7 Tips to Improve The Effectiveness of Your Lead Generation Forms

Initially published on www.higher-education-marketing.com. This post is focused on how to create more effective lead generation forms. Lead generation forms appear on custom landing pages but are also embedded within content pages, home pages and contact pages. More and more higher ed institutions are adopting the practice of using them on high level home pages and program specific recruitment pages. This has been a common practice on the for-profit side of higher ed for a long time but now more public institutions are applying them in the very serious business of internal site managed lead production

Here are a few tips to help you improve the effectiveness of your lead forms:
1. Keep your Forms Simple and Open – One of the simplest rules of good form design is to keep them simple, and let the fields “breathe”. This allows the page visitor to “digest” the page and make an easy choice to engage with it. Here is a good example below. Complex, dynamic, or overdone forms often over-stimulate the visitor and in those few thousands of a second you have their attention, they may choose to move on, simply because it is too complicated to stop and try to figure it out.

2. Keep the Number of Fields Down – The research is pretty clear on this. The fewer fields you ask a prospect to fill in, generally the more leads you will get. But at the same time, the more information you get from a prospect allows you to follow-up more effectively and generally convert at a higher rate. This is the Catch 22 of lead forms that you have to resolve. I say go with as few fields as you can, with name, email and phone number as the key fields. Zip-code is a good fourth to get more location detail without having to ask a prospect for street, city, province/state, country. With the right back end software running you can extract the location details from the postal code/zip. Whether to include phone number can be a difficult call. Having it included in the form can reduce your conversion rate as much as 5% but conversely, if you can follow-up immediately with a phone call to the prospect, conversion rates to student improves dramatically.

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3. Use Value – Based Buttons – The text on the form submit button needs to express what the button will do when it’s clicked. “Get information”, “Book your Visit” , “Get our View Book” are all examples of good value based button text, that provide relevant and non-intimidating outcomes that have value to the prospect. Spend some time thinking about this text, as it has been shown that the default use of “Submit” can reduce your conversion rates by as much as 3%.

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4. Include a Privacy Policy – Always include a statement that tells prospects that their info will be protected. Including a link to your privacy policy is even better. As you know, students are very reluctant these days about providing their true contact info to recruitment offices, so every little bit of trust you can engender helps to engage and draw a prospect into your recruitment funnel.
5. Data Verification – I really don’t like to use Captcha forms to ensure that there are humans at the other end of a lead request. I think they are awkward and rather ugly and the research shows that they can have a negative impact on your conversion rate. If you are having a problem with robots spamming your forms, as I have lately, you have to make the choice between volume of leads vs quality.”Smart” Captcha offers a bit more finesse, appearing only after a second attempt to fill you form coming from the same IP address.
6. Always Position Your Forms Above the Fold – It is always surprising to me when I see lead gen forms below the fold , (the portions of a webpage that are visible without scrolling). If a particular page is the right page for the form then it deserves to be above the fold where it can be seen on first glance, rather than in the middle or bottom of the page, where few visitors ever actually see it.
7. Test , Test and Test – Lead generation forms are very unpredictable elements with respect to their performance. I would love to be able to say that there are 10 best practices that always work for everyone to improve your form conversions but it just does not work that way. To determine what works best for you, you have to do some real testing. Google Analytics Experiments is a great tool for A/B testing your forms but there are also a number of really great multivariate testing tools available () out there for the more adventurous. You have to learn what works for your programs and then keep testing on an ongoing basis to keep improving your results. Here is an example of two forms that I encountered on the Southern New Hampshire University site while researching this post that are likely part of a multivariate test. In multivariate tests a larger number of elements of the form are interchanged to determine the best mix for optimal conversion rate.

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The structure, content and copy of your lead generation forms are critical to your lead generation efforts. Apply the basics first and then expand your knowledge through form testing. These tips can help you to manage the volume, quality and overall ROI of your leads. Good luck and let us know what you’ve learned from your experience. What approach has worked best on your forms? Do you use any data verification techniques? What is your most effective button copy?

Digital Direct Marketing to International Students: Are You on Target?

Initially published on International Education Advantage, LLC. Digital marketing is a main channel for reaching students and is especially critical for reaching international students. In a perfect world you could attract these prospective students directly to your website without paying for third-party lead generation services. However, in reality, college-seekers often start with generic web searches (e.g. program of interest, location) and not with searches for specific schools.

In the higher education web battle for prospective students, your institution competes with many websites in the search results, including student lead generators that are very strong in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid search. The latter get better search rankings, which can make it difficult for a student to find your institution’s programs. For international students searching in different languages, same-language websites strong in SEO will get better search rankings in those countries from which the students are searching.

For example, a Chinese student’s search for an MBA program in the U.S. could yield search results for MBA programs in China due to strong within-country search rankings and despite that student’s search for U.S. programs only. Amidst the multitude of options in the world of web searches, the question becomes, not how can interested students find you, but how can you find interested students?

As a starting point, purchasing targeted email lists of college-bound test takers can give you an “in” across domestic and international markets for student recruitment. In the U.S., testing services such as ACT, SAT and TOEFL are major providers of student information, which is gathered annually from test-takers around the world. For as little as $0.37/name (from the SAT), you can access student contact information as well as a variety of demographic and academic information relevant to your institution’s international student recruitment process. On the SAT, 54% of international test-takers fill out the information form and indicate interest in receiving information from universities, providing an interested and accessible pool of potential applicants that can be contacted digitally.

With these email lists, your institution can engage in targeted digital marketing by filtering student leads based on several criteria including geographic region, college majors of interest, or level of academic performance. By honing your marketing efforts on more relevant leads, you can potentially save marketing dollars for your university.

However, a seemingly small cost of $0.37 per student email address can actually be very expensive, depending on the quality of the lead and the number of enrolled students that result from your efforts. As you engage in direct digital marketing, consider this:

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In order to determine the direct cost of the lead per enrolled student from the purchase of email lists for each scenario, divide the total cost of the email purchase by the number of enrolled students. Based on these two enrollment scenarios, it is easy to see why the careful targeting of your leads in digital marketing can have a big pay off. Purchasing emails for students whose data indicate that they might be a good fit for your school (academically, financially, etc.), will not just drive applications, but will also help to improve your return on investment (ROI). Succesful digital marketing requires consistent testing and integration with effective lead management to achieve the necessary yield conversion from a prospective student to enrolled student.

Keep in mind: in both Scenario I and Scenario II, the cost of enrolling the student will also include many more indirect and direct costs in addition to the purchase of the TOEFL email addresses. Additional costs could include travel expenses, advertising and other marketing materials, technology, and office and admission staff expenses.

The ultimate goal of direct marketing activities is to enroll more students and to do so cost-efficiently. In contrast to brand marketing, which elevates and reinforces your institution’s general brand recognition, direct marketing allows you to calculate your direct acquisition cost based on your marketing program. However, there are MANY factors influencing the success of your direct digital marketing activities — choosing a college is much more complicated than buying a Netflix subscription. Understanding your conversion rates at each stage of the enrollment funnel is necessary to use direct digital marketing effectively.

What Should Educators Be Doing to Tap Into the Indian Market?

Recently we have seen quite a few reports being published on the Indian International student market with various findings giving us more insight about their behavior and preferences while choosing a university. We have summarized the key findings and have discussed ways how Universities and governments could modify their marketing communications and product offerings to rightly target this vast market.

Facts About India:

  • India sends out approximately 800,000 students abroad every year making it 2nd largest country for outbound international students, after China.
  • It could become the fastest growing market for undergraduate students studying abroad as early as 2015.
  • Indian Government plans to increase the rate of college going students to 30% in the next decade and the existing 400 universities in India can only accommodate 12% of that.
  • By 2028 half of India’s population will be under 25.

 

Key Findings Recommended Measures
A recent report by British council reveals that Indian students are keen to study abroad but are extremely cost sensitive and we can expect them to be even more sensitive considering the devaluation of INR.It is estimated that the average cost of study abroad has increased $10,000/year and only 0.4% of Indian families can afford that 

 

 

 

If Asian educators and recruiters play it right, this could mean a huge shift in the landscape.Asian universities could tap this opportunity by increasing the perceived value for money along with the governments taking radical steps to communicate to the Indian students, one clear message, that their countries can offer the same quality education at a much lower cost as compared to Europe, Australia and Americas.Institutions could create more flexible payment methods for international students along with targeted scholarships and bursaries

 

 

The same study reveals that Indian students give a lot of weightage to the host country’s employment policies for international students while studying or once they finish their degree. Last year the number of Indian students in UK decreased by 23% mainly because of the removal of post study employment opportunities.Number of international students in Canada have increased by 23% because the country is perceived to be a great option for permanent migration

 

Educators should be constantly lobbying with their governments to ensure that employment policies for international students should be as lenient as possible along with robust post study visa programmes. Australian educators have been successfully lobbying with policy makers and have managed to relax student employment policies.As a result of these employment friendly policies, Australia has seen a 36% increase in Indian students in the last year.

 

High quality courses and institutions remained by far the greatest pull factor for the students when choosing whether to study at home or abroad.Germany has seen a 19% increase in Indian students because Indian students see Germany as offering world-class education & opportunities in the automotive, engineering, and manufacturing industries

 

 

 

 

Educators need to emphasize more on improving the quality of courses being offered by them along with a focus on using alumni experiences and success stories in their communications.They need to work closely with the private sector to ensure a meaningful internship program along with a functional and effective placement department.This would help build confidence among students and decrease the trust deficit.

 

 

 

 

In the recent past we have seen Malaysia emerging as a popular study destination in Asia with reputed foreign universities opening their branch campuses in the country. Such initiatives by European, Australian, Canadian and North american universities will help them retain cost sensitive Indian students as they can offer similar courses and degrees at much economical costs.