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Education marketers often make the mistake of putting too much time and money into generating new leads.

They fail to realize that all this work is essentially meaningless if their conversion rate doesn’t improve. It’s the leads who are already inside the sales funnel that deserve the most attention. Moving leads further and further into the funnel, however, is easier said than done. It takes a lot of creativity to convert a lead into a customer, or student. Education marketers must ultimately figure out what kind of information and outreach tactics prospective students need to seal the deal.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why conversion rate is so important
  • What kind of content converts leads into customers?
  • How marketers can stand out in their messaging

This week, I spoke to Dr. Kim Saxton, a Clinical Marketing Professor at Indiana University who specializes in quantitative strategy. Though she’s been at IU for about 15 years, Dr. Saxton also has significant experience working with large corporations and startups. Seeing what kind of campaigns actually work in the real world would have a huge influence on Dr. Saxton’s teaching methods. Her students are taught to use data as the inspiration for their ideas, and to break down their goals into specific metrics. This shows them that a strategy can only be called successful if they reach their most important numerical goals.

Why Conversion Rate Is So Important

When you consider Dr. Saxton’s background, it’s no surprise that she regularly lends her expertise to the marketing and admissions teams at IU. Let’s say the school is trying to recruit students for a new program. Dr. Saxton begins this challenge by establishing a series of metrics. The amount of people who have inquired about the program are her total leads. When someone from this group takes further action, like attending a live webinar or opening an email, that person becomes a high quality lead. The amount of high quality leads who apply represents a key metric for all education marketers: conversion rate.

If you don’t know your conversion rate, you don’t know how many leads you need to fill up the program. And when you don’t know how many leads you need, how will you know when you’ve spent too much money generating them? According to Dr. Saxton, 10% is considered a good conversion rate for a newer program. An older program, on the other hand, should have a conversion rate of at least 45%.

What Kind Of Content Converts Leads Into Customers?

Improving conversion rate clearly has a direct impact on a program’s success. Well, how do you do it? Dr. Saxton suggests thinking about the beliefs your ideal student must possess in order to apply, or the beliefs that stop people from applying. For example, let’s say you were tasked with increasing the amount of female applicants to an MBA program. Step one would be researching the beliefs that were stopping women from applying. Did they believe the program wasn’t affordable? Did they not know the long-term benefits? Were they concerned about balancing classes and full-time work?

The answers to these questions would inspire the content of your marketing materials. You could emphasize the program’s affordability by putting a cost calculator front and center. The long-term benefits could be easily accessible through video testimonials from female alumni, most of whom completed the program while working full-time.

How Marketers Can Stand Out In Their Messaging

Dr. Saxton has found that alumni success stories can be a highly effective tool for increasing conversions. They are especially effective, she said, when they don’t target a very specific type of student. In fact, the most visited content on IU’s website is a success story that could target prospective students who are interested in a variety of programs.

Dr. Saxton also noted that while prospective students need to hear about your school five times before taking action, that doesn’t mean you should simply send five emails. Instead, you should send five different forms of content, like social media messages or standard mail.

Anyone Can Generate Leads, But Few Can Convert Them

The importance of conversion rate is reflected in the difficulty of improving it. This is another reason Dr. Saxton centers her courses around conversion strategies. Lots of marketers can generate cold leads, but only expert marketers can increase conversions. It’s only logical that the most difficult work carries the biggest rewards.

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