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Embracing personalisation to capture valuable leads

When discussing goals and key results with Higher Education institutes, one common theme I hear is, “we need leads”. It’s interesting how what could be a potential lead for one university may not necessarily be the same for another.

So, what do you class as a lead?

Is it a fully completed, fifteen-field form, a scanned badge at a UCAS fair, an email address, or perhaps a high-intent click?

While we may not all be aligned on what we class as a lead, the consensus is clear—lead capture in Higher Education isn’t easy. It demands a strategic blend of branding and marketing to effectively communicate the unique appeal of a university while simultaneously collecting vital data on prospective students.

What Defines a Good Lead Capture Strategy?

The analogy of students as consumers sparks debates, but drawing parallels can shed light on the factors that define a quality lead.

Imagine being a Property Developer presented with contact information for 100 potential homebuyers. This data doesn’t guarantee sales, just the opportunity to sell houses.

The decision to invest in these leads hinges on how they were generated, the quality of details provided, and the recency of the leads.

Similarly, in the student recruitment landscape, the best leads are often those visiting your university website. These individuals have some baseline knowledge and interest, and while they may not be ready to convert or share contact information, losing them could mean losing valuable prospects.

Data Grab vs. Value Exchange

We’re in the early days of developing a student panel, which so far reveals interesting insights.

We asked the panel recently, if they have shared their details with universities already, have there been any times the content received was personalised as a result?

A quarter said yes which is promising, even though at times it can be a bit too subtle and not ‘special enough’ to be noticed. 60% said no, nothing was personalised which feels like a big missed opportunity given how personalisation is rapidly becoming the default standard for engagement.

Personalisation, a key element in online shopper behaviour, is lacking for many students who have shared their details with universities. McKinsey & Company’s research* underlines the growing importance of personalisation in online interactions, with 71 per cent of consumers expecting personalised experiences.

In the complex process of higher education decision-making, personalisation becomes a crucial factor. While it’s not as straightforward as an online purchase, a degree is a transformative decision that requires careful consideration.

If we return to the home buyer analogy, consider which approach would be the most effective:

‘Hi, I hear you’re interested in buying a house. Let me tell you about our housing development’


‘Hi, Stephanie. I understand you are looking for a three-bedroom, semi-detached new build property with an open plan kitchen and a South facing garden to suit your growing family? Let me tell you about a house we have available that would be perfect for you and is close to really good schools.’

Now, let’s translate this into a student recruitment setting. As a sector, we spend a big chunk of the budget on data acquisition from third-party comparison and listing sites; this activity has its place in the wider marketing mix, but the best kind of leads are those who have interacted with you. You know they are already engaged, so now it’s about what you do next to nurture them.

The Future Student Journey: A Personalised Experience

This is where Vepple supports many universities by transforming a lead from one that is generic, to one that is fully engaged.

Here’s just one example. Imagine you’re a student, you visit a university website and check out their Vepple virtual experience, such as this one from the University of Central Lancashire. Before entering, you’re given the option to personalise your experience.

You choose that you’re interested in Nursing and you select your study level as Undergraduate. Your experience is then tailored to your preferences and the content you see is relevant, engaging and exactly what you’re looking for. What’s great about this, is information relating to all other courses and study levels (or aimed at other stakeholder groups entirely, as a lot of university websites are) is completely removed from your experience.

Within the virtual experience, you then explore content. You check out 360 imagery of the various labs and facilities, you watch a video of a current student talking about what they love about their course, you chat with an ambassador and get their first-hand opinions on what life at the university is like for them. This is especially important as research suggests that prospective students are looking to interact with current students before choosing a university. You might even watch a video from a local NHS trust the university is partnered with, which helps you to imagine how your studies will help to secure your dream future career when you graduate. All of the content you’ve seen so far is aimed completely at you, what you’re interested in, and what you care about.

You’d then like to watch some on demand content of a recent talk given by an academic you are impressed by. The talk is behind a registration wall, but at this point, you’re happy to register for the platform to access the content. You click on a call to action button, register for the platform to access some gated content and at which point, all of your browsing behaviour is stored in your profile. This data is synced with the university’s CRM giving them a very rich understanding of what you are interested in and care about most as a prospective applicant to their university.

As a university marketer, understanding the student journey is crucial to your success. By unravelling the mysteries of this journey, you can design a marketing strategy that resonates with your audience and boosts your conversion rates.

For example, perhaps you see nursing applications are down – something which most universities have faced in recent cycles, but it’s typically a strong recruiter for you and so you want to try and buck the trend.

What Vepple has given you, is opted-in marketable leads who have shown an interest in the subject, clicked on your content and perhaps you want to focus on those who have also spent a certain amount of time on your site.

You’re not having to buy leads from a third party to reach this audience, you’re not having to hope that paid media can put you in front of the right audience. Crucially, not only have these students shown an interest in nursing, but they’ve also shown a significant interest in your university.

These are your best leads.

A Case Study: The University of Bradford:

Now, imagine the university marketer’s delight. No need to buy leads; instead, engage those who’ve shown interest in your university. The University of Bradford did just that, gating their experience on Vepple and reaping the reward. In May 2023 alone, their Vepple achieved 445 email leads, 78% (334) consenting to marketing, and 58% (191) entirely new prospects.

From the initial email campaigns sent to this dataset, Bradford reported a higher-than-average level of engagement across open rates (Vepple leads 52% against the 44% of other leads) and click-through rates (11% higher than other leads). This success underscores the power of combining immersive experiences with lead capture and showcasing the potential of Vepple in the Higher Education recruitment landscape.

These prospects were already considering studying at The University of Bradford, that’s why they were on the university website. It’s highly likely that they will have visited other websites to complement their research too, but without an exceptional and personalised online experience to really capture their attention, these leads may have been lost.

Human Learners, Not Just Recruitment Leads

Understanding that each lead represents an individual with unique aspirations and dreams is paramount. Personalising content tailored to individual student’s interests fosters meaningful connections and sets the stage for effective lead generation. By acknowledging applicants as learners with distinct goals, universities can focus on nurturing valuable leads that go beyond numerical targets.

In conclusion, the journey of decoding leads in higher education involves embracing personalisation, capturing valuable data, and recognising the human aspect of each prospective student. In a landscape where understanding and engagement are key, universities must strive to create immersive and tailored experiences that resonate on a personal level, transforming leads into lifelong learners.

If you’d like more information on how Vepple can support your lead capture in HE recruitment or would like to arrange a demo, please reach out to me using the below details.

Vic Littler | Account Director


McKinsey & Company – Next in Personalisation 2021 consumer survey 7/9 – 8/9/2021 (n=1,013, )McKinsey Consumer Pulse Survey 25/8 – 31/8/2021 (n=2,094) and 18/2 – 22/2/2021(n=2,076)

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