How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    7 Lead Generation Strategies for Higher Education Institutions

    Lead generation is tough, especially in higher education. But there are specific strategies you can use to make it more effective...
    Last updated:
    April 16, 2024

    Today’s higher education applicants expect a streamlined, personalised experience from their very first interaction with your institution. Catch-all advertising campaigns and generic application processes just don’t cut it anymore.

    To help you compete on the global higher education stage and attract the best candidates, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most effective higher education lead generation strategies that you can start leveraging today.

    We’ll deep dive into the following approaches:

    • Lead ads
    • LinkedIn ads
    • Content
    • Chatbots
    • Email workflows
    • Website optimisation
    • The human element

    Need to boost your higher education marketing? Schedule a demo and start transforming your outreach today!

    Lead Generation Technique 1: Explore lead ads

    Many universities use social media ads for higher education lead generation. Considering 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials think social media is the most relevant channel for ads, this strategy makes a lot of sense. But have you explored lead ads yet?

    Lead ads can improve your conversion rates by allowing students to submit their details directly to you from the ad instead of having to navigate to a different page.

    Although it sounds simple, it’s incredibly powerful because it saves time and makes for a more hassle-free experience. Being redirected to another page can disrupt the user journey especially if the page isn’t optimised for mobile.

    With Facebook lead ads, the user’s name and email is automatically populated, making it even easier for them to submit an enquiry or brochure request. Lead ads are offered by all the major social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

    When a user responds to your lead ad, you can download it directly from your university’s social media account and pass it on to admissions. Better still, you can integrate your ad account with your SRM (Student Management System).

    Lead Generation Technique 2: Leverage the power of LinkedIn

    Approximately 645 million professionals use LinkedIn, which is why it’s particularly powerful for promoting post-graduate programmes and is widely utilised as a lead generation tool by business schools such as Queen’s School of Business, Ontario.

    In a case study published on LinkedIn, Neil Bearse, Director of Marketing for Queen’s School of Business, describes how his institution wanted to leverage its position as a thought leader when approaching LinkedIn ad content:

    “Instead of simply promoting a list of bullet points about our program, we wanted to showcase the conversations that happen in our classrooms. And bringing insightful content to places where more people can see it and share it is part of that same goal.”

    Before incorporating LinkedIn into its higher education lead generation strategy, Queen’s School of Business relied on email marketing alone to promote research and webinars.

    • Queen’s School of Business wanted to gain more leads for its Executive MBA
    • It wanted to raise awareness of its reputation as a thought leader
    • It also wanted to increase sign ups to its Executive Education faculty webinars
    • Queen’s School of Business adopted a dual approach using LinkedIn InMail and Sponsored Updates
    • Sponsored Updates promoted upcoming webinars and content from the business school’s thought leadership platform, QSB Insight
    • InMail enabled it to increase the number of individuals who signed up for information sessions on degree programmes
    • Ads were targeted based on seniority, education level, geography, and company size
    • 300% increase in traffic to the QSB Insight thought leadership platform
    • 60% increase in webinar attendance
    • 450 extra leads generated for the Executive MBA programme

    Lead Generation Technique 3: Experiment with content

    With so much content out there today, how can you create engaging content that is so good it generates leads and conversions as well as views? The secret is to focus on formats that appeal to your target audience.

    Researching what university to apply to and which programme to choose is time-consuming, so think about how you can inform prospects in a quick and effective way.

    Why not integrate quizzes into your student lead generation strategy?

    Quizzes are engaging because they tap into our curiosity to find out more about who we are, particularly in relation to our skills and capabilities. You could create a quiz to match individuals to degree programmes based on their interests.

    Take a look at the following three examples:

    Example #1 - Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies 


    Example #2 - IE University 


    Example #3 - University of Bradford 


    Lead Generation Technique 4: Delegate to chatbots

    In the age of digital messaging, higher education chatbots have the power to attract and convert the most qualified leads. Chatbots facilitate the exchange of key information 24/7, making them a convenient point of contact for both domestic and international leads.

    Prior to starting an application, prospective students will be looking for answers to questions relating to everything from course content to fees and accommodation. This information should be easy to find on your website, but some will prefer to ask questions directly.

    Responding to every question and query individually is time consuming and arduous. Chatbots can respond to queries in an automated way, enabling your admissions team to focus on other tasks.

    Chatbots can be easily embedded into your website and programmed to provide automated responses to common questions quickly, while meeting the expectations of prospects.

    Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular and university-specific solutions are emerging. AdmitHub is one such example. 

    The app started out by focusing on admissions, but has grown to encompass every stage of the student lifecycle, from a person’s first interaction on your website to their experience as a life-long alumni.

    Higher-ed chatbot platforms like AdmitHub can build a knowledge base that is specific to your campus and programmes and enable you to identify trends using analytics.

    Lead Generation Technique 5: Create email workflows

    Research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalised experiences.

    The same applies to the university application experience.

    Generic or irrelevant communication has the potential to turn the warmest of leads cold. Personalisation is key, and the first step towards it involves segmentation.

    For maximum impact, segment your email lists in as granular a way as possible. As well as categorising leads in relation to programme of study or extracurricular interests, sort them into what stage they’re at in the application funnel.

    Here’s what an email workflow looks like.

    Example workflow

    A Student Relationship Management (SRM) platform like FULL FABRIC will enable you to capture relevant information, set triggers and automate personalised emails.

    You could go down the CRM route, however SRMs are specifically set up for institutions and organisations operating in the higher education sector so are designed to cater to your specific needs, requirements and workflows.

    Lead Generation Technique 6: Optimise your website

    When evaluating your lead generation approach, your institution’s website is a good place to begin. You need a place to direct prospects to in your marketing campaigns and your website should be one of the first things that comes up on search engines.

    Think of your website as your digital hub but remember, you only have a few seconds to grab the viewer’s attention, so do everything in your power to engage them.

    A few actions you can take to turn your website into a lead generator include:

    • Crafting your tone of voice so that you come across as approachable. Aim for clarity of expression at all times – confusion can stop prospects from taking action.
    • Stick to a brand style guide when it comes to your website’s design (which should be up-to-date) and make sure pages are easy to find and navigate.
    • Optimise your landing pages and forms for conversations by keeping them simple, engaging, relevant, and easy to fill out and submit.
    • Strategically place Call to Actions (CTAs) on your website to make it clear what you want visitors to do next, e.g. ‘share now’, ‘start application’, ‘watch webinar’.
    • Use your SRM to create website lead capture forms; be sure to enter individuals into email workflows so you can nurture them through the application funnel.

    Lead Generation Technique 7: Be personable

    People love a human touch, and prospects who feel a real connection to your institution are more likely to become a fully qualified lead (i.e. more likely to graduate!).

    Tell stories that educate prospects about your university’s values while giving them an insight into what it's like to study with you.

    Your people, including students, alumni and staff, are your best ambassadors. Encourage them to share their stories through video content.

    According to research, the average viewer remembers 95% of a message when it’s watched on a video as opposed to 10% when it’s read as a text.

    Why not have a go at creating the following…

    • A testimonial about the international student experience
    • An overview of a programme or campus facility
    • An interview with an academic
    • A virtual campus tour
    • A feature on a successful graduate

    Watch the video below to find out what makes University of Westminster a vibrant, welcoming and multicultural place to study.


    Lead generation strategies are always evolving as technology advances and student expectations change.

    Fortunately, with the right Student Relationship Management system in place, you can equip yourself with the tools required to implement successful lead generation strategies year after academic year.

    Frequently asked questions about Lead Generation for Higher Education

    How do you generate educational leads?

    You can generate more education leads by leveraging a combination of social media ads, engaging content, email workflows, website CTAs and other technological tools such as chatbots for higher education.

    How can I increase my lead generation?

    You can increase your lead generation by tapping into new audiences on platforms you haven’t used before, or by optimising your presence on existing platforms. For instance, you might have a university LinkedIn page, but do you use InMail to target prospects?

    What is meant by lead generation?

    Lead generation is a marketing term that means ‘to initiate the interest of a customer’. In the context of higher ed, lead generation equates to piquing the interest of prospective students through organic or targeted campaigns.

    Is lead generation profitable?

    When executed well, a lead generation strategy can be very profitable in terms of ROI. As well as gaining more enrolled students, a crafted lead generation campaign can also help raise your institution’s brand/profile more generally.


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    Kate Tattersfield

    Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.

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