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How A/B Testing Failures Reveal Bigger Opportunities

Failing Forward: Unlock Hidden Insights

As marketers we are always pushing to grow, break new ground, and stay ahead of our competition. We may test a new advertising approach, a different angle on a value proposition, build channel partnerships, or realign our marketing for performance and growth.

An area perhaps less explored is when bright ideas fail to live up to expectations. Testing is a science but mostly it’s trial and error where breakthroughs come by being curious around the why-of-things, especially when results flop.

Understanding your prospects at their level and being able to communicate to their needs and aspirations is the foundation of all great breakthroughs

In a recent landing page test for Google Ads, we started to notice some common trends for expensive to market programs that had commonality among competition. Most schools were running these programs, Google search advertising was expensive and cost per leads were higher than we wanted for our clients. We were having some breakthrough success across other program landing page tests, improving conversion rates by 30% on average, so we adopted a similar approach to what we’ve called our “problem programs.” Think teenage angst.

Pages were built with a new design, rewritten, and expectations were high. To our surprise and disappointment, the tests dropped performance and increased cost per lead so we stopped the test to protect ROI.

You can go two ways with a situation like this:

  1. Determine that the control is the better version and carry on to a new test
  2. Question why performance went in the opposite direction we wanted

In many ways, conversion rate optimization analysts will forgo the failure and move on to something new. The tendency is to seek the win, which is great, but often that win or insight can be hidden in the failure.

We tend to lean in on curiosity.

Since Virtual Advisor encapsulates the stories behind a prospects’ journey, we started to dig into the data we had on those programs. We also questioned if the program value proposition wasn’t aligned with where the prospect was in their journey.

Were they already invested in the career? Were they just starting their research? Why are they inquiring now? To help answer these questions, we decided to use our form technology to trigger a seamless survey on a second step form. We then combined that data with Virtual Advisor’s quantitative and qualitative data on these programs and started to uncover some blind spots in our copywriting.

In most instances, our prospects had been thinking about the career for some time, in many cases years. The pandemic has been an interesting catalyst for many folks looking to explore a different path in their lives. The knowledge that the career path is not new to them and they have done their research prompted us to reframe how we spoke to them in our copy.

We’re currently on iteration #3 for this test and will likely have results in the new year but the point is not necessarily about the end result in this case. It got our wheels turning around leveraging our form technology and aligning Virtual Advisor user data to improve your school’s conversion rates in other ways we hadn’t thought of before exploring why our tests had failed.

Understanding your prospects at their level and being able to communicate to their needs and aspirations is the foundation of all great breakthroughs.

Any insights you can attain to further your understanding and have more meaningful conversations, online and offline, is a recipe for great things. Combine that with seamless technology to foster a supportive user experience, it begins to get really interesting.

This will be one of the sessions at our 3rd Enrollment Builder Best-Practice Virtual Conference – we would love to see you there!

Tweaking Tiny Processes in Your Enrollment Management Funnel

In this video, Gregg Meiklejohn and Sterling Simpson will demonstrate how tweaking a couple tiny processes in your Enrollment Management Funnel can make significant improvements to your school’s bottom line. They will take you through how our fictional “Gregg’s Beauty School” tweaked a couple of tiny processes and blew results out of the water.


  • How improving the internet contact rate by 5% can improve the Enrollment Revenue of a small Cosmetology School by $53,000 a month.
  • How improving the ‘Show Rate” by 5% can increase monthly revenue by $41,000 a month
  • And much more…

Watch this walkthrough, then go press the link and run some scenario planning for yourself!

To do your own Lost Revenue Finder click here!

AI-generated transcript here

Lead Generation Best-Practices for Schools: How Many Leads Does a School Really Need?

Research has shown that an admission person only needs 60-80 leads per month max. Everything after that represents diminishing returns. The enrollment rate goes down, leads are poorly worked or ignored, and enrollments flat line. Basically you reach the mental capacity limits for your Admission people.

So to figure out your lead goal, just multiply admissions people x 60: If you have 3 admissions people, you need is 180 leads per month, which is usually totally achievable through your own efforts.

You most likely DO NOT need to buy 3rd party leads to increase student enrollment.

Now, the flip side of this, is that you are more likely to have an Admissions capacity issue and not a lead issue. Most of the schools we have analyzed are under-resourced in Admissions, and that’s the real bottleneck for them.

It’s understandable: Generating more higher education leads is easier and cheaper than hiring, training, managing Admissions people.

A client story comes to mind: They were buying a ton of garbage 3rd party leads for years, hundreds of them per month. They switched to a self-generated education lead generation campaign with us, and volume dropped 60% or more. They were understandably anxious. But within a month, enrollment increased as lead quality vastly improved, and the staff had the time and mind space to succeed.


Higher Education Lead Generation for Schools: Focus on Self-Generated Leads

We’ve found the best-run, highest performing schools generally have a similar philosophy around education lead generation. They focus the majority of their effort on self-generated leads. Referrals, website, Google Ads, social (in that order of importance). Only then do they augment as needed with downstream sources. Downstream might be education portals, pay-per-lead vendors, general advertising.

The best-case scenario is for schools to self-generate all of their leads.

The challenge here is most school marketing takes a “more is better” approach, which results in an insatiable appetite for lead generation. The lead goal is either arbitrary or focused on maximum volume instead of maximum effectiveness.

But schools need way fewer leads than they think. And more is not always better.

Click here to learn how you can generate more self-generated leads with Virtual Adviser.

Meaningful Differentiation

It’s all a little phoney, unfortunately.

Ghandi was a known bigot. Einstein a womanizer. Mother Teresa had a cruel streak. But human nature is to make people one thing or the other, their legacies do not reflect the shades of their characters. Everyone knows Ghandi was benevolant. Einstein a humanitarian genius. Mother Teresa the embodiment of loving kindness.

And that’s basically the nature of a brand — you are one thing, or another. But not both.

Good marketers understand this and as a result their product strategy is one of a “slice of slice”. They create narrower and narrower niches usually within vertical markets. It’s not good enough to be a CRM company, you need to have a CRM for cosmetic dentists to compete against Sales Force.

The big positions are taken, leaving only little ones.

And that also why there are are so many niche products and so many people pumping the next greatest, MUST-DO tactic. It’s a little marketing hill to differentiate from bigger competitors. But that’s all it is.

A more productive way to look at marketing your school (or business in general) is to focus on making your funnel as effortless for your prospect as possible. Make it easy to connect. Add value up front. Give them something.

We focus much of our product development and testing on the language that appeals to the deeply human needs driving a buying decision for a prospective student. That’s why Virtual Adviser comes with pre-written campaigns that we know work, because they’ve been tested and proven with many other schools.

And that’s why we can increase leads and enrollments for your school, year after year.

Click here to learn more about Virtual Adviser.

Or better yet, schedule a demo.

You deserve better leads.

Management: $4.5 Million Reasons You Should Care About Your Schools’ Website

Right now you could be generating 2-3x the organic leads you are currently getting from your website.

The typical career school converts about 3% of the unique visitors that come to their website into a legitimate inquiry. Our clients averaged 8.46% in Feb 2021. The gap between those figures is explained by a few things:

  • Superior copywriting
  • Abundant inquiry forms
  • Focusing the website on what a prospective student cares about
  • A conversion-oriented website template that we developed, and
  • The Virtual Adviser “Career Training Readiness Quiz” we use with all our clients. (The quiz alone converts on average 2.22% of visitors).

So for a school generating 5,000 unique visitors per month, that would be:

  • 5000 visitors/month @ 3% conversion = 150 leads
  • 5000 visitors/month @ 8.46% conversion = 423 leads

Assuming a 7% lead-enrollment rate & a $15,000 tuition, what would translate to:

  • 11 enrollments x $15,000 tuition = $165,000
  • 36 enrollments x $15,000 tuition = $540,000

That’s a $375,000 monthly increase or Annualized Revenue Gain of $4,500,000

I think any school would happily take a $4.5 Million revenue gain.

Now 8% is the average so roughly half our school clients are below that, half above. Programs offered, competition, your brand, the market you operate in, are all factors that influence conversion rate. But what all our clients share is that their leads went up after hiring us.

We offer a terrific add-on service to Virtual Adviser called WebsiteEDU — where we create conversion focused, lead generation websites for clients. It’s not for everyone, but it might be right for you. Click here to learn more.

Recent Changes In The Paid Search Environment And How They Can Affect Your School [VIDEO]

There are even more changes to the digital marketing environment coming in 2021, and at least five of those developments are likely to affect your school. In this video, Tammy Miles, Director of Paid Search Marketing, and Chris Cunningham, Conversion Leader, share: How to guard your school against the potential fallout from these changes The […]