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Importance of Lead Generation in Online Education

Importance of Lead Generation in Online Education

Online learning programs have carved out a niche in higher education over the last decade. Add in the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, and enrollment in these programs has skyrocketed. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education found that between fall 2019 and fall 2020, the percentage of students enrolled in at least one online course almost doubled. 

Some of that, of course, was situationally necessary. But the trend is here to stay, as students and schools alike have found the mutual benefits of online learning. As outlined in a recent article by Inside Higher Ed, experts expect the numbers to remain steady over the next few years. This consistency has shown an ongoing need for colleges and universities to bolster their virtual offerings.

Against the backdrop of this increasingly competitive environment, marketing becomes a crucial part of the equation. The more students you can get into your database, the more you can tout the benefits and nuances of your online educational programs. 

What is Lead Generation in an Inbound Marketing Context?

Simply put, lead generation strategies prioritize getting prospective students into the admissions database for further, more specific nuanced follow-ups. In inbound marketing, lead generation strategies typically focus on getting prospective students to "raise their hands" as inquiries, offering something valuable that makes them happy to provide their contact information in return.

Lead generation has gathered steam over the last 15 years alongside the rise of inbound marketing, which presents that touch points with prospects are much more valuable when they offer value compared to simply pushing sales messaging. 

When your content marketing and messaging are good enough to "draw" in your audience - you can achieve more, with less. Instead of frequently having to push out messaging about your brand.

In that context, lead generation follows a relatively straightforward process: 

  1. Your prospective student audience learns about you through one of your marketing messages, like your website, social media channels, or a YouTube video.
  2. The content they consume includes a natural call-to-action that encourages them to learn more or dive deeper into the topic.
  3. The call to action directs your target audience to a landing page that reiterates the content they're about to see, along with a sign-up form to access the content.

That "gated" content can be anything from a guide, a webinar, a sample class, and more. The key here, of course, is offering something with enough value that your audience can't simply find online without having to provide their contact information.

Why You Need Lead Generation for Online Education Marketing

Higher education lead generation can be pivotal to marketing success, but that success becomes even more relevant when promoting your online programs. 

Crucial for online learning, lead generation is a largely online process that depends on digital tactics for success. If your education institution is primarily focused on online programs, or you simply want to promote any online program, finding digital strategies to reach your largely virtual audience becomes a vital piece of the puzzle. 

That's especially true in an environment that has become increasingly competitive. The fact that every school had to offer online programs when the pandemic began means that now, every school has the potential to offer online courses and degree programs to new students. Competition is no longer limited to powerhouse universities.

Research also shows that students who consider online programs take up to two years from first research to enrollment. Getting potential student leads into your database early is essential to building consistent communications plans that can continue to highlight the value and ROI of your educational opportunity.

Finally, lead generation for online courses can also build one element that can be more difficult to accomplish for broader audiences: building credibility.

Online education has traditionally been associated with for-profit institutions, and because your audience is likely broader than the typical local or regional students considering your in-person degree programs. For online programs, you have to establish trust before you can sell your education. A higher education lead gen strategy, focused primarily on providing value, can go a long way toward building that trust.

How to Prioritize Education Lead Generation in the Context of Your Marketing Strategy

Online education lead generation is only a slice of the larger digital marketing pie. It's a significant and important one, but still only makes sense when working in concert with your other channels and efforts:

  • Landing pages and web content can be optimized for search engines, so your audience can find you on Google and Bing.
  • YouTube videos can be optimized for search as well, and be built specifically to drive to your website.
  • Social media posts can offer snippets of the content gated behind a sign-up form to increase audience interest.
  • Follow-up emails to newly generated leads can further drive home the value proposition and keep the audience's interest.

And that's just the beginning. Even paid efforts, like search and social media ads can drive to your landing pages for immediate audience attention. Lead generation becomes a part of the entire digital ecosystem, helping to both attract online students and keep these students engaged as they decide whether studying at your institution makes sense for them.

Getting to that point can be complex. 

It can also get confusing, as plenty of education lead generation companies promise shortcuts to get database contacts from so-called cold leads. The good news: you don't have to do it alone.

In fact, working with a higher education marketing partner who can help you build both your lead generation efforts and your overall marketing strategy can go a long way towards building a successful strategy to attract online students. Ready to learn more? Let's chat! 

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FAQ Recap:


What is lead generation in the context of inbound marketing for online education?

Lead generation in inbound marketing focuses on getting prospective students into the admissions database through strategies that encourage them to "raise their hands" as inquiries. It involves offering valuable content to entice prospects to provide their contact information.


How does lead generation align with the principles of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing emphasizes providing value to prospects rather than pushing sales messaging. Lead generation, as part of inbound marketing, aims to draw in the audience with valuable content, creating a more effective and less intrusive communication strategy.


What is the process of lead generation in online education marketing?

  1. Prospective students learn about the institution through marketing messages.

  2. The content they consume includes a call-to-action directing them to learn more.

  3. A landing page with a sign-up form is provided, offering "gated" content such as a guide, webinar, or sample class.


Why is lead generation crucial for marketing online education programs?

For online learning, lead generation relies on digital tactics, making it essential in an increasingly competitive online education environment. With the potential for every institution to offer online courses, early lead generation becomes pivotal in establishing consistent communication and building credibility.


How does lead generation contribute to building credibility for online education?

Online education often requires establishing trust, especially as it has been associated with for-profit institutions. A lead generation strategy focused on providing value helps build trust by showcasing the benefits and value of the educational opportunity.


Why is early lead generation essential for online education marketing success?

Research indicates that students considering online programs may take up to two years from initial research to enrollment. Early lead generation allows institutions to build consistent communication plans, highlighting the value and return on investment of their educational programs.


How does online education lead generation fit into the broader digital marketing strategy?

Lead generation complements other digital channels by working in tandem with landing pages, web content optimization for search engines, YouTube videos, social media posts, follow-up emails, and even paid efforts like search and social media ads. It becomes a part of the entire digital ecosystem to attract and engage online students.


Can education lead generation get confusing, especially with promises from lead generation companies?

Indeed, education lead generation can become complex, and navigating through promises from various companies may be confusing. However, partnering with a higher education marketing expert can provide guidance and support in building effective lead-generation efforts and an overall marketing strategy.


How can working with a higher education marketing partner enhance lead-generation efforts for online education?

A higher education marketing partner brings expertise to help institutions build successful lead-generation strategies tailored for attracting online students. Collaborating with experts can simplify the process and contribute to the overall success of online education marketing.


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