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Pearson Online Programmes Recruitment – A lesson in full-funnel marketing


Pearson Education OLP Management is an online service for key University partners in the UK.  

We were tasked with launching an online version of a successful campus-based programme in partnership with University of Leeds – their MSC Engineering Management. This involved international lead generation and conversion using a multi-channel approach.  

Initially the campaign ran for a pilot period of 4 months and continued from that position of strength – launching further programmes with the University of Leeds based on successful campaign outcomes.   


The primary objective was enrolled students – through lead generation, nurture, and conversion activity.  

Given the initial pilot period, we worked with Pearson to prudently model recruitment targets and associated KPI’s based on digital media metrics. The campaign recruitment objectives were modelled as follows:  

  1. Target 30 enrolments  
  2. Requiring 120 enquiries – (or sales qualified leads SQLs) – customers validated as having the finance and inclination to start the Engineering Masters in the next two months  
  3. This would require 600 marketing qualified leads (MQLs) – people who enquired about the course  
  4. For a 12-week campaign we required a run rate of 50 leads per week, giving us the minimum of 3-4 weeks to convert all enquiries   

Outline of project delivery  

The critical roles as part of this campaign were as follows: 

Research and insights – To understand markets, audience, and competition   

Strategy – To outline go to market proposition and approaches. To define targeting, segmentation, customer journey, touchpoints, and lead nurturing strategies  

Media planning, implementation, and optimisation – To plan and set up how to reach the right audience in the right place at the right time, and to improve performance through channel adjustments   

CRM / Data – To set optimal customer journeys, set up technical systems, drive marketing automation and define manual interventions 

Creative and Content – To develop the content and assets required to fulfil all campaign inventory across paid, owned and earned media  

Sales Team – To follow up SQLs and convert to enrolments    

Project Management – To make sure that everything happens on brief, on brand, on time, on budget and objectives are hit 

Targeting and segmentation  

Research enabled us to develop primary, secondary, and tertiary country market strategies and then to model the size of the audience universe and potential market demand. We then tailored approaches and tiered investment across media channels accordingly: 

  1. Primary markets – USA, UAE, UK, China, Singapore, and Malaysia   
  2. Secondary markets – India, North Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt   
  3. Tertiary markets – Germany, Italy, Ireland, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand, Nigeria, and Kenya  

Delivering against the plan 

To ensure that we deployed the appropriate weight of activity in high-performing markets, we validated the assumptions made in our marketing plan and quantified the size of opportunity, thus guaranteeing the appropriate volume of media impacts.  

Our media campaign was supported by a robust programme-specific Search campaign, YouTube pre-roll videos, an incremental presence on other programme aggregator sites and programmatic display remarketing ensure that post-research interest was captured.  

Our focus was on serving prospects messaging and content that resonated with them, so we maintained a daily view of who and where core prospects were (in terms of geography and channel) and with which messages they were engaging.   

Outcomes and deliverables 

Recruitment Targets 

In four months,we met an incredibly challenging lead target and delivered just over 1,000 MQLs from a very broad geographic spread, a range of media platforms and media partners. Our CRM processes enabled these to be further qualified to 152 SQLs that the conversion team nurtured to a starting cohort of 36. From this activity they also had a significant pipeline of opportunity to work on converting for the subsequent intakes.   

Performance monitoring  

Due to the intensity of the campaign and the time period that this was conducted under, the level of communications was high, and the method was very direct. Any delays in feedback or actions meant targets would be missed. Therefore, the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and communication had to be second to none.  

Challenges and lessons learned 

  1. Campaign Destinationsare critical – despite challenges, we saw that the campaign website / landing page was not ready or fit to receive traffic from the campaign. Reach content and easy conversion journeys are key!  
  2. Facebook and LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms – allowing people to enquire without leaving the social media platform makes a big difference. It also enables you to circumnavigate a poor website!    
  3. CRM – simply, there is no conversion in online masters without great CRM. This can be an automated email process, but must be via multi-media touchpoints – SMS, email, phone, and Skype – as the journey sharpens  
  4. Content – before you spend anything on media you need great content to position it and to sell the benefits.  
  5. People and environment – this is the sales end of education marketing, people need to be sales orientated, thick skinned, positive, enthusiastic and refuse to lose.

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