A few months ago, we wanted to know how to personalize our treatment of all the leads we were generating and to focus on the ones who are most likely to become engaged, long-term students. If you work in the insurance industry, for example, your version of this objective may be trying to convert more valuable leads and provide more relevant experiences. The approach we followed would apply the same way.
So, does our approach really produce tangible results? Well, we have a culture within our marketing and operations departments at Liberty University that says, "If we can't measure it, we won't do it." In this article, we'll tell you just how we are converting 4 to 5 percent more high-quality leads into enrollments. But first, let us provide a little context.
Liberty University's online learning program
Liberty has more than 11,000 students at our Lynchburg, Va. campus. We broke into nontraditional learning early, launching our distance learning program in 1985 and expanding it to online learning in 2002. Today, our online learning program serves nearly 28,000 students with more than 36 degree programs. It recently won a national, top-three ranking from the Online Education Database.
Liberty has long been a pioneer in online education and, over the past two years, we've doubled our enrollment. We attract more than 200,000 leads per year through the Internet and various other marketing channels. With such a mass of leads coming in, it was becoming cost-prohibitive to follow up on every lead with a live response, e-mail or direct mail piece.
On-demand lead scoring enters the picture
To respond to our increased demand, we chose a technology called "on-demand lead scoring" because it gives us an automated approach to lead management. On-demand lead scoring helps us instantly classify the tens of thousands of leads we receive every month-as we receive them. The real-time capability is key because we are dealing primarily with people who have had no previous contact with Liberty (in other words, "unknown" leads).
We now divide leads into tiers so we can direct the most promising leads to our best enrollment counselors and use less-intense follow-up strategies on leads less likely to convert. Some adult learners, for example, will often give us their information, then wait up to a year to enroll in a class. Others are just "window shopping." We could spend a lot of time and money keeping the Liberty name in front of someone who just isn't ready to start or continue their education. We want to give the serious learners more attention and instant access to all the information they would be interested in, as well as personal counseling to help them choose the right program of study.
We implemented an on-demand, lead-scoring solution from Vienna, Va., company TARGUSinfo to qualify leads in real time. We chose TARGUSinfo because its coverage, currency and accuracy of consumer data provide the most predictive scoring solution we've found. TARGUSinfo analyzed our customer database and used its on-demand consumer data and predictive analytics to create tailored profiles of prospects most likely to enroll. Now we instantly score each lead according to these profiles and prioritize our efforts to convert the most promising ones to enrollment.
Converting Internet leads into enrolled students
This is how it works for the Internet leads we receive. Prospective students click on a banner that directs them to one of our Web forms. Using information on the form, TARGUSinfo verifies that it's a legitimate lead that we can contact-with a name, address and phone number that belong to the same person. The solution then scores the verified leads based on their likelihood to convert.
The lead-scoring solution distributes leads in various campaigns (or tiers) for customized follow-up, based on the caller's likelihood to enroll (ideally in multiple courses). Based on this model, we route the lead to a Liberty enrollment counselor with corresponding skill and experience so, for example, the best prospects go to counselors with the best track records for enrolling students. We assign enrollment counselors to campaigns based on key performance indicators such as conversion, quality monitoring scores and utilization.
Enrollment counselors in each campaign get the same head start on each call. By the time they start dialing, they already have all of the prospective student's basic information in front of them so they can get right into an engaging conversation with that student.
The results of on-demand lead scoring
The net result is that we now prioritize our efforts in the call center to leads that are more likely to convert. The results? Our on-demand, lead-scoring system measures up on any scale. As we mentioned before, we are converting 4 to 5 percent more high-quality leads into enrollments.
We've also stopped sending high-end direct mail packages to the lower tiers, and we have not seen any dip in conversion rates. So we've reduced our direct mail expenses by one third without losing any customers. We expect to continue saving from $12,000 to $15,000 per month on direct mail by sending packages only to solid prospects. We are also considering applying this model in real time within our call center to help facilitate the processing of our inbound inquiry calls.
As a university, the heart of our mission is, of course, quality education. Qualifying our leads with an on-demand, lead-scoring system lets us focus on that mission by directing us toward eager learners instead of wastefully slogging through unproductive leads. Good business, in this case, leads to good education.