. The marketing tactics you choose affect the quantity and quality of potential students delivered to the admissions team. Follow the 5 Proven EDU Lead Gen Tactics and get ready for results.

You may also enjoy, The 6 Dos and Don’ts for Facebook Ads.

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