The People We Meet Online: Types of leads your digital marketing may generate & how to engage with them

As higher education marketers and enrollment advisors, you likely spend a lot of time, energy and resources on increasing the quality and quantity of leads for your programs. However, not all leads are created equal. Treating each lead the same, and forcing all leads down the same journey, is inefficient for you and often frustrating for your potential students. As you work to increase your leads through digital marketing efforts, consider the different types of leads you regularly attract and begin to customize a separate journey for each potential student. Here are a few lead types that we often meet through our digital marketing and advising efforts.

The Sudden Applicant

The Sudden Applicant is ready to apply to your program. She has likely completed a significant amount of research on your program and those of your competitors, and has done so anonymously. In a perfect world, she has even begun the application process.

Alumni are often Sudden Applicants. Alums have strong ties to the institution, already understand the university’s value, and want to find a way to come back and re-engage with their alma mater. You’ll know a Sudden Applicant is an alum because they’ll likely mention it before you have a chance to ask.

Follow up with this lead immediately! This individual is your best customer and has already invested energy to conduct self-led research and begin the application process. You may not know it, but you have likely spent a lot of money and effort attracting this lead.

    A few ways to engage with this lead:
    Ask — When should I expect to see your complete application?
    Ask — Do you have questions about the other application components?
    Explain the application review process and when he or she should expect a response.

The Blank Slate

The Blank Slate saw an ad and immediately filled out a contact form. Their prior research is limited. It is likely that they haven’t looked into your program or your competitors’ programs. The Blank Slate will typically take a little more nurturing and care, but carries great potential to covert over time.

    Share the top two reasons students choose your program.
    Ask — What would you like to accomplish if you pursue this program?
    Ask — When would you like to begin a program?
    Regularly follow up to answer any additional questions.

The Researcher

The Researcher will engage in a fairly long process of finding the perfect program. This lead type is not sure which direction to go and is currently gathering a lot of information. The Researcher will usually ask general questions about your school and program, as well as questions about the broader field of study. It is likely that they already know the answer to many questions, and just needs to verify, re-check and reconfirm.

With a Researcher, you have the opportunity to explain your program’s value proposition, and also serve as a career and life coach. Take the time to be a resource for The Researcher, and you can build a lasting relationship that will eventually lead to a registration.

Ask specific probing questions that help this individual gather the data and information they desire:

    Ask — What would you like to accomplish?
    Ask — What field do you currently work in?
    Ask — Are you looking for an online or classroom program?
    Ask — What is your timeline for beginning a program?
    Set a deadline to follow up the next week to answer any additional questions

The Not-a-Good-Fit

This lead is going to test your ability to be able to determine a quality lead. No matter how many times you optimize your marketing efforts, you will reach individuals that are not a good fit for your program. The key to maximizing your time with Not-a-Good-Fit leads is to quickly and accurately verify that the program is indeed not a good fit. Take the time to thoroughly vet the lead by asking probing questions, then provide them with the information that helps her come to the logical conclusion.

    Listen because he or she most likely has a story to share
    Ask — Are you currently working in the field?
    Ask — Would you be able to commit to enrolling in the upcoming program offering?
    Send as much additional information as requested, and help her find a program that fits her needs.

With so many different types of leads, and so many leads to manage, it can be challenging to identify each lead and place them in the right persona or lead type. Taking the time to evaluate the lead based on information you gather from their online engagement and from your conversations and interactions will help you place the right leads on a path to application and, ultimately, enrollment. As you become more familiar with your lead types, you’ll begin to see opportunities to expand your marketing efforts to improve your engagements through lead scoring and customized messaging.