Digital Marketing for Higher Education
How Llama Lead Gen attracted elite MBA scholars in the US to study in China
From full funnel planning to multi-channel execution and optimization, see how we maneuvered through the complexity of reaching a hyper-focused niche with potential friction.
Our digital marketing strategy for higher education generated 2x as many leads compared to the previous year, resulting in a 10% increase in applications. By focusing on key market concerns, we were able to double our clients' mailing list year-over-year and attract 53,000+ global applicants in 2022. The strategy behind this success was to cultivate interest among top-tiered MBA scholars and promote a Master's program in China to develop leaders who bridge understanding between China and the world.
About the Client
As the first scholarship crafted to respond to the landscape of the 21st century, Schwarzman Scholars prioritizes the development of global leaders. With a highly selective scholarship program, a promising student receives a one-year, fully-funded MBA at Tsinghua University, Beijing, that goes beyond credentials and catalytic opportunity to work with over +1,000 global business leaders.
Our digital marketing experts in higher education implemented a highly refined and tailored strategy to maintain the program's prestige, especially after the pandemic changed the global outlook towards China. This case study illustrates how we successfully drove global attention and target affluent audience in the higher education space.
Created thorough lists of global elite universities and institutions to re-target
Increased mailing list sign-ups +55% YOY
Increased Applicant Information PDF downloads +14% YOY
Cohesive strategy across all participating teams
Coordinated and collaborated across agency and higher education brand partners to craft a plan through each phase of the campaign.
Built to engage with the right audience
Through data architecture and attribution mapping, our full-funnel strategy reached highly qualified scholars, driving them to various customer journey points.
Multi-channel activation and optimization
From daily pacing and optimization to monthly reporting, each channel (paid social, search, and display) optimally ran to hit campaign KPIs.
Cross-team Collaboration and Strategy
To ensure each step of the campaign was elevated and designed for success, Llama Lead Gen had to orchestrate with its digital counterpart Ready Set Rocket and the admissions team at Schwarzman Scholars.
As RSR led the new website's digital launch, Llama Lead Gen prioritized marketing pipelines throughout the digital experience. By doing so, Llama Lead Gen was able to test new opportunities and run proven media strategies for higher education to grow the customer list for further engagement via email and community management.
The hyper-selective process of determining who receives a Schwarzman scholarship requires a specific candidate. With the current status quo of international travel and living in China, this is no easy task. Llama Lead Gen had to work with the admissions team to understand what professional traits qualify as an appropriate lead. Schwarzman Scholars helped us craft various audiences to drive qualified participants to each point of the marketing funnel.
By collaborating with the creative, strategy, data, and publisher teams during the planning, activation, and campaign phase, we generated over 380K site visits, over 20K PDF application downloads, and 15K applications started by future global leaders.
The new website experience launched in October 2020, playing a big role in the 2021 application cycle
Tested New Approaches
Tested new paid media tactics and creative formats to learn and optimize
Email Drip Marketing
Launched a drip marketing email program for admissions to engage and guide prospects
Regularly tracked social media mentions and responded to prospect inquiries
Always-On Paid Media
Activated "always-on" paid media, driving awareness of the program all year
Developed more content about the Schwarzman Scholars purpose, program, students and experience
Launched a new education management system with Slate, which had more analytics, reporting and data collection capabilities
With the stature of the Schwarzman Scholarship program, broad and neutral targeting methods were met with a lukewarm reception. To maintain and grow our reputation within the higher education community, we crafted tailored audiences within specific demographics to reach the most established and up-and-coming young professionals and students across the globe.
As we prospected qualified potential applicants within our top-of-the-funnel strategies, highly interested viewers were retargeted with more information and virtual event opportunities.
As demonstrated in the results, our targeted audience generated global interest from site visits to mailing lists to completing application forms.
Creative and Channel Driven Success
As the primary method to target new prospects for the Schwarzman Scholarship program, Llama Lead Gen led the implementation and optimization of Meta, Google, and Linkedin advertising across 16 countries while reaching recent undergraduates and young professionals.
With a 25% increase in the media budget, Llama Lead Gen seized the opportunity to test various ad units and negate the negative outlook towards China.
Each channel had a specific best use case that Llama Lead Gen prioritized in the customer journey.
Below is each channel's primary benefit:
Facebook/Instagram: Most cost-effective reach (lowest CPM)
Google Search: Drove low-funnel and high-intent participants (Highest CTR driver)
LinkedIn: Most precise and focused targeting to reach education and professionals (most expensive CPM among channels)
LinkedIn InMail Deep-dive
InMail marketing is a unique opportunity specific to LinkedIn, which allows an actual leader or brand personnel to reach a targeted professional based on their credentials and profile. You can scale this targeting tactic and make it feel like a one-to-one connection between brand leaders and potential candidates.
With that native messaging structure and personal touch, it was a tremendous bottom-of-the-funnel strategy to reach interested users (e.g., young professionals from highly ranked institutions) with a message from an authoritative figure.
By running two message variations (join an info session and invite to apply), we could optimize towards a 66.3% CTR and $0.24 cost per message. This average out to a $17.45 cost per application starter.
With these results, we recommend utilizing this tactic for any highly-concentrated targeted audience with a strong value proposition.
Content and Reporting
We utilized marketing automation tools to data pipe all of our paid media efforts to a live dashboard so we could monitor real-time performance: impressions, clicks, website visits, likes, comments, shares, replies, and most importantly, application starts and submissions.
Even with the global perspective shift and downplay in international travel, Llama Lead Gen was able to drive interest and consideration with highly educated and affluent scholars with a full-funnel marketing campaign.
As we partnered with Ready Set Rocket for all digital needs and the admission team, we produced a quality site experience. Users would visit over three pages and digest the information about the scholarship by staying on the site for over 4 minutes. The quality of traffic allowed all the additional marketing channels to amplify the experience, as seen with our newsletter signups (4.4K) and PDF downloads (20K).
With a multi-channel approach across paid social, organic, search, email, and display, we generated a total of 53,419 applicants within a fixed timeframe. These numbers were possible with our marketing efforts that grew the mailing list by 55%, which allowed Schwarzman to reach twice as many qualified young professionals and students and generated 14% more application guide downloads YOY.