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Low-quality Leads: What Are They and How Can You Avoid Them?

In higher education lead generation strategies, there’s a recurring paradigm that’s detrimental to the success of digital efforts: low-quality leads.

By Ricardo González
July 17, 2020


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In higher education lead generation strategies, there’s a recurring paradigm that’s detrimental to the success of digital efforts: low-quality leads.


What this concept really means is that situations like these occur in a certain percentage of cases:

  • They have incorrect or incomplete email and / or telephone numbers.
  • They weren’t contacted by phone, either because the number didn’t work or they didn’t respond.
  • Emails bounced or they didn't reply. 
  • When contacted they didn’t enroll.

It's a reality that low-quality leads exist, and that you can unintentionally generate them with your digital efforts. They can be caused by both marketing and sales. Here are some reasons why it might happen:


  • Mismanagement of campaign  segmentation and audiences.
  • Using keywords with low commercial intent. 
  • Configuration errors in the campaign implementation 
  • Confusing messages in ads communication.
  • Landing pages without mobile-friendly forms
  • Not having a first-contact process.
  • Lead response time is long.
  • Few call attempts are made.
  • Calls are always made at the same time.
  • Contact attempts are limited to calls. 
  • The phone number from which you make calls is reported as spam.
  • Emails sent are marked as spam. 



If low-quality leads are a recurring issue, you must diagnose and analyze the reasons why they’re happening.

You can start by evaluating your digital strategy to make sure you’re doing the right things, and then move on to reviewing the feedback and the sales process.



Synergy between marketing and sales

Talking about lead quality and its maturation stage is one of the keys to a successful lead generation strategy in the higher education sector. Collaboration between teams is essential to obtaining information and indicators of the entire student journey, from the moment a lead is generated until it’s enrollment--or non-enrollment.


This is one of the greatest challenges in lead generation campaigns. In addition to working to achieve the required lead goals, you must also closely oversee the closing rates of your efforts. Here’s where the admissions reps play a key role in providing you with the feedback necessary to carry out this measurement.





Although this may be obvious to most, in practice it’s usually not as common. Most times there’s miscommunication between both teams, which blocks the flow of information. Solving it requires an investment in time, processes, systems, and a lot of discipline.



Actionable feedback

Knowing what happens to your leads is a great first step to manage and align your digital efforts; however, a common scenario is when you get feedback that’s limited and non-actionable.


A clear example: knowing whether or not a lead (prospective student) enrolled is a good start since it tracks metrics to optimize the digital strategy under sales KPIs, but there’s still much to achieve in terms of efficiency. The next step is to know the reasons why the lead didn’t enroll.



Practical exercise: a real case

To improve the management of “low-quality” leads, let's analyze the following case.

The marketing area has a digital lead generation strategy with many years of optimizations. All the marketing and sales indicators are being tracked, and the performance of those  KPIs are supervised periodically, such as closing rates and cost per student enrolled (in detail) by channel and source/medium.


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Closing rate (Enrolled Students/Leads)
Cost per enrolled student (Direct Marketing + Sales Costs/ Enrolled Students)*
Detail of closing rates (by channel, source/medium, and target audience) (Enrolled Students per Channel / Leads per Channel)*

*Simplified formula.


The marketing team has very aggressive lead goals for the current semester and for each of their educational programs. The strategy relies on paid social media (in addition to other media), which generates a high volume of leads to reach the goals, but the challenge is to increase the closing rate and reduce the cost per enrolled student.



Digital advertising on search engines Limited lead volume, subject to searches Maximize the lead volume, minimizing  unit costs
Digital advertising on social platforms High lead volume
  • Increase closing rate

  • Reduce cost per enrolled student



In this scenario, feedback that only indicates the number of enrolled students and the non-enrolled student motives as low-quality leads could lead you to take impulsive actions.

You might decide to cut the social media budget since it has a lower closing rate than other channels. This would increase closing rates and lower the costs per enrolled student, but would also decrease the volume of students to acquire.

Looking at the full picture, not everything is relevant when it comes to impacting these indicators since potential students could be left on the table. The question to ask here is: do I want to improve unit costs and rates per enrolled student by decreasing the number of new students? The answer is probably no.

The importance of having feedback based on goals and operating parameters is that the information obtained is pertinent to improving your KPIs.



Taking perspective

Understanding and applying the concept of "quality" when talking about potential students becomes more relevant if we look at it from a data perspective. The closing rates of paid digital channels in the education industry, in our experience, range from 3% to 7%, which leaves us with a non- enrolled lead base ranging between 93% to 97%.

This is why collaboration with the admissions team is so important. If you want to make everyone's effort more efficient, you must understand what happens to that 93% - 97% of leads that didn’t enroll.

This information will allow you to achieve greater efficiency in the marketing budget, in addition to making the time of the sales reps more productive.



Recommendations and lines of action

There can be many reasons for a potential student not to enroll, and quantifying it will help you know where to begin:

  • Highlight the value of the program. If the objection is money, potential students may not be seeing all the benefits and value they can get from their investment in the program. At the ad communication level you must ensure that you’re transmitting what’s most relevant, so that the potential students understand what they'll receive in exchange for their money.
  • Offer different payment methods.Another angle to approach the money issue is the form of payment. If you have financial aid programs and/or credit card payment options, you should let them know upfront.
  • Open or reconsider the geographic scope. If you’re covered at the communication level, another possible action is to focus the geographical reach of the campaigns on cities and/or areas with greater purchasing power.
  • Adjust your segmentation. In addition to the above, it may also be helpful to review and adjust your targeting to try to reach prospective students who are more likely to enroll.
  • Take advantage of your first-party data. Take full advantage of the information that you’ve already generated to reach audiences similar to your current students.

As you can see, with this level of detail you can think of interesting marketing initiatives to test little by little through multiple A / B tests to bring more students to your college or university.



Are you dealing with more low-quality leads than you’d like? We can help!

Click here to book a one-on-one meeting with us.


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