Still looking for flash-in-the-pan solutions to generate leads that convert? Although there is a place for this type of marketing, we’ve found that the most successful campaigns have a more personal touch. Lead nurturing captures the essence of creating authentic relationships, focusing on substance rather than style. Gen Z challenges you to treat them as individuals, to be transparent, and to reflect the values they believe in.
In this article, we’ll go over why lead nurturing matters in higher education and how you can utilize it in your marketing efforts for the new year.
Why does lead nurturing matter?
Each student you are trying to convert has their own individual needs and preferences. What attracts one student won’t necessarily appeal to another — what a student needs at any given time may even differ from what they need a few weeks, or months later. Not only must you prepare for the variety of student needs, but their constantly changing demands as well.
Gen Z knows exactly who they are and what they want, and expects you to know it too. They demand authentic relationships with the schools and programs they interact with and despise anything that looks like an advertisement or up-sell. Contrary to popular belief, they are not the impulsive decision-makers you think they are. They have a knack for researching extensively before making their own informed decisions.
The goal of lead nurturing in higher education is not to capture every student at once, rather, to move every student efficiently through the marketing funnel. Creating a lead nurturing campaign can allow you to focus on students at different stages in the marketing funnel at different times, building the authentic types of relationships students are looking for. Many of your emails won’t be right for every student, but they will ring true for at least one. Nurtured students will come out more qualified and more likely to convert than leads that you’re trying to create without a plan.
Why should you use lead nurturing?
Get the highest return on investment. Focusing on the full array of marketing tools available to you today may not be viable for your school due to budget constraints, personnel, and time. If you’re looking to generate more leads for the lowest cost then lead nurturing — particularly email nurturing — should be at the top of your list.
Lead nurturing through email is widely considered the best marketing tool for businesses, generating the highest return on investment. According to Sopro and Sharpspring:
Although students spend more time on social media than they do email, it’s impossible to time their social media habits. As many posts as you may make, and as frequently as you may make them, social media is saturated with distractions of all kinds that can prevent students from keying in on your posts. However, if you’ve taken the time to develop your email list, email marketing can be a cost-effective alternative with a high probability of success.
Timing is everything in student recruitment — lead nurturing through email gives you multiple opportunities to drive your message through to students when they need it and delivers them in a way as to lead them efficiently down the marketing funnel. Each subsequent email sent in a lead nurturing campaign will increase the likelihood of a student advancing to the next stage of recruitment.
Sustainability In the past five years, we’ve already seen the rise and subsequent fall (and rise again) of Snapchat, the gradual decline of Facebook, and the skyrocketing of TikTok. What the next five years has in store for us we can only imagine. Email, however, has remained consistent throughout.
Keeping up with the latest social media trends or the latest marketing strategies can take a lot of resources and time. If you’re looking for a sustainable method of generating leads without the overhead of high-level marketing strategies, email nurturing is a reliable strategy that you can rely on for the foreseeable future.
How should I utilize lead nurturing?
We hope we’ve convinced you of the importance and effectiveness of lead nurturing, but that brings us to the big question — how do you use it?
There are a number of great tools you can use to make the most of your email lead nurturing (we recommend Mailchimp or RDStation). However, no tool is any good if you don’t have an effective lead nurturing strategy. Here are a few best practices for you to consider when developing your own:
1. Segment your audiences
Remember when we said that Gen Z demands you to understand and care for them on an individual level? This is where you start. Developing your student personas will allow you to target students with more relevant content based on their unique preferences.
A few things to consider when segmenting your students could include:
To understand the students you can attract, you must first look at what’s worked for your university to this point. What led the students you have at your program to choose you over your competitors? Students are drawn to different qualities that school’s offer whether it be academic excellence, community, or even extracurricular opportunities. Finding those qualities and amplifying them through the content you include in your email messaging will attract the right students and generate more qualified leads.
2. Provide relevant content
Once you’ve figured out the types of students you want to attract, the next step is to create relevant content for your target audiences. Diversifying your messaging for each target group will not only meet their needs better but will convey to them that you are looking out for their best interests, something Gen Z values.
Your content should be created for students at different stages in the marketing funnel. Depending on where students are, whether it be the awareness stage (top of the funnel), or the decision stage (bottom of the funnel), the messaging should be unique to their needs. Email nurturing won’t reach every student at the perfect time, but the ‘perfect timing’ is different from student to student.
3. Automate your emails
Email automation is a convenient tool that can save you a lot of time and manpower. Through email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp and RDStation, you can automate your email nurturing campaigns to be delivered once specific criteria are met.
For example, let’s say you’ve sent the first email (out of four) in a nurturing campaign to a student, but they didn’t see it or open it. Rather than sending the second email, after a certain number of days you can set the automation to send the first email again. Only after that first email is opened will the automation move the student to the next stage. In this way, you can ‘drip’ content to students and gradually move them through the funnel.
4. Experiment with different platforms
Lead nurturing is not exclusive to email marketing. Through understanding your target audiences you can identify where they are and how to best meet their needs. If that means nurturing them through a WhatsApp integration, use that. Do they spend most of their time on Facebook instead? Have someone be responsible for maintaining consistent dialogue on that platform. Email lead nurturing has its benefits, but what works for one university may not work for another — find what works for you.
Lead nurturing captures the essence of creating authentic relationships with students. Implementing a lead nurturing strategy can allow you to move students through the marketing funnel and develop qualified student leads for your university.