Speed-to-Lead: Should Your College be Calling Prospective Students?

Is Speed-to-Lead Important for Higher Ed Enrollment Management?


Should Your College be Calling Prospective Students?

Have you ever stopped at a store and not been acknowledged by an employee while waiting to speak with someone? You know, when the store employees just go about their day without looking in your direction as you stand there waiting?

It’s frustrating! And if you don’t decide to persevere and make the employee hear you, you’ll probably just leave and find another store.

No matter how patient, everyone reaches a breaking point where they decide to move onto someone who will pay attention to them. This scenario plays out across all industries, including Higher Ed and school enrollment processes. The time you take to respond to a prospect, also called speed-to-lead, matters. 

In this post we’re going to talk about speed-to-lead for colleges and explain why we think yes, your college should be calling prospective students.  

Table of Contents

Higher Ed Speed-to-Lead Still Matters

Like we said, people are only willing to wait so long to get a response from a business they’re interested in. This holds true for your prospective students. Sure, some prospective students may want to come to your college and preserve no matter what hurdles you put in front of them.

But the truth is that others will bail after a few minutes, especially if they are not aware of your school’s value before this happens to them. Your goal is to capture prospective students’ information, so you can start showing them the value of your institution before they move on and forget about you.

Don’t assume that a person coming to your website already wants to come to your school. 

A visitor to your school’s website may just be there to look around- it’s your job to convince them that your school is the perfect fit for them. And in order to do that, you need to engage with the potential student, answer his or her questions, and be available for contact.

Prospective students come to your website and metaphorically knock on your website door, and the door often isn’t answered. Interested students aren’t acknowledged enough, and calling is a great way to showcase your value and acknowledge the student in addition to other marketing channels.

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Calling Can Be One of the Most Effective Enrollment Tactics

Over the last 20 years, a lot has changed about Higher Ed marketing. One of the most significant changes has been in students and their enrollment preferences. 

Here’s the gist: today’s students expect schools to engage in meaningful and consistent ways across various channels. Let this sink in.

It’s essential to look at your entire enrollment journey– every touchpoint, from emails, texts, phone calls, etc– and think about how students are communicated with at each phase. 

Are you providing them with relevant information to where they are in the enrollment process? Are you being consistent? 

When someone comes to your website and fills out an information form to learn more about your school, your Admissions staff and process needs to be ready to give them that information. 

Calling your prospective students is a great way to get them that information fast, so let’s break down why it’s vital that your school calls prospects, how to best call them, and when to do so.

When Should A College Call Prospective Students?

A college should call students who have expressed interest as soon as possible. Even if there is an email autoresponder or other automated systems in place, grab the phone and give a call as soon as you can (even if that’s within 5 minutes).

Here’s why:

Studies state that failing to respond within five minutes can exponentially decline the likelihood that a lead will close (by more than 80%).

“Every minute that goes by that you haven’t reached that person, the odds that they will actually talk to you just plummets.” -Greg Poirier, President of CloudKettle.

Sounds like something companies should be doing then, right? But only 7% of companies are currently achieving an average lead response time of five minutes or less.

Let’s look at a few more stats to really drive this point home:

So if you’re not there first, you could be losing any chance of reaching someone at all.

When we say “Speed-to-Lead,” we’re talking about the time it takes for your college to contact a prospective student after he or she requests more information. As we just said above, results drastically improve if you can contact someone within the first 5-minutes of their inquiry.

Higher Ed Call Tracking Reports

The Goal Of Following Up On Student Inquiries By Phone

And of course, most prospective college students request information from a few different schools. This is a great opportunity to differentiate your school. If your college provides an impeccable enrollment experience that delights the student, your chances of enrolling the student go up.

Your goal is to:

  • Build value for your school
  • Create an emotional connection with your prospect
  • Do it fast, before a competing school does 

Calling is a great way to build a human connection and get in front of a student fast. The value of trying to enroll a prospective student that has visited your website already is huge– they’re already interested, and pushing them to make the decision will be easier than a cold lead.

But you have to take the initiative to do it. 

Calling interested students means your overall cost-per-start will go down, and your yield will go up.

In summary, the goal is to make meaningful contact with a prospective student, whether through a phone call conversation, email conversation, or text message chain. Meaningful means your Rep is engaged in a quality 2-way conversation; simply sending out an email or leaving a phone message doesn’t really count! 

Speed-to-Lead Tips: Optimizing the Enrollment Process

Mastering speed-to-lead starts with a well-designed enrollment process and system. Let’s look at some tips for optimizing the enrollment process and building an experience that students can enjoy, starting with technology you can leverage. 

Leveraging Technology In The Enrollment Process

Technology matters! You can’t rely on outdated systems to bring in new students and grow your tuition revenue anymore. With the right tools, you can learn more about your prospective students, organize that knowledge, and use it improve your enrollment yield.

1) Using A CRM To Organize Prospective Students

Whether you have a few inquiries coming in or thousands per day, if the process is unorganized you’re wasting valuable time and energy, and probably not delivering the best quality experience you could be.

One of the best ways to make sure you have an effective follow-up process is to integrate with a CRM. Without a good customer relationship management system, you could lose track of potential leads as they come in or forget where you left off with them in the process. 

The stage they’re on in the enrollment process matters for how you interact with them!

Plus, you’re likely to miss out on crucial data about the prospective students. For example,

  • Where did the student come from to find your form?
  • Student demographics
  • How they interact with the website or with recruitment personnel 

All of this is valuable information for your Admissions team in the current recruitment cycle and for future years. 

If you’re unsure how to create this system, then let’s schedule a consultation to discuss. We can help you set-up a system to help your school connect with prospective students in less than 5 minutes that is tailored to you and backed by years of experience.  

2) Website Chatbots

When leads come into your website, don’t let them sit idle, or worse, leave. Engage with your visitors using website chatbots for conversational marketing. These can encourage your visitors to fill out a request for more information, without you having to lift a finger!

You can then take the prospective student on a video tour of your school and other interactive opportunities. These aren’t 1-on-1 human interactions, but they do continue to nurture your student’s interest and engage them with what your school can offer. 

Don’t forget the power of conversation! There are so many benefits to conversational marketing, and automating the process with website chatbots can help you reap these benefits without taking up Admissions personnel time and energy. 

3) Secret Shopping

In our 20 years of Higher Ed, we have done secret shopping for over 200 college programs and have seen how challenging it is for colleges to provide meaningful enrollment touchpoints.

While this is difficult for many colleges to do correctly, it can be done. And, it can give your college a competitive advantage when it’s done right.

Many colleges have lean marketing teams, or their departments are increasingly siloed without clear ownership of the entire student enrollment journey. This is where we come in! We can help augment the work you are already doing and add enrollment management and marketing strategy to improve your yield and drastically reduce your cost-per-start.

Let’s find out why your prospective students do what they do on your site and optimize it to improve your enrollment process!

4) Power Dialer

When someone fills out a request for information form on your website, the contact information can automatically go into a CRM.

The CRM can be set-up to respond automatically using the new contact’s information. This could be sending out an email confirmation, or immediately calling the lead if the CRM has power dialer capabilities.

Otherwise, your Rep will need to call the prospective student manually.

Your school can have one or two of your current Enrollment Advisors designated to call your prospective students using a power dialer. (Of course, they can still call by manually dialing too.)

If your CRM has a power dialer, your CRM will allow your Reps to follow-up with 10x more people than they can do manually because of the technology.

If you use the right technology, your small but mighty team can do so much.

Your team will be able to add a human touch to your enrollment experience to connect with more of the students and increase your enrollment yield!

Speed-to-lead: Technology for Enrollment Automations

Understand Your Prospective Students: Why Students Enroll Somewhere Else

Have you thought of why someone would enroll with your competitor instead of your college? Maybe your school offers a superior education, but prospective students are still picking that school over yours.

Understanding your prospective students is a crucial part of developing speed-to-lead, and one of the best tips we can give you.

There’s a lot of valuable information to discover by looking at your competitors. If you want to grow your enrollment, ask yourself why students are picking that school.

  • Is your competitor doing a better job of following-up with prospective students quickly?
  • Are they providing a more straightforward enrollment process?

Many colleges do not call their prospective students when they should be, if at all.

Calling your prospective students within 5-minutes after they submit an inquiry will help differentiate your college by offering impeccable service. And, with the right CRM, your school can do this all without blowing up your budget by hiring a large staff. 

Inbound and Outbound Call Center

Another tip for optimizing the enrollment process through speed-to-lead is by outsourcing some of the workload. This might not be the best option for everyone, but is definitely something that we consider when coming up with marketing strategy for our Higher Ed clients.  

There’s nothing wrong with sourcing an inbound/outbound call center to answer calls and make calls if your team isn’t able to do it.

We can also work with an inbound and outbound call center who will be able to answer the calls and call prospective students. The call center can help schedule appointments or in-person tours with your Reps. This can save your Reps countless hours and allow them more time for meaningful conversations. 

Audit Your Enrollment Team: Staffing Needs, Times, and Dates

You should consider staffing your Admissions Reps to match the time your prospective students are filling out information request forms. Each information request form should have a time stamp. Review your report and staff accordingly.

If more of your forms are submitted on a Tuesday around lunchtime, make sure your Enrollment Rep(s) are available at that time to call your prospective students. Ask Reps to have an earlier lunch or later lunch to be at their desk during your peak times.

Let your reports and data help you figure out your staffing needs, times, and days of the week to staff your team. Your CRM should be able to track this for you or your call center that you partner with.

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Contact Rates are Important Too

Some schools will staff a few Enrollment Advisors on Saturdays and even Sundays. It’s essential to look at your contact reports to see what time people are more likely to pick up the phone and have meaningful conversations. 

Then you can use these reports to help you find times of the day and week to schedule your team to work. Let your data tell the story.

Do more students pick up after 6 pm? Consider staffing a person or two during those hours.

This data might not be available at first. If you’re not sure how to get started, consider staffing your team at different times of the day and on weekends, so you can start collecting this data.

Once you have a good sense of when people are most likely to be reached, staff your Enrollment team to cover these hours and days.

You can’t adjust and improve on what you can’t measure.

If your school is enrolling all over the country, be sure to take time zones into account. You may not want to call people after 8 pm, but you may want to test it. You may need to segment your data into time zones and call those time zones from the East Coast to the West Coast.

The Power Of Enrollment Automation

There are many different ways to automate the enrollment process, and each method can help take some of the pressure off of your busy staff. 

Once the prospective student picks up the phone, your power dialer can connect the prospect with the next available Rep. If your Rep is out sick or on another call, the system will not the connect the call to this Rep. In the last few years, technology can drastically improve your enrollment experience with enrollment automation, marketing automation, and call automation.

Find out how a Higher Ed CRM can free up your team to have more meaningful conversations with prospective students. With marketing automation, it won’t matter what day or time the inquiry is created; Friday night, no problem. You can set up marketing automation to kick in and start your communication sequence to get the prospective student ready to speak with someone on Monday morning.

Properly set up Higher Ed Marketing automations can do so much of the heavy lifting for you and work when your staff have gone home for the day. 

This will help keep the prospect invested in your school so that he or she can wait until Monday to speak with someone.

Use automation to get leads more enrollment-ready when they do speak with a Rep.

Speed-to-lead enrollment experiences

Speed-To-Lead Shouldn’t End With A Phone Call

In this article, we gave some tips for optimizing your enrollment process by calling prospective students. But nurturing your leads shouldn’t end there!

Your quick response via phone call might be what a prospective student needs to make a decision (wouldn’t that be nice!), but it won’t be the case for everyone. You have to nurture and follow up with these leads if you want to improve your chances of enrolling more students.

What can you do? 

  • Send an email drip 
  • Start a text message campaign

If done right, your college’s enrollment strategy won’t come off as pushy or desperate.

You may just need to change your admission team’s thinking and ways of doing lead nurturing. If your communications are about adding value and making the process easier for prospective students, and not just trying to enroll them, which is self-serving, then your marketing is adding value and will be welcomed.

Ultimately, we should consider ourselves in the service industry. How can we be of service to prospective students?

Higher Ed Marketing: How Automation Saves 41% of Your Reps Time | Speed-to-Lead

Speed-To-Lead: Stop Wasting Time And Start Enrolling More Students

Research shows that knowledge workers spend a good chunk of their time (41 percent, to be exact) on discretionary activities that offer little in the way of personal satisfaction and could easily be delegated.

Not only will your Admissions Reps’ morale go up if their process is automated, you’ll have happier students, whose needs are met, and who stay interested in attending your school soon.

If you want to improve speed-to-lead,

  • Call your prospective students, and do it fast
  • Automate emails
  • Qualify prospective students with an organized CRM
  • Sending out text messages
  • Send communications about upcoming or missed appointments

Let’s take the time-wasting tasks away from Reps and put them where they belong, with technology.

If you’re not using a CRM to its full advantage, or not sure how to get started with calling your prospective students, contact us for a marketing assessment. You can’t improve what you can’t track, so let’s start automating your enrollment efforts, tracking your results, and growing your number of successfully enrolled students!


Renee Seltzer

Renee Seltzer

Renee Seltzer is founder and CEO of Ellison Ellery Marketing & Growth Agency and has spent over 20 years helping companies grow their revenue. As a cross-functional marketing executive with extensive experience crafting messaging that compels and campaigns that convert, Renee understands marketing at its core and can deliver actionable solutions for every marketing or sales hang-up.

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