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If you have set up your school to use Google Analytics, you are now harnessing the power of analytics-driven marketing: measuring your online lead generation initiatives in real-time. However, has your school prepared itself for the next step?

Using SEO and PPC campaigns, among other tools and tactics, your school will likely start to see an increase in traffic and leads. Before this happens, you have to move from an organization that receives inquiries by phone to one that can process leads from the Web. Schools that improve their online presence often make the mistake of skipping this step, and, unprepared to deal with a flood of new inquiries, they end up not converting those leads to students.

The most important element of lead conversion is time of response. More specifically, the key is how long it takes to get a prospective student on the phone. The longer this takes, the more likely a competitor gets to that lead first, and the less likely you will convert that lead. What you have to remember is that it does not take much for a prospective student to contact multiple schools when searching for programs. The school that responds first, who gets him or her on the phone first, will most usually make the best impression. To maximize this response time, we suggest developing a comprehensive lead conversion management system.

Here are some basic ideas to keep in mind when establishing a lead conversion management system:

Create processes to divide and respond to inquiries

To help reduce the lead conversion time, your school has to create processes that score leads (identifying what stage of the admissions process they are in), nurture leads (offer information and help move them along to the next stage) and then distribute leads (passing them on to the right channel or department). Doing so will maximize the efficiency of your recruiting department and increase lead conversion.

Create auto-responders

It’s a good idea to create a series of auto-response email messages that go out whenever prospective students send in inquiries. This can be as simple as an acknowledgement of receipt (e.g. “Thank you for contacting University College. An admissions representative will contact you shortly.”) or a much more detailed response specific to a particular department or program. The choice is yours, but auto-responses are an easy way to help shorten the response time.

First-line response team

Marketing budgets are never as big as schools want them, but we can’t stress this point enough. The key to lead conversion is simple: man power. Schools must have a team of first-line employees who are processing and getting online leads on the phone. Without a team dedicated to this task, any increase in online lead generation will simply fall through the cracks.

Use a customer relationship management (CRM) system

CRM (customer relationship management) systems help colleges or universities organize their lead processing work, providing a system for their admissions team to log into, handle inquiries and enable auto responders. CRM systems also allow you to log notes and activities for each lead, schedule future follow-ups and send newsletters or emails, among other things.

Look long term

You won’t convert all your leads. You will, however, develop a large database of online leads that expressed an interest in your programs and course offerings. You need to keep these people in the loop. Lead conversion is not simply about courting the prospects looking to enroll immediately. It’s also about making sure your school stays in the mind of any lead that has made an inquiry. A good way to do this is to create a newsletter. This can be monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, but it should offer a mix of school news, events, open houses and admissions information. By staying in touch with the “ones who got away”, you are increasing the chances that they, when ready, will enroll at your school.

To find out more about online generation and lead conversion management, contact Higher Education Marketing today.