TopSchool Raises $8 Million in Growth Capital Series C Funding

By now, you may have heard the good news here at TopSchool. We’ve raised an additional $8 Million in Series C funding. The funding was led by MK Capital, and Karen Buckner, partner and Chief Operating Officer at MK Capital, will be joining our board.

This funding will allow us to continue to advance our products and infrastructure for increased performance of the TopSchool SaaS Student Lifecycle Management system. We also will use the funds to invest in increased account management support.

We are poised for growth and look forward to supporting the growth of our college and university customers.  We recognize a need for an alternative to traditional college student information systems, and our unmatched capabilities are meeting and exceeding this demand in the market.  The Series C funding will be instrumental in enabling us to better serve our clients and embrace this market opportunity.


Insights from the CAPPS Conference

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the CAPPS (California Association of Private Post Secondary Schools) Conference in Los Angeles this week.  This year the conference had a record number of attendees for various reasons.  One of the primary reasons was that many of the Private Post Secondary schools were looking for answers on how the recently passed California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 would affect them.  A summary of this bill and details of the act can be found at the following link:

Of the many interesting sessions being conducted at the conference I was able to sit in on the Internet Leads Panel discussion.  This discussion offered best practices from experts on ways to create more effective internet lead acquisition strategies and how to best convert those leads.  The session included guidance from Fred Carini, an industry veteran and  well regarded Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Milan Institute which operates 16 schools in four states, Craig O’Neil who is VP of Product Management of one of the nation’s largest wholesale lead generators and TopSchool’s very own Justin McMorrow, SVP of Sales and Marketing.

The panelists discussed how the use of Internet leads providers and aggregators can be an extremely effective mechanism for increasing starts.  For some higher education institutions,  over 70% of starts can be attributed to internet leads.  In summary, the key takeaways from the session from the three different perspectives were as follows:

  • From the School’s Perspective
    • Make sure Admissions Staff are trained and have the right tools to follow up with Internet leads
    • Share all of the lead information success/failure rates frequently with your lead providers to give them insight into which leads are converting and which ones are not
    • Immediacy – Admissions staff must follow up with leads quickly and effectively, especially given the nature of how internet leads are generated
  • Lead Provider’s Perspective
    • Schools must understand the different channels of internet leads, such as:
      • Web searches, email campaigns, social networking, call center, banner ads, hosted affiliate websites and institutional website
    • Schools must clearly understand how each of these different channels behave and have realistic expectations on how lead performance varies based on channel
    • Importance of providing transparency to the school by providing metrics to the schools on campaign, lead source and channel
  • Educating the schools on the inherent issues associated with working with internet leads
    • Web Amnesia – when students forgot that they submitted an inquiry form or opted in
    • Duplicate Lead information
    • Offered Incentives (ipods, electronics, etc) which create interest, for the  wrong product/brand
    • Shared Marketing data – the case where a student opts in to receive marketing information for multiple sectors not just higher education
    • Promise of Scholarships or Financial Assistance – another form of incentivizing prospective students which is very deceiving but does happen
  • From the Student Lifecycle Management System Perspective
    • Speed to first touch is important (Immediacy)
    • Ensure lead distribution rules are mapped effectively during business and off hours to ensure complete coverage
    • Establish business processes to support technology and ensure proper training and understanding around that process

The feedback from other attendees was very positive and the session overall was very informative.  Everyone appreciated the opportunity to gain insights from three different perspectives of working with internet leads – not just from the school’s vantage point.

 It is clear that the challenges of working with internet leads are multi-faceted and can be extremely complicated but employing the key strategies mentioned above can be effective in increasing the conversion of these leads.

 What measures have you employed to help increase lead effectiveness at your institution when working with internet leads?  How do you track internet leads that actually heard about your brand via word of mouth, t.v., radio or billboard ads?