Reading Time: 8 minutes

Lead Scoring Robot Qualified Active Right Fit 3d Illustration

Lead scoring can be an excellent tool to help your admissions team prioritize new prospects for follow-up. Based on their demographic attributes, your school can identify which leads are the best fits for your programs and courses and work hard to make sure these prospects are top of your list for contact.

As they progress through the funnel, though, you’ll also want to know just how well these prospects are being engaged, and whether their level of interest is growing. This is where behavioural lead scoring comes in.

Available with many marketing automation systems, behavioural lead scoring capabilities allow your school to assign value to certain interactions prospects have with your school, which could include everything from opening an email to attending a webinar or open house.

Keep reading to learn how behavioural lead scoring can supercharge your admissions management efforts.

New call-to-action

Demographic vs. Behavioural Lead Scoring for Schools: Finding the Balance Between Fit and Interest

When approaching lead follow-up and nurturing, most schools will prioritize prospects which most closely fit their target personas. Prospective students and parents from their main target markets, and whose age, background, qualifications, and other characteristics most closely match their ideal audience are a natural place to start when looking to find leads with real potential to nurture towards enrollment.

This is the basis of demographic lead scoring, which assigns each prospect an initial value based on information you gather when they first make an inquiry, as well as any subsequent details that come to light from further follow-up and interactions.

However, demographic lead scoring isn’t always a perfect predictor of which prospects in your funnel will ultimately end up becoming students. Sometimes, you might find that a lead who looks like a perfect candidate on paper might turn out to be less interested in your school than you expected. Other times, a prospect from a location that usually isn’t a big market for you, or who doesn’t fit the typical demographics of your persona, will be very enthusiastic about attending.

This is where behavioural lead scoring comes in. Once a prospect submits their details, your education marketing automation system can track their subsequent interactions with your school online. Everything from opening an email to viewing a web page can be recorded, and you can add points to their score to indicate that they are a highly interested prospect.

Using both demographic and behavioural lead scoring helps you find the balance between fit and interest to give a clearer picture of how much attention and priority your admissions team should be giving to specific leads.

The benefits of adding behavioural scoring to your mix have been shown across different industries. A study from Marketo showed that companies who used behavioural scoring enjoyed 12% higher revenue growth that those who scored leads based on fit alone:

lead scoring for schools

Source: Marketo


With the benefits clear, it just a question of what you should assign points to, and what sort of scoring system your school should use.

Implementing Behavioural Lead Scoring Across Your Admissions and Marketing Channels

What actions you can assign behavioural lead scoring points to will largely depend on what higher education marketing automation system you use, as different software will have different capabilities for tracking activities. Here are a few possibilities for actions that you may be able to track across different channels.

Email Marketing

Tracking email activity is one of the most useful applications of behavioural lead scoring for schools. As you send both automated and manual follow-up emails to leads, you’ll want to see which ones are engaging with your content.

Example: Mautic by HEM allows schools to assign points for email opens. In this case, the school is assigning 5 points to any open of a mail attempting to make contact with a prospect.

marketing automation for schools

Depending on the system you have, you may be able to assign points to:

– Email sends

– Email opens

– Email replies

– Clicks on links

– Mailing list subscriptions

– Unsubscribes

This will give you a sense of how far your email efforts are going in terms of building on your prospects’ initial interest in your school and nurturing them towards enrollment.

Engagement with Your Admissions Staff

As a prospect progresses through the enrollment journey, how responsive they are to contact from your admissions staff is arguably one of the strongest indications of how likely they are to enroll.

If you use a combined CRM and marketing automation system, you may be able to assign points to your team’s interactions with prospects. If they answer or return a call, schedule or attend a meeting, reply to a text, or anything else that indicates they are actively engaging with your school, you can automatically add to their score. 

As we’ll cover later in this blog, you can also decrease the score of leads who are not responding to your contact efforts.

Event Attendance

If you’re running webinars, online information sessions, or other events through common platforms like Zoom or GoToWebinar, many marketing automation systems have integrations that will enable you to assign points to those who register and attend.

Example: HubSpot allows account holders with GoToWebinar integration to assign points to contacts who register or attend their sessions.

higher ed marketing automation

You may also be able to assign points to those who register to attend physical events at your school such as tours and open houses. You can do this simply by creating lists of registrants and using list membership as the trigger to add to a contact’s score.

Advertising Interactions

Some marketing automation systems like HubSpot offer automated tools for search and social media ads, and this also means that they offer the opportunity to score leads based on interactions with your campaigns.

Example: HubSpot allows you to assign values to users who have interacted with Google, LinkedIn and Facebook ads campaigns.

lead scoring in higher ed

This can be extremely helpful if you are using remarketing campaigns to reignite the interest of your existing leads, and can help indicate whether or not your school is remaining top of mind with your current pool of prospects.

Web Page Views

If a prospect is seriously interested in your school, they’ll likely want to learn as much about it as possible. This means that they’ll probably be combing through your website looking for information about your programs, application processes, campus life, and other aspects of your school.

With many marketing automation systems, you can assign points to leads when they view specific URLs on your website. If they check out a blog, browse a program page, or check out your halls of residence, you can add to their score, so your admissions team knows that their interest is high.

This can be particularly valuable when prospects view pages that indicate they are very close to considering applying, such as a How to Apply page. These kind of bottom-of-the-funnel pages can be assigned a higher score in your system.


Leads don’t always convert just once. Even after a prospect has submitted an inquiry, signed up for your newsletter, or availed of any other offer to enter your system, they may be interested in others in the future.

For example, they might download a brochure, sign up for an open house, take a practice test or quiz, or anything else that might help them progress their interest in your school. 

Example: Prospective University of Waterloo students can download the school’s brochures on its website. A lead score could potentially be assigned to this action.

schools marketing automation

Across all channels, you can assign points to CTA clicks, downloads, form submissions, and other conversion actions so that you’ll see which prospects are enthusiastically engaging with everything you have to offer.

Value, Negative Lead Scoring, and Score Degradation in Education Marketing Automation

The key to a good lead scoring system is ensure that points are assigned in a way that accurately reflects the value of the actions prospects are taking. As a general rule, it’s best to set the scores for most behavioural actions a lot lower than demographic lead scoring attributes. If you assign too many points to something small like a brochure download, it might give your admissions team a false impression of how interested a lead is. 

You should also consider incorporating negative lead scoring and score degradation into your scores. Negative lead scores will deduct points from prospects if they perform an action that might indicate they are not especially interested in moving further through the enrollment journey, such as unsubscribing from a mailing list, or failing to attend a meeting.

Score degradation can also be important when using behavioural lead scoring. A prospect might be seriously interested in your school at one point, only to choose another school or decide against pursuing education altogether. If they’ve spent a lot of time browsing your website, attending events, or taking other actions during their research process, they may rack up a very good score. With score degradation, you can automatically reduce their score after long periods of inactivity to ensure they don’t remain at the top of your admissions team’s queue.

Using Behavioural Lead Scoring to Improve Your Marketing and Admissions Efforts

A nice fringe benefit of implementing behavioural lead scoring in marketing automation for higher education is that it can be used to improve your marketing and follow-up efforts. Your team will be able to see how leads are engaging with your school after their initial inquiry, and what actions prospects who ultimately become students take as they progress through the funnel.

This will give you a sense of what content and follow-up activities are actually having the desired effect in persuading prospects to choose your school, as well as what they don’t find particularly engaging. Armed with this knowledge, you can refine and improve your student recruitment efforts to maximize your potential ROI. 


New call-to-action