Lead Nurturing: How important is a call or email?

Lead Nurturing: How important is a call or email?

You finally decide to renovate your house and install wood floors. You look online at different vendors and check ratings on Angie’s List or Homeadvisor.com—and then you sit down and start contacting people. OK, you start your research on Sunday—which of course is the only time you have to write emails and make personal calls. And you get voicemail and no reply to your emails.

And then you wait. Finally you get a call back from one of the five flooring installers you contacted. And guess what—you develop a dialogue with that person, he comes to your house, provides a timely estimate and gets the job. Was he really better than the others? Probably not, but he paid attention and got it done.

Now what does this have to do with enrollment marketing? Everything. As admissions and marketing professionals, we kill ourselves to generate leads. We develop elaborate marketing plans, we use all the tools in the marketing mix—we evaluate how our campaign is performing. But are we missing one of the most important aspects of ensuring we meet our enrollment goals—following up on each and every lead?

That sounds like an impossible task—but it’s one that will reap incredible results. In SA’s lead generation and recruitment campaigns, we often produce hundreds of leads per week and deliver them to our college recruitment office clients. At first, they are thrilled—look at all these leads! But soon they are drowning in leads and suddenly, many of what could have been “hot” leads “cool” as they do not get tended to in a timely fashion. By the time we realize the leads are not be nurtured and personally called–it’s often too late to bring those inquiries through the funnel. And the worst part, those students have decided to engage with competitive schools that answered their inquiry more quickly.

Think of how much you hate to wait or how outraged we are when something goes wrong. In this age of constant and over communication, we want everything handled and fixed right now. Most importantly, we value the person or organization that helps fulfill our needs or we move on to providers that are more responsive.

Here’s our take—if someone fills in an online form, it is an indication that the applicant is interested in your college or university. They need to be contacted within 24 hours at the latest because if you aren’t contacting them, one of the other 14 schools on their list will. Additionally, you have to contact them when it’s convenient for THEM, not YOU. More often than not, applicants need to be contacted at time when they will be home—not during the day but after work or on the weekends. This direct contact is one of the most effective strategies we’ve found to influence applicants to consider our client programs. It’s your chance to personalize the experience and put a face on the school. Caring about the applicant’s success is critical to the process and always asking them, “What can we do to help you?” can be the motivator to help the applicant choose your school.

The longer you wait to call, the less likely the applicant will remember if he or she even contacted your school. One of our clients was falling behind contacting the enrollment leads we generated. Our solution? Create an SA call center to close the gap on decisions. To our surprise—if the lead was two to three weeks old, often the applicant could not even remember filling in the form. If we called soon after they signed up, they were pleasantly surprised to hear from us and we were often able to move them from inquiry to applicant.

Our key take-a-way from this particular campaign and subsequent others, is that generating leads is only half of the battle. You have to close them and if your college or university’s program is not equipped to do so, failure is right around the corner. To help you combat the issue, we’ve provided six tips to help ensure your lead capture, nurturing process and closing campaigns are effective:

  1. Review your lead capture process and determine which leads in your database need to be immediately contacted, preferably via phone.
  2. Role play different scenarios so that callers are prepared with answers and messaging that can influence decisions.
  3. Implement sales training for the admissions and enrollment staff to boost confidence and conversion techniques.
  4. Stagger staff hours to make sure contact is happening at optimum times for potential students to engage.
  5. Incentivize staff to participate in call center activities and generate successful conversions.
  6. Use each engagement with an applicant to learn more about this potential student and why he/she contacted the school.

Through our extensive work in higher education, developing enrollment marketing campaigns that convert students, we’ve learned that colleges and universities have to stay in the zone – the Marketing and Sales Optimization Zone. Generating leads is half the battle. But winning the battle takes diligently closing the yield/melt gap by connecting each point of the funnel to an integrated marketing and sales optimization process that moves inquiries to applicants to matriculated students.

We have the experience to help and the numbers to prove it. Call us today.

Joan Schneider
The CEO of Schneider Associates, Joan now celebrates more than 30 years of representing a wide range of education, consumer, corporate, public affairs and real estate clients. As one of the lead strategists for many of Schneider Associates’ top clients, Joan is responsible for providing strategic and creative direction and will oversee delivery of the work. Joan’s client roster for launch spans diverse industries and includes Fortune 500 as well as emerging companies and brands. A self-professed media junkie, Joan reads more than five newspapers per day and always knows what’s happening in the consumer products, professional services, education, financial and real estate realms.