DMS Success Story: Optimizing Third-Party Lead Generation Campaigns To Boost Quality & Conversion Volume

Background: A Regional Higher Education Brand Was Struggling With Disappointing Lead Quality & Conversion Rates

A group of regional higher education schools with diverse programs and geographies was managing their own third-party vendor campaign, comprised exclusively of pay-per-lead (PPL) inquiries. Due to resource constraints, they were buying massive quantities of inquiries from large third-party aggregators. The overall quality of the inquiries received was sub-par, and the resulting application rate was not hitting their targets.

Challenge: Improve Lead Quality & Application Rate For A Group Of Regional Higher Education Schools 

Digital Media Solutions (DMS) was asked to maintain the volume of applications received from the current third-party vendor campaign while increasing the application rate to push down the school brand’s overall cost per application (CPA). 

Higher education institutions often engage DMS to manage their third-party lead generation efforts to achieve consistent, reliable results with measurable ROI. Contact DMS today to learn more. 

Solution: Implement DMS Managed Services Assets To Improve Inquiry Quality & Application Rate

Understanding the enrollment objectives, when the DMS managed services team took over the management of this school group’s third-party lead generation campaign, they immediately took steps to make it more strategic.

Historical campaign data was benchmarked against global industry data. Based on prior performance and a robust knowledge of the capabilities for each lead vendor, the DMS managed services team began right pricing inquiries. In some instances, the cost per lead (CPL) was lowered. But for vendors that were hitting campaign goals and had the potential to drive more volume, CPLs were increased in an effort to motivate them to produce and deliver more leads.

Prior to working with DMS, the school group was receiving only the “traditional” style of PPL data leads from third-party providers. Despite the influx of new third-party lead generation options to the marketplace, none had been adopted for this campaign. Understanding the value of diversification and the performance potential for “non-traditional” third-party inquiries, such as cost-per-click (CPC) leads, sponsorships and display campaigns, the DMS managed services team researched options and began testing. 

Over the next two years, DMS more than doubled the number of lead sources running on the campaign and diversified the payment models, resulting in a more efficient overall spend. This allowed for competitive pricing, planning and easy scaling. As the chart below shows, the application rate for “non-traditional” third-party sources reached a level of more than three times the rate of “traditional” sources.

One of the biggest challenges with testing is the time it takes to evaluate whether or not a lead source benefits a campaign. While waiting for inquiries to mature, many schools spend more and more of their media budget only to sometimes find out they were buying leads that are unlikely to convert. To speed up the testing process, DMS appended lead data with segment codes, provided by Neustar in real time and stored within Sparkroom performance marketing technology. This data let DMS compare incoming leads against prior leads that resulted in conversions. Ideal segment codes were provided to vendors so they could actively try to source leads with those profiles for delivery to the school group.

Sparkroom® technology is owned by Digital Media Solutions and is used by the DMS managed services team and licensed by a long list of advertisers to centralize marketing and lead data.

Lastly, the DMS managed services team implemented a fierce optimization approach. Unlike in the past, vendors were not able to skate by on marginal results. Inquiry performance was evaluated regularly, using milestones from contact to application, and campaign adjustments based on this data were made monthly.

With DMS managed services, marketers have access to:

  • Innovative, optimized digital advertising campaigns that allow for testing and diversification
  • Lead vendor management solutions with pricing and performance transparency
  • Go-to-market strategies and growth solutions
  • Support for payment processing, subscription management and more

Results: Higher Quality Inquiries, Improved Application Rate And Lower CPA

As a result of the third-party lead generation campaign overhaul, the school group's application rate was up 32% YOY with a 3.4% reduction in the CPA. These changes were achieved while maintaining the overall application volume.

Do You Need Improved Lead Quality Resulting In Higher Conversion Rates?

Digital Media Solutions can help. Our digital performance advertising solutions help advertisers connect with high-intent consumers ready to take action. Contact DMS to learn more.

About the author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions, Inc. (DMS) drives better business results by connecting high-intent consumers with advertisers across our core verticals; Insurance (auto, home, health), Education and Consumer/Ecommerce. Our innovative solutions help consumers shop and save, while helping our advertisers achieve above average return on ad spend. Learn more at