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We hear, “I need more high quality leads”, from college and university marketers a lot. From Ivy League MBA schools to specialized private career colleges, this requirement is high on the agenda of all post secondary chief marketing officers. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, (as Marketing Sherpa reports), it is also the case that this is the number one challenge faced by marketing and sales organizations in all businesses types.

We’ve learned from experience that before we begin to address the question of how to generate more leads it’s critical to agree on a clear definition of what “high quality” means to our clients. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how different people’s definitions of quality, and approaches to it, can be.

1) Let’s start with a basic definition of a quality lead :
A quality lead has: 1 – data viability (accurate contact information) 2 – an established level of need or user intent 3 – authority to make a decision 4 – a reasonable timeline to make a decision 5 – a high propensity to close

So assuming a lead has met the basic definition above, what other kinds of things do managers look for to indicate “high quality”.

2) Many insitutions use a demographic approach:

This approach assumes that a lead meets a specific criteria or demographic description of an ideal candidate. Of course this assumes that you already have the profile of that individual which may or may not be the case. Establishing your target audience for a program is the first step but then confirming that your registered students actually meet the profile of the target audience is an important and necessary step. This can be particularly problematic with recruiting for new programs. Most institutions have a general handle on these things but many have not taken the analysis step to confirm and refine their models for ideal candidates. In today’s “secret shopper” marketplace this approach is proving more difficult to use, as the identity and demographic profile of prospects is often not know.

3) A third approach is to take a behavioral approach to predict quality:

In this approach, demonstrated behaviors of the prospect are used to imply higher potential yield rate. These behaviors might be: 1 – campus visit 2 – registered for an event 3 – filled out a form 4 – time on a website 5 – what channel did they come from

Defining and tracking prospect segments, based on their entry point into your recruitment funnel is key to establishing benchmarks for which behaviors predict the highest propensity to convert. For example, a lead form prospect vs a campus visit prospect have very different likelihoods of conversions, based on intent and the recruitment strategies then used in response to their initial contact.

4) A internal resource or recruitment infrastructure-based approach to defining “high” quality

The quality of a lead that is appropriate to meet the needs of an institution’s marketing infrastructure can vary tremendously. A small private college with 2 recruitment staff vs a large national distance education institution with hundreds of “advisors” has a dramatic effect on defining the quality of leads that are generally sought and acquired. Even with limited staff, if you have a sophisticated recruitment funnel, well supported by analytics, and a robust CRM system, segmented and prioritized prospect groups can be managed in a variety of ways, determined by their propensity to convert, ranging from personal contact from staff to computer automated “drip campaigns.”

These approaches to defining and managing lead quality are all appropriate in differing circumstances. What is important is that as a producer and consumer of student leads your institutional context is understood internally, providing you with the best opportunity to successfully define where to invest your resources to produce “more, high quality leads”.

We would love to hear about your definitions for high quality leads and how your generate them.