8 lead generation strategies for higher education

Posted by Charlotte Boaden

Lead generation in higher education is the process of earning the interest of prospective students with measurable results. There are many tips, tricks, and best practices to improve the way your institution attracts and converts leads. However, a clever student recruitment strategy can support lead generation via various marketing channels, including events, social media promotion, website blogs, or paid advertising. 

Better lead generation means more prospective students who have registered their interest and are ready to engage with your institution. This guide explores key strategies for attracting and generating student leads, including best practices, and how a student marketing and recruitment CRM can help. 

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What is student lead generation? 

Student lead generation is the process of identifying and capturing prospective students to register their interest in your university. It can take the form of campaigns across different marketing channels - for example, email, social media, or physical advertising. 

There are different ways to categorise leads depending on how far along the student journey a prospect is. For example, a lead may be a visitor requesting more basic information or perhaps a prospective student indicating they want to join your institution. All leads should be registered as contacts in your student marketing funnel to ensure they are contactable during key enrolment phases. 

Lead generation is an important strategy for attracting both national and international students. Your marketing efforts should therefore be designed to capture and generate leads, whether that’s a clear call to action enticing visitors to contact your team, a sign-up form protecting downloadable content, or something else. The result is an audience that is open and ready for communication, making them much more engaged than the average visitor. 


8 student lead generation strategies

There is huge competition between institutions for the attention and interest of prospective students. A solid strategy for student lead generation is vital to stand out and get ahead. Focusing on different marketing channels will help to improve lead generation across the board. 

8 of the most effective student lead generation strategies include: 

  1. Virtual events 
  2. Downloadable resources and gated content 
  3. Email marketing  
  4. Paid media  
  5. Social media 
  6. Content marketing 
  7. SEO 
  8. Managing leads with a CRM 

Virtual events 

Virtual events are a great way to make events as accessible as possible, with prospective students able to attend without any travel commitments. This is particularly useful for attracting the interest of international students. In-person events and talks can also be recorded or broadcast remotely, further increasing the reach. With a digital signup form, virtual events can be used to record and generate leads, transforming attendees into prospective students. Check out our blog on how to run a virtual Fresher’s week.  

Using downloads and gated content 

Gated content is when a visitor must submit a form or share their contact details before accessing a digital resource or downloadable materials. The download can then be triggered or is often then sent as an email with attached content. For student recruitment, this approach can be used to turn documents into a lead generation tactic. For example, potential students can enter their contact details to download a course prospectus, allowing the interested student to be contacted as part of the marketing or enrolment process through a more targeted, personalised approach. With 49% of Gen Z stating they’d be willing to provide personal data if it means they’ll receive a more personalised experience, it’s important to ensure that the follow-up reflects the needs of the individual.  

Email marketing 

Email marketing is a powerful tool that can be used throughout the student journey. Campaigns can take many forms, whether that’s emails to support student recruitment, current student relationship management, or alumni newsletters post-graduation. Email marketing can help turn contacts into leads, but campaigns should be designed with a clear call to action, reinforcing the next step you want an email recipient to make. 

Paid media 

Lead generation is one of the best ways of getting value out of paid media, creating a direct, measurable return on your investment. Paid media could mean digital display adverts across websites and apps, a full-page spread in a physical magazine, or promoted social media posts. Whatever the channel, paid media is an investment, and lead generation is the return. 

Social media 

Social media is a powerful tool for engaging with students and spreading brand awareness organically. It can also be used to amplify your lead generation campaigns, providing a channel for sign-ups and contact capture. With 44% of Gen Z making a purchasing decision via social media based on a recommendation from a social influencer, you may also wish to consider how your existing student body can support this activity. Check out this blog on using influencers for student marketing: The why, the how and what to expect.  

Content marketing 

Lead generation should be a major consideration for all content, whether designed to inform or engage users. Forms and call-to-action buttons should be embedded as the clear next step for readers of your content so that your website can transform readers into leads. 


Many users navigate the web through search engines and although the company doesn’t release exact numbers, research estimates over 5.6 billion searches are conducted every day via Google alone. SEO aims to make sure your website and content can be found through search. An SEO strategy can therefore target specific queries prospective students may be searching for. This can help attract new users to your website, and with the right call to action can provide a steady stream of leads thanks to a clear and effective user journey. 

Managing leads with a CRM 

A customer relationship management system or CRM is software which centralises communications and customer data in one place. Lead management is one of the main benefits of using an education CRM as it can be used to create marketing campaigns, automate email sends, and transform leads into student enrolments without exhausting internal resources.  

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Best practices for higher education lead generation 

There are a few important considerations to get the most out of lead generation in higher education. Your lead generation relies upon these factors, from the marketing channels you use to the time it takes to respond to enquiries. 

The four key best practice approaches to lead generation include: 

  • Creating a clear call to action 
  • Responding to leads quickly and accurately 
  • Utilising a variety of marketing and communication channels 
  • Reporting on lead generation 

Creating a clear call-to-action 

A call to action is the part of a marketing campaign or piece of content that prompts readers to take the next step. This could be a button to register and download a prospectus, subscribe to a newsletter, or register to receive more information. Your call-to-action text can be experimented with, optimising it for best returns based on performance, but it will help you to transform a prospective student into a warm lead.  

Responding to leads quickly and accurately

Response time is essential. Waiting too long to respond to a lead may result in a loss of interest and damage to brand reputation. The hard work of winning the lead in the first place can be undone if the response to prospective student enquiries is too slow. Automating responses where possible through a CRM system is a way of improving response times and keeping leads engaged. 

Utilising a variety of marketing and communication channels

Spreading your efforts across a variety of different marketing channels will ensure your leads are more sustainable. A website content campaign may bring in a low volume of leads over a long period, whilst paid channels may bring higher volume but at a cost. Balancing activity across different channels lowers dependence on just one channel and makes sure your institution is seen from different angles.  

Reporting on lead generation 

Reporting and measurement of lead generation are essential to improve and optimise your campaigns, budgets, and marketing channels. Understanding how different marketing channels are performing will help you to focus valuable resources where it matters. 


How to ensure your lead generation stays profitable

Lead generation needs to be monitored and measured as part of your institution's student recruitment marketing performance output. Leads should be one of the main metrics that is measured to understand campaign success so that resources can be moved to where it matters most. Any paid marketing channel needs to be closely monitored, as rising costs can make the resulting leads unprofitable.  

An education CRM can help save money as it can be used to automate workflows and closely monitor campaign success in new ways. Defining the average conversion rate for your leads will also help your institution understand the value of leads. Focusing on improving this conversion rate will also help ensure more value for your marketing spend while streamlining and automating lead generation activities can also help to keep costs down and profits up. With 38% of Gen Z planning to pursue an advanced degree, capturing prospective students at the undergraduate level can help to set your institution up for ongoing profitability.  


How a CRM can help you with your lead generation efforts 

A CRM is a powerful marketing and communication tool used to centralise different processes in one platform. It can bring together different data sources, providing one accessible way of gaining campaign insights. Streamlining and improving lead generation efforts is one of the best ways to make the most out of a CRM in higher education 

You can gain insight into lead generation performance across different channels and campaigns in one place. A CRM is also used to automate different workflows, helping reduce lead response time and standardise the level of communication. 

A CRM can help improve your lead generation efforts by: 

  1. Tracking and measuring performance in one place 
  2. Automating tasks and workflows for better efficiency 
  3. Capturing and managing lead data  
  4. Personalising and standardising communications  
  5. Seamlessly integrating with higher education tech 

How can Tribal support your lead generation strategy? 

Tribal’s Student Marketing & Recruitment solution is an education CRM that revolutionises the student recruitment and marketing process. Our platform can streamline all areas of your marketing strategy, including lead generation and management as part of student recruitment outreach.  

With detailed audience segmentation and seamless automation, you will be able to unify your marketing and recruitment with Tribal and achieve a measurable return on investment.   

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