6 Best Practices For Generating High-Intent Higher Education Prospects

Successful enrollment marketing campaigns focus on reaching the right prospective students with the right message at the right place and time to encourage them to apply and enroll. 

Digital Media Solutions (DMS) works with a long roster of higher education institutions, and we’ve learned the ins and outs of enrollment marketing success throughout the years. Read on to learn about identifying media channels, developing creative that resonates, nurturing and campaign optimizations that will help result in an enrollment marketing campaign that achieves your objectives.

1. Determine What Success Looks Like

Identify your campaign objectives and the KPIs (key performance indicators) that will be tracked and measured throughout the campaign. When working with third parties, be clear about campaign goals and how success will be measured up front. Core KPIs in many higher education campaigns include application rates, enrollment rates and start rates. Contact rates and transfer rates can be used as early indicators to assess lead quality, as inquiries generated from third-party partners can take up to 90 days to convert into enrollments.

2. Define Your Target Audience

Just because they’re all prospective students doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Before you go any further, make sure you know who you’re talking to. Target audiences can be based on historical data that shows who has previously enrolled or on an ideal target developed from a desired student profile.

When considering target audiences, look at demographic, behavioral and psychographic information. As much as possible, try to understand what your target audience wants and needs from a higher education program.

Segment Your Target Audience

Mine your data to create ideal profiles based on your most successful student segments. Focus on areas of differentiation to highlight unique offerings. Seeking a strategic partnership with an advertising provider can help enrollment marketers better target high-intent prospective students where they spend their time and when they are ready to take action. At DMS, our investment of billions of dollars in media spend results in our first-party data asset of consented and known consumers.

3. Identify Appropriate Media Channels & Related Infrastructure Needs

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Developing a well-thought-out plan designed to achieve enrollment marketing objectives is the pathway to success, typically resulting in a growing, engaged pool of prospective students. 

Identify The Media Channels That Will Help You Achieve Your Enrollment Objectives

Seek out channels that can produce motivated prospect students. Pay-per-lead (PPL) campaigns, hot transfers, paid search, email, push marketing, social media advertising and click campaigns can be key components of successful higher education lead generation campaigns. At DMS, our expansive digital media reach touches the majority of U.S. adults with campaigns based on targeted audience profiles and client objectives.

Prepare Your Infrastructure

Ensure your call center is appropriately staffed to handle increased capacity as volume picks up. Depending on the type of campaign, if all creative assets and tracking are prepared for launch, third-party higher education lead generation campaign setup can take as little as one to two weeks.

4. Develop Compelling, Compliant Creative That Will Engage Your Audience In The Media Channels You’re Using

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Schools with engaging advertising creative executions that connect with the audiences they’re targeting can successfully differentiate their offerings and find high-intent hand-raisers among prospective students.

Don’t Downplay Compliance

In addition to higher education-specific regulations, make sure your campaigns comply with regulations like TCPA by obtaining express written consent to contact consumers by phone or text. Consider using a third party to help track and produce proof of compliance, if needed. Because DMS understands the importance of upholding brand standards, we invest heavily in proprietary and third-party monitoring tools. Our industry-leading compliance processes are supported by in-house legal and compliance teams.

Use Milestones & Mindsets To Your Advantage

Interest in higher education often spikes in January and August, but that doesn’t mean these are the only times people are thinking about going back to school. Consider the milestones and mindsets that could encourage your target audience to seek higher education. Marriage, kids entering kindergarten and boredom at work are all reasons people start researching higher education programs, and messaging that speaks to these reasons can resonate and encourage action.

5. Establish A Robust Outreach Strategy That Nurtures Prospects & Prioritizes Timely Responses  

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To maximize yield from higher education lead generation campaigns, institutions need to be strategic with their outreach plans. 

Timely Follow-Up Is Essential

With many schools vying for the attention of prospective college students, following up with interested prospects quickly is crucial. The first call, email or communication should occur within minutes of inquiry receipt. The longer it takes to reply or create a milestone touchpoint with a prospective student, the greater the chances are that they will be contacted by another school first. Create a series of thoughtful automated communications that can alleviate the pressure of manually contacting each student inquiry. Remember to be realistic about your capacity for prompt follow up, and communicate regularly with third-party partners to keep lead flow in check to ensure immediate outreach. 

Establish A Diverse & Robust Outreach Workflow

When creating a strategy to connect with prospective students, don’t rely solely on phone calls. A robust outreach workflow that includes a variety of channels, including email, SMS and Aimtells, with a well-planned cadence can be highly effective for prospective student-focused nurturing campaigns. A waterfall approach with a welcome email, follow-up messages and personalized content tends to perform better than one-size-fits-all “canned” messaging. SMS or Aimtells can also be useful tools to engage prospects and set appointments with admissions team members.

6. Prioritize Optimization & Testing For Enhanced Campaign Performance 

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As with any marketing campaign, monitoring results and making adjustments based on outcomes is essential for enrollment marketing campaigns, as incremental improvements drive growth and profitability over time.

A/B Test Copy & Creative

Test headlines, copy and images to determine what creative mix is resonating best with your target audience. Iterate to improve creative performance throughout the campaign lifecycle, including ads, landing pages and nurturing messages.

Share Data With Third-Party Partners

Empower your partners to optimize by providing outcome data as close to real time as possible, enabling the partners to make adjustments to quickly and effectively improve campaign performance.

Are You Looking To Connect With Prospective High-Intent Students At Scale?

DMS EducationTM is a thought leader in education and technology-enabled, data-based digital media distribution. Through our support of traditional and for-profit colleges, trade schools, community colleges, boot camps, continuing education providers, OPMs and agencies, we established our relationship as a reliable source of digital advertising solutions that deliver strong results.

About the author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions, Inc. is a leading provider of technology-enabled digital performance advertising solutions connecting consumers and advertisers within auto, home, health and life insurance plus a long list of top consumer verticals. The DMS first-party data asset, proprietary advertising technology, significant proprietary media distribution and data-driven processes help digital advertising clients de-risk their advertising spend while scaling their customer bases. Learn more at https://digitalmediasolutions.com.