How can we make sure that students are more than sales leads? A look at lead generation in the education world.
A recent post by IECA, a professional organization for independent educational counselors, really caught our attention here at Noodle. IECA President Mark Sklarow wrote about an unsolicited request that went out IECA members from a British university looking to recruit students from the U.S. The request didn't mention anything about the school's academics, student life, or facilities. What it did mention was the fact that consultants who recommended the school to their students would receive 25% of the student's tuition if they enrolled. Needless to say, the IECA was outraged at the suggestion that they treat a student's high-cost and high-stakes educational decisions as a way to personally profit. So were we.
Lead generation in the educational industry really started with the growth of for-profit colleges and universities in the 1990s. As lead generation and "in-bound" marketing in general has become an increasingly common mode of connecting business and customers in every industry, education has accordingly followed suit.
There are four main online lead generation practices in the education sector.
Method 1: "Host and Post" or "White Label Marketing"
This type of marketing was originally used by for-profit colleges and universities but is still used by about 90% of lead generation vendors. In this model, a website hosts an advertiser's content on their site and passes the leads on. While this method provides a large number of leads, it doesn't do anything to ensure that students are good fit or are genuinely interested. Furthermore, the school or provider posting the advertisement has no control over the ads that are placed alongside it. This can lead viewers to associate brands have nothing in connection with one another or aren't of comparable quality. **
Method 2: Recruitment
This method is based on paying recruiters and education consultants a commission for students who choose to enroll in a given institution. Our research has shown that this is most common in the realm of international student recruitment, but the practice is also used in for-profit education.
Method 3: Social Networks
Social networks allow educational institutions and providers to connect with students whose profiles fit their criteria and interests. On sites like Zinch, students join and complete profiles their interests and academic achievements. Schools or providers can contact or recruit students who match their preferences. On the other hand, sites like Tutorspree allow tutors to fill out profiles and students can reach out to those who interest them. While this method allows both students and educators to control what they share and who they're contacting, it requires a great deal of effort on both parties to sort through and find profiles that are of interest to them.
Method 4: Matching
Most matching sites use filters or questionnaires to help students find the institutions that are a good fit for them. Students receive a list of schools that match their preferences and are encouraged to contact them. Consequently, educators are presented as "recommendations" rather than advertisements and delivers high-quality leads from students likely to enroll or hire an educator. This empowers students to find the education that matches their needs.
While the online lead generation system isn't perfect, it's done a lot to help students. Most students find colleges through matching or social networking sites like Noodle or Zinch. The days of starting a college search by going to a college's website are largely over.
New advances in search technology and social networking help students find school, tutors, and scholarships and make it easier for them to make the most of their educations. The danger only occurs when schools, recruiters and websites treat students like sales leads and anonymous customers.
What do you think? What's the best lead generation method for students and educators?