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It turns out that mobile can be a great platform for generating student leads for higher ed student recruitment.

In recent examples where we’ve split off and launched mobile-only PPC campaigns to parallel existing PPC campaigns, we have seen lifts in conversion rate from baselines of around 5% to anywhere up to 18%. That’s a pretty amazing result in any market but it turns out this is not unique to higher education. With a bit of research on the web you will find many corroborating studies and reports that confirm that mobile is generally getting higher click through and conversion rates than traditional desktop format marketing.

So after recovering from the celebrations, and leveraging this strategy across a few more campaigns, we buckled down and tried to really understand what’s different about mobile lead generation and to identify the factors that are influencing these results.

So here is our thoughts on why mobile seems to be working well for us, so far.

1) Most mobile lead generation forms are simpler and less threatening

lead gen form

Out of necessity, most mobile lead gen forms, on websites or on mobile PPC landing pages, keep it really simple, often only requesting full name and email, as above . This makes good sense given the challenges of typing and the limited attention span of a visitor using a smart phone. It is also generally accepted that by keeping the number of fields to an absolute minimum that you will scare away the least number of prospects, who are afraid of being put into a hard sell sales cycle they if they provide phone number and address details.

The A/B test example below provides vivid proof of this behaviour.

        The Original lead gen form required: Full name and email
Variation 1 lead gen form required: Full name, email and phone number

phone number test

The additional commitment required on the part of the prospect student to provide a phone number was enough to dramatically reduce the conversion rate. I would argue that in this case these prospects are not necessarily poor quality prospects but that they were at the very beginning of their research into possible options, or in other words, at the very top of the recruitment funnel, and as a result, were not willing to commit to a the higher level engagement that might be facilitated if they provided a phone number.

2) Mobile is a much more “directed” search platform

Microsoft search types

Source: Search Engine Land

Searching on a mobile device often has different intent from the kind of searching we do on a desktop or with a tablet. Mobile searching is very directed, “mission-based” searching. If, in the moment, what we are doing in the real world, ( on the bus, in a line for coffee, etc), is more import than what we are doing in the virtual world, then we want to get in, find what we want, and get out. Mobile facilitates this type of searching best. In this type of a search, it is reasonable to expect that prospect students would convert, on an information request goal, more readily, that when in exploration mode while sitting at home on their desktop in the evening, when the have more time to gather and consider the nuances of the information they find.

Mobile search growth

Source: emarketer

This behaviour may change in the future as we move more and more towards our mobile devices as our primary internet access points, and transfer our search requirements to it, but at least for the present this seems to be the case.

3) Mobile search is used to find local information

     Google says that 95% of smartphone users look up local information regularly.
     Google says that 50 % of its searches on mobile have local intent.
     Bing says that 53 % of its searches on mobile have local intent.

Mobile searchers are thinking local and they are thinking immediate. Assuming, like most post-secondary institutions, that a large part of your target audience is in your local area, it only makes sense that mobile will produce higher lead generation conversion rates. Given these kinds of results, local search advertising is expanding very rapidly. My guess is that higher ed will likely contribute its fair share to its projected growth in the coming years.

Mobile ad revenue growth

Source: Search Engine Watch


4) Mobile leads to action

Mobile devices seem to be an almost perfect direct response medium. We want information on the go, and when we get it, we seem more willing to act on it.

     70% of mobile searches lead to action within 1 hour. 90% eventually lead to action
     90% of leads from other sources do not take action, leading to 2-5 % conversion rates

     61% of mobile searches lead to an inbound phone call
     Inbound phone calls generally convert at 10 to 15 times the rate of other leads.

These general statistics should get your attention. Unfortunately I don’t have education market specific stats to further delve into but as the research becomes available it will be very interesting to see how much of these general online consumer behaviors will be  translated into the higher ed market. The success of mobile in producing inbound prospect phone calls is an aspect that should be considered closely to effect a closer integration of inbound marketing with your school’s admissions call centre.

Mobile has demonstrated its chops to us as an effective tactic in higher ed lead generation. Lead quality and conversion to student rates remain to be seen down the road but I have high hopes that these leads will prove to be of high value. I hope these insights will be helpful to other higher ed marketers as you extend your marketing activities into this new territory.

Do you have other insights into the effectiveness of mobile marketing from your experience. Have you seen similarly high levels of lead conversions from mobile sources? We would love to get your take on mobile and hear about its role in your marketing plans for the coming year.