To take full advantage of their online student acquisition efforts, higher education institutions need to contact their potential students within the critical 5-minute window that opens when they fill out a form.
You may be losing many potential students because you are not contacting them fast enough. While your leads remain unattended they continue to look for alternatives to your services. To capture the attention of the potential student you need to structure your strategy around contacting them within the first five minutes of their query.
In technical terms this means achieving a Lead Response Time (LRT) of less than five minutes.
Why are the first five minutes so critical?
The COVID-19 crisis has forced higher education institutions to rely on their online leads to achieve their student acquisition goals, but not all of them are fast enough to take full advantage of their Digital Demand Generation efforts.
Online leads go cold quickly. Every minute that passes from the point a potential student fills out a contact form, the likelihood they take your call or answer your message falls drastically. This has been studied since 2011, when Harvard Business Review published “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads”.
The study revealed that leads that were contacted within the first hour are seven times more likely to be qualified (having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker). This was further explored by Drift in 2017, in a study that found that you are ten times less likely to be able to contact a lead after 5 minutes have passed from the moment of their query.
Response time matters a lot. By reaching out to your leads while they are more likely to answer, you increase the likelihood of converting those leads into students, and achieving your closing rate goals.
This is quite the challenge. Only 7% of the companies on the 2017 study were able to achieve a Lead Response Time of < 5 minutes. The challenges are many; marketing and enrollment teams may not be in sync, the technological support to reliably distribute leads to agents may not be there, and/or the processes create bottlenecks.
Your institution may be facing all of these challenges, but fortunately, now more than ever the tools and expertise needed to contact your leads within those critical five minutes are available, and the rewards are worth it. By tracking lead response time as a KPI we have helped our clients increase their closing rate and reduce their Student Acquisition Cost (SAC$) significantly.
Lead Response Time at scale
The question is “How can I achieve an LRT of less than 5 minutes?”. To answer this, we need to:
- Start measuring Lead Response Time
- Implement the correct technology
- Run the correct processes
By taking these actions we ensure that our marketing and sales processes work smoothly together so that our agents can make a that critical fist call in record time.
Measuring Lead Response Time (LRT)
On an individual level, the LRT for your leads is calculated by subtracting the date and time of creation of the lead to the date and time of the first calling contact attempt, ideally in minutes.
|Time/date of new contact - time/date of follow up = (#) of min/hrs/days to respond|
Use the average of LRT from the leads of a specific time period to measure the performance of an agent or enrollment team:
Sum of (#) min/hrs/days to respond to all contacts / (#) contacts = Avg (#) of min/hrs/days to respond
This measurement must be part of your daily dashboards and a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for your enrollment agents and their supervisors.
In the context of Lead Response Time, the technology is used to automate the task between lead creation and the first contact. Most CRMs and lead management platforms offer an extensive array of automation options. To impact your LRT we recommend starting by implementing the following:
- Follow-up message. Once a lead gives you their information, acknowledge them. This is usually done by email but depending on your capabilities you can expand to SMS and messaging platforms.
Additional automations can facilitate the start of a conversation between
a lead and an enrollment agent at this point.
- Lead Assignment. Your automation solution must have the capability to quickly transfer your leads from marketing to sales. This can be achieved through a round-robin or lead rotation workflow.
Your leads must be automatically assigned to an enrollment agent immediately without any friction.
Advanced automations may take into account your agents’ workload
and assign leads to agents free to contact them.
- Notification and escalation alerts. These let the sales team know when they have a new lead to contact or when a lead hasn't received attention. They also let the sales team leader know when his agents aren't getting to their leads on time.
Many higher education institutions have built their technology infrastructure using different tools and technologies that may not talk to each other natively; this creates friction and sometimes forces marketing and enrollment to manually perform tasks. Tools like Zapier, Leadsbridge or a custom-made ERP can help you increase productivity and decrease LRT. Nonetheless, without a thorough tech strategy, even the most sophisticated institutions may fail.
The higher education enrollment process must be optimized to engage potential students within the five-minute mark of making their online query. Your team needs to know that once they are assigned a lead the clock is ticking.
You also need to consider that your enrollment agents have other responsibilities too like following up on active leads and processing their enrollments. Your process should assign leads to available agents and be able to re-assign leads according to workload.
A lead response agent can have a lead distribution function. These agents’ main responsibility is to contact new leads as soon as they arrive, qualify them, and check their availability to talk to a senior agent. Once this process is executed the lead is transferred and assigned to an available senior enrollment agent. In the case none is available, they schedule a follow-up call.
These are the key actions you and your team can take to start improving their Lead Response Time. It is a challenge, but it can be done by aligning all teams involved to give a first class sales experience to your potential students.
We have a solution TAILORED TO you
In Julius we have helped many of our clients reach their student acquisition goals by following these principles, either by supporting the individual components of Digital Demand Generation (strategy, automation, sales, and lead generation) or by developing an end-to-end solution around our clients´ goals.
Let’s talk about how we can use these principles to achieve your student acquisition goals.