The higher education recruitment cycle never truly stops. Even as recruitment for the 2023 class of incoming students moves into the yield phase, applications still come in—and the next class is standing at the ready. With high school students now starting to look at colleges during their sophomore and junior years, lead generation for universities has to begin long before the senior year. 

Lead generation for universities, of course, is becoming an increasingly complex topic. Colleges and universities can no longer rely on simply placing a “Request Info” button on their website and hoping for the best. To gain a prospective student’s contact information, schools have to provide value in return.

In other words, lead generation for schools has to become increasingly strategic. It requires a thoughtful and integrated cross-channel strategy, all designed to drive interest in your institution for prospective students. Also, it has to be unique enough to set your school apart from competitors going after the same students. 

That means it’s time to get creative. Let’s take a look at the needs and nuances of lead generation for universities before diving into six unique ways to drive lead generation for your school.

The Modern Landscape of Lead Generation for Universities

As most recruitment marketers know, lead generation is the process of getting student (and parent) inquiries into your prospect database. And, thanks to a few industry factors, it’s more important than ever:

  • Fewer students are taking standardized tests like the SAT, reducing the ability to buy their names for prospect outreach. 
  • Third-party sources, including listing hubs like Niche.com, include increasingly in-depth information for schools, reducing the need to request information directly from a university.
  • Modern web practices demand that web pages offer in-depth content for SEO purposes. This prevents colleges from building a light front end that ‘hides’ the relevant content behind a sign-up page.

You might have heard that stealth applications are an increasing problem for admissions offices and recruitment marketers. These factors are a major reason why. Students can find enough information elsewhere and on the website itself that they can go straight to the application without needing to make an inquiry first.

That, of course, introduces a major problem. Inquiries are vital for student recruitment communication flows, prompting automated and increasingly targeted emails and print materials to drive students to the application. Take that factor away, and a significant part of your communication becomes irrelevant.

On the flip side of that, effective lead generation can go a long way. If you can get a good volume of interested prospective students into your database, you not only get a leg up on competitors struggling with the same issue but also build a strong foundation for your communications flows in 2023 and beyond.

6 Ways to Drive Lead Generation for Your School in 2023

High school student and parent navigating lead generation for universities

Strategic lead generation for universities has become vital, and there is no better time to start than now if you want to build a strong 2023 recruitment strategy. These six unique ways can help you build those inquiries and fill your communications flows with interested prospects. 

1. Offer ‘Gated Content’ on Your School Website

Let’s begin with what, in other industries, is among the most common lead generation strategies. It consists of a two-step process:

  • Build valuable, long-form content such as a whitepaper, guide, tutorial, or eBook that your audience wants to read.
  • ‘Gate’ the content behind a sign-up page, so your audience can access it for free–but only if they provide their contact information.

The concept hasn’t necessarily caught on in higher education, but it has the potential for immense success. Consider, for example, a comprehensive college search guide you can provide high school sophomores and juniors as they take their first steps into exploring campuses and majors. If it’s in-depth and helpful enough, they’ll gladly provide their contact information to sign up.

Building gated content, of course, takes time. That’s why getting started now works out well, ensuring that by the time the clock turns to 2023, you’ll have the content and landing page in place to attract and convert your prospective students from your website.

2. Create Subscription-Worthy Blog Content

Blogging is another marketing technique that has caught on in other industries but is still waiting for its higher education breakthrough. Regular posts on a common topic certainly attract an audience, and when that topic is relevant enough to your prospective students, you’re creating a traffic magnet. Potential areas of focus could include:

  • A faculty blog that discusses new and interesting research across a variety of disciplines
  • A student campus life blog that showcases campus events and organizations to highlight the fun students can have
  • An admissions blog in which student guides discuss their own experiences on campus, showcase unique spots on campus, or answer common questions from prospects
  • A study abroad blog in which a student who is spending a semester abroad recollects their experiences
  • And more

So, how does blogging connect to lead generation for universities? It’s simple. When the topic is interesting enough, your audience will subscribe to it to automatically receive new updates. As soon as they do, they can enter your database as prospects. It’s how blogging has become one of the most reliable lead generation channels across industries. 

3. Engage Students in Low-Threshold Virtual Events

Over the past 30 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a rapid rise in virtual events for colleges and universities. As life returns to campuses across the country, these virtual events haven’t necessarily lost their usefulness, especially when it comes to lead generation. 

In addition to big events like open houses or even campus tours, your prospective students and their families may still be interested in short, subject-based information sessions focusing on financial aid, housing, and other important topics. So why not use that interest as a lead generation opportunity?

Consider recording a few virtual events that take between 30 and 45 minutes, then placing them behind a sign-up page akin to the gated content discussed above. Like webinars, you can now ask students to sign up if they want to participate. If the topic is relevant enough, chances are that a good number of them will.

4. Consider Lead Gen Ads as Part of Your Media Plan

Increasingly, networks like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have begun to offer lead generation opportunities that don’t require users to leave their social networks. Known generally as Lead Ads, they link directly to a sign-up form that auto-fills information based on a user’s profile on the platform. With a single click, that information transfers to your prospect database.

It sounds like magic, but it’s worth a try. You can use the content of the ad (like the caption and image) to introduce your school. Then you can let the click mechanism do the rest. Likely because of their convenience, lead ads tend to convert at a significantly higher rate than landing pages on your website. 

5. Offer Live Chat Options on Key Informational Pages

Increasingly, higher education institutions recognize a need for instant responses on the website that go beyond the pre-written content. Live chat is carving out its niche, offering students and families a way to get answers to pressing questions without having to call or walk into an office.

Live chat options are especially relevant on your information-heavy pages, like financial aid and the registrar’s office. And here’s the kicker: with the right software, you can ask for the user’s name and email information at the beginning or conclusion of the chat. Each time a prospect has a question, they can enter your database as a lead with some already-defined context around their needs and pain points.

6. Connect Lead Generation to Your Virtual Campus Tour

Finally, don’t underestimate the potential power of your virtual tour when it comes to lead generation for your school. While not inherently a lead-gen tool, it can play a massive role in gently nudging your prospects toward making inquiries.

Strategic calls to action within and at the conclusion of the tour are especially valuable. Just make sure they’re relevant. For example, a CTA on your tour stop about your residence halls could link to a guide on college housing. Also, the tour could conclude with a call to action that prompts your audience to take the next step by seeing your campus in person.

Finding Strategic Ways to Enhance Lead Generation for Universities

Lead generation in higher education is complex, but the potential for success is immense. The right mix of channels can allow you to ensure that a healthy stream of prospects continues to become inquiries. This will maximize your recruitment opportunities in 2023 and beyond.

Of course, you might not be able to take every one of the above steps entirely on your own. Integrating lead generation options within your virtual tour, for example, might rely on the help of a partner.

That’s where we come in. Concept3D has extensive experience in helping higher education clients succeed in a wide range of recruitment and enrollment-related efforts. Ready to learn more about lead generation in conjunction with your virtual tour or interactive map? Start the conversation today.