Lead Generation for Higher Education – The A/B Test That Boosted Our Reply Rate from 20% to 30%

By: Jack Reamer |
 June 28, 2022 |

Selling to universities can be quite a complicated process, especially if you are targeting big educational institutes, like Harvard. 

The reason?

The heads of departments at these universities are usually incredibly busy, and probably have many people trying to sell them products and services.

So this means that if you want your lead generation strategy to work, you are going to have to think outside the box in order to cut through the noise. 

Yes, there are various inbound marketing strategies, (which do work) but if you would like a positive reply rate of 30% or higher, this lead generation strategy is ideal for targeting higher education institutions

Our Linkedin Lead Generation Strategy for Higher Ed That Led to a 30% Positive Reply Rate

Case Study: UltraScope

Ultrascope offers personalized stethoscopes for medical students, vets and doctors. 

“The Ultrascope is a unique, single sided pressure sensitive acoustic stethoscope for complete and accurate assessment and diagnosis of heart and/or lung sounds in human and animal patients. Obtain superior sound quality in any situation, even noisy environments.”


Step 1: Build a list of the right target audience 

This was quite a fun lead generation campaign, and not too complex, but we had to build a list of the right:

  • Medical higher ed institutions
  • And the right list of decision makers to reach out to

So in order to do this, we looked at medical directories on the web to find contact information that we needed. 

For Ultrascope, in particular, we used The Association of Medical School Members directory.

We then scraped these directories with DataMiner.io.

This gave a great start  for finding qualified leads, because we know that these are some of the best medical schools in America. We then grabbed all this data and found the appropriate people to reach out to at these institutions. 

We were going after the following roles at schools to order custom stethoscopes: 

  • Marketing directors/ Managers/ Coordinators and VPs
  • Promotions managers
  • Events coordinators
  • Hospital foundations
  • Brand management co-ordinators
  • Outreach managers

Once we had a list of all the right people to contact on Linkedin, we ran two A/B tests to see which type of messaging would work the best. 

Step 2: Plug the list into Linkedin Sales Navigator 

Once we had our list 100% refined, we plugged it into Linkedin Sales Navigator and filtered it by the clients second degree network. 

We also filtered the list by recently posted.

The reason for this, is if someone is already in your second degree network, they will be more inclined to reply to you. Also if they have recently posted something on Linkedin, it shows that they are active on the platform. 

There is no point in wasting time and sending messages to prospects who don’t use Linkedin, if this is the case, rather add them to an email marketing campaign if you have their email address. 

Step 3: Write personalized messages

At Salesbread we always personalize each and every message that we send out. In order to do this, you have to research the prospects on your list, and write a message specifically for them.

Use the following method below:

As mentioned in the title, we tried 2 different types of messages to see which would work the best. A/B testing is an important part of outreach. It allows you to assess your campaigns, and make the needed changes for greater success. 

The first campaign received a 20.9% positive reply rate and the second received a 30% positive reply rate. A 10% increase in positive replies. 

What changed? See below:

Message number 1:



Connection Rate


Positive Reply Rate

As always, we research each prospect on our list and write a custom intros just for them. 

This is an example of the messages we sent:

Connection request message:

“Michaela, I know of your work at Albany Medical College, through a few of our mutual Healthcare connections here. Mind if we connect?”

1st Follow Up message:

“Michaela, (custom inrto.)Saw you’re in charge of marketing. Do you also handle promotional products (for brand visibility or onboarding gifts) at Albany Collage? Or am I way off?
-(Your name)

P.S. {Explain end benefit and why this higher ed lead would want to engage}”

With the first campaign, some of the common responses we were getting from prospects were: 

 Hey, I don’t handle promotions so I can’t help you. Sorry.”

Because of this response, we decided to change up the messaging and try something a little different in our follow up messages.

Message number 2:



Connection Rate


Positive Reply Rate

Connection Request Message Example

“Michaela, saw your post here and noticed we share a few connections in common already. (I’m also in the healthcare space.) Mind if we connect?”

Follow-Up Message Example

Michaela, (custom intro.)
After re-visiting your profile and learning a bit more about what you’re working on for Albany Collage, I’d like to arrange a short chat.
Have a few questions about {TOPIC}.What does your calendar look like over the next few days to connect?
P.S. {Explain end benefit and why this higher ed lead would want to engage without sounding salsely}

Notice the difference in the message

We mentioned the prospect’s exact role and the “PS” backed up our offer and the reason we were reaching out. 

Even if a prospect wasn’t responsible for promotions, they still requested the stethoscope .


Because we were being more transparent, and weren’t just assuming that this product was for them. This is a great approach if you’re not 100% sure who the decision maker is for your campaign. 

Moral of the story

If you aren’t happy with the reply rates that you’re for higher education lead generation, make some changes. 

Either you need to refine your list even further, or make some tweaks to your messages. It’s important to try out different strategies to see what works. 

But time and time again we have seen that:

a.) In depth list building leads to greater conversion rates (Read more about how we build lists here.) 

b.) Using personalized messaging captures the attention of prospects . (Notice how we mentioned the prospect’s exact role in the second message.)

c.) Have a clear call to action that lets the prospect know exactly what you do and what you expect from them. (For example, we asked for a meeting and mentioned how we would like to send them a ‘customized stethoscope’ with their logo and colors.)

d.) Don’t sell immediately in your messages. Talk about what you do just for context, and speak about the prospect 90% of the time. 

Other ways to generate leads for higher education

If you aren’t ready to give Linkedin lead generation a go, you could either reach out to us here and let us generate 20+ qualified leads for you; or try out different types of higher education marketing

Some ways in which you could do this is via:

Social Media Marketing

Some companies who are targeting higher educational institutes make use of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter.

These leads might take some more time to generate, as you will need to develop a brand following, but it has proven effective. Especially if you are targeting student leads for your university. 

Above is an example of how Harvard uses their Instagram account to attract students.

Below, Harvard also makes relevant posts for what’s happening in the world, and then directs students or viewers to read more info on their website. 

SEO and Landing Page Optimization

Having a content marketer for your company can also bring in greater metrics. If you are a small business targeting universities, it’s important to have a website that utilizes seo.  

The reason is that over time, Google will start to rank your website, and if you target high intent keywords, the chances of the right prospects landing on your site will be greater. 

Most people Google things now-a days, and if your site doesn’t have a proper content marketing strategy, you could lose out on many new high-quality leads

Just remember though, content marketing (or digital marketing) can take time. For example at Salesbread we make use of both inbound and outbound marketing.

Inbound, has taken a year to start gaining traction, whereas with outbound, we see immediate results. 

If you can use both forms of marketing to gain prospective students, or higher ed institutions, you will have a winning strategy. 

Try Linkedin Lead Generation for High-Quality Immediate Leads               

If you would like immediate results, and don’t have the time to wait for search engine optimization to work, give us a call.

We guarantee 20+ qualified leads per month, and you can expect your first lead within 48 hours of launching the campaign. All of this, for less than hiring a full time SDR. 

Either schedule a free 15 minute consultation with us, or send us a message below. 

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