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Guiding lessons for your graduate and adult lead gen strategy

3 reminders to inform and simplify your lead generation efforts

June 26, 2024, By Grace Kiernan, Audience Development Specialist, Adult Learner Recruitment

Many of the institutional leaders I speak to spend every day thinking about the challenges of graduate and adult lead generation. But when you’re so entrenched in the work day-to-day, you can sometimes forget about some important fundamentals. Lead generation is so complex that the most “obvious” best practices can start to fall to the wayside. Many leaders in the adult learner space are also new to the job, and may be more accustomed to the predictable patterns and schedules in undergrad enrollment.

Here are three guiding truths for you to return to as you develop your lead generation strategy.

1. Graduate and adult students, unlike undergrad applicants, are not on a strict timeline.

When you think of a good time to buy leads, what month comes to mind? If your answer isn’t “every month,” you may be missing out on major opportunities. Your biggest competitor in the graduate and adult space is life. Prospective graduate and adult students’ student journeys are rarely linear, and their plans may be fully put on hold if they find it isn’t the right time for them to go back to school. EAB research has shown that over half of graduate and adult students research for seven months or more before applying to programs, with nearly 40% taking 12-18 months.

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    of graduate and adult learners research for 7+ months before deciding to apply

If this audience is new to you, it’s important to know that graduate and adult students are not the predictable, captive audience that you may be used to, and it’s important to capture their attention whenever you have the opportunity.

Takeaway: Since students could signal intent any time of year, it’s important to generate leads and recruit students year-round. Appily Advance’s strategy helps with this by delivering curated high-quality lists of student names throughout your enrollment cycle. In combination with more seasonal sources like test-taker names, Appily provides year-round lead volume that institutions can market to and nurture to fill their classes.

Are you using best practices to recruit students year-round?

2. Results from smart top-of-funnel efforts will compound over time.

Receiving a quality list of leads is a great first step, but your work isn’t finished once you get them. In the undergraduate space, every enrollment cycle is a separate race. You recruit current high school seniors, those students graduate, and the cycle repeats the following year with a new group of applicants. With graduate and adult students, EAB research shows that as many as 20 to 25% of students who enroll based on a specific year’s campaign enroll in a future academic year. Since a lead you receive today may take over a year to apply to your program, it’s important to think about any graduate or adult nurture campaign as a continuous, multi-year effort.

Even if graduate and adult students are actively seeking out educational opportunities, they aren’t working on the predictable timelines that prospective undergraduates are. It’s important to nurture them to stoke their interest in pursuing a degree until the time that they’ve decided to apply. With the right strategies in your toolbelt, your top-of-funnel-efforts should benefit your future enrollment goals.

Takeaway: Make sure you have a sound lead nurture plan in place, and you are prepared for them to potentially take a long time to decide to apply. In addition, when buying leads, don’t expect to buy leads in the summer that will convert that fall—consider that they may convert over a year from now.

Over 25% of grad students apply outside their original program of interest. Read strategies on how to market to them.


3. Intent to apply to any program is an indicator a student could apply to your program soon.

The Appily Advance team has done extensive testing over the years to identify the best way to know if a graduate or adult student plans to go back to school. By analyzing the characteristics of successful leads, we found that interest in a particular institution was not actually the most important metric when it comes to likelihood to respond and enroll. General intent to return to school, however, is crucial. This is a sign that the student is in the process of researching education options now and is likely to make a decision soon. This may seem simple, but it’s important to remember that your messaging will not be the most resonant with students who simply meet your academic criteria. It will be the most resonant with those who already intend to go back to school.

Here’s another way of thinking about this concept: If you are already in the market for a new car, it’ll be easy for a car salesman to convince you to buy one brand over another, or an SUV over a sedan. But if you have enough money to buy a car but no interest in doing so right now, a salesman will have no success trying to get you to purchase from them.

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    Appily Advance leads respond 48% faster than schools’ inquiry pools.

Because this metric cannot be overlooked, Appily leans into intent by finding students, capturing data, and sending data to partners quickly. This has resulted in leads that respond 48% faster than schools’ inquiry pools.

Takeaway: Ensure you are including lead sources in your strategy that capture students who are showing intent to return to school. Targeting your own stop-outs or undergraduate students may provide results, but you’ll generate a lower volume of leads unless you also incorporate high-intent lead sources like paid search or Appily Advance.

Are you familiar with the broad landscape of adult and graduate lead generation sources?

Very little about the lead generation landscape is truly simple. Though these three takeaways may sound intuitive, I hope that they can serve as helpful reminders as you tackle lead generation moving forward.

Grace Kiernan

Grace Kiernan

Audience Development Specialist, Adult Learner Recruitment

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