9 Higher Education Email Marketing Strategies for Better Student Enrollment
Social media, instant messaging, chatbots, and programmatic advertising have changed the digital marketing landscape. A generation of consumers has grown up with mobile devices in their pockets, changing the way they interact online.
Generation Z, students born between 2005 and 2015, rarely sit in front of a desktop for extended research sessions when they’re seeking information about products and services. They search from different devices across multiple platforms throughout the day to learn, to compare, to ask questions and to buy.
In this environment, email seems old fashioned, an outdated marketing method, yet email marketing spending in the U.S. is expected to reach a high of $350 million in 2019.
There is a reason for this.
Although email is the oldest form of digital marketing, it remains a vital component of a marketing strategy.
Carefully crafted messages sent to the right consumer at the right time can further marketing goals better than targeted paid advertisements. Emails have a more personal appeal than broadcasted social media content and banner ads, and email is read in a less distracting environment than other media messages.
Blasting the same email message to every address in your database is a waste of resources, and will annoy many recipients. But, targeted emails, as part of a multi-faceted recruitment campaign, will bring results.
Follow these strategies to fine-tune your email marketing to build your institution’s brand and increase enrollment numbers.
1. Segment your email list
Your database of email addresses comes from a wide range of potential students, their parents, high school guidance counselors and others that have responded, at some point, to an outreach campaign.
You may have collected some addresses through a landing page offering financial aid information, or a user may have entered an email address to download a PDF outlining your engineering programs.
While you may begin with little data on the people at the other end of an email address, you’ll collect data about who they are and what they need as they respond, or don’t respond, to your email messages.
Segmenting your list based on the data points you collect makes it possible to target prospects with marketing messages they’ll find most useful. This, in turn, will increase click-through rates and conversions.
For example, you may choose to segment your master list into demographics such as age, financial situation, and geographical location. Further segmenting by demonstrated interests, such as field of study or specific campus social activities, will ensure you’re sending the right message to the right person.
2. Align messages with the buyer’s journey
Prospective students travel a path from initial curiosity about college study to filling out admission paperwork.
Create a map of this path and create content to meet your prospects’ needs at each point along the way.
The data you gather as you interact with prospects, through email CTAs, social media, and by tracking their activity on your website, will inform you of where they are on the buyer’s journey.
Then, you can send content tagged to meet that specific point.
A student in the awareness stage of a journey may not be ready for an invitation to meet with an admissions advisor, while general information about degree programs and student life would be welcome.
3. Use intriguing, but honest, subject lines
The email subject line prompts the recipient to either open or delete a message.
For a positive response, keep the subject short and to the point.
Use action verbs in the subject such as “Explore our new science programs.” Spark curiosity, for example, “What students are saying about the new media center at XYZ University.”
Consumers have become cynical about advertising, so avoid hyperbole and language that sounds like a sales pitch.
Be sure your email content delivers what the subject line promised. Few recipients will tolerate misleading subject lines, and your next message may be marked as spam.
4. Tell a story for emotional appeal
It’s the science behind “show, don’t tell.”
The human brain is wired to respond to narrative. A story reaches people on an emotional level. Stories are memorable; they leave an impression. Craft your email messages with this in mind.
Sales pitches and trite claims – “Make friendships that last a lifetime” – are quickly passed over as a recipient scans an email text.
Prospective students will engage with detail-rich stories that help them make a connection between their self-concept and your institution.
For example, a campaign to introduce campus life should include concrete examples of co-curricular activities, the local social scene, and cultural offerings.
Review the analytics for your website and social media platforms. What are your most popular pages and posts? These will be good email topics as well.
5. Be authentic, be human
Reinforce your message, and build your institution’s image, with testimonials and case studies that profile current students and alumni.
Speak in a voice that will resonate best with your target market (professional advice is influential in some cultures; others will respond better to recommendations from peers) and keep a consistent voice throughout all campaigns.
Prospective students want to feel they are interacting with humans, not a marketing campaign.
6. Include rich images and video
Email does not have to be solid text.
Gen Z has been raised in a culture of multi-media learning and responds to powerful visual cues.
Thought-provoking images and entertaining videos are effective ways to promote programs, introduce members of the school community and demonstrate that your institution engages in the newest technologies.
Consider the impact that a virtual reality tour of dorm rooms will have in an email outlining housing options or a 360-degree photo of a state-of-the-art science lab for prospects contemplating study in the sciences.
7. Optimize for mobile
Many in your target demographic began using smartphones and connected tablets as elementary school students. Mobile devices are their first choice when it comes to interacting with the digital world, and they will check their email throughout the day from a cell phone.
It’s critical that your email messages display correctly if you expect recipients to read them.
Identify which devices are popular with your target market and select responsive email templates that will provide the best possible user experience.
You’re only a tap away from communicating with potential enrollees; don’t frustrate them with a poorly designed template.
From the initial “thank you for subscribing” message to well-timed offers, event announcements, and informational content, engage prospective enrollees using marketing automation software.
Identify points along a student’s decision-making process to target and create email messages that answer questions, address pain points, arouse curiosity and encourage further engagement.
Recipient actions, such as following an embedded link or viewing a video, will trigger the next logical step on their path of inquiry.
Data collected as people engage with, or disregard, your communications, can be used to further segment your database, increasing click-through rates and moving a prospect closer to enrollment.
9. Reengage and disengage
An email list, to be cost-efficient, requires maintenance. Bad addresses, unsubscribers and inactive recipients are a drain on resources and put your email messages in danger of being labeled as spam by ISPs.
A bounced email means the address is invalid, and it should be removed from your database. Either the subscriber entered the address incorrectly or the account was closed.
Monitor unsubscribers as they provide useful data on the effectiveness of your targeting. Which emails are prompting subscribers to leave? Are you sending too often? Does your frequency need adjusting?
Recipients that don’t open your emails, or open them but don’t take the desired action, may need a reengagement email. A simple “update your contact information” request may be enough.
Other ways to reengage subscribers is to send surveys or offer premium content such as an eBook outlining financial aid opportunities.
If a subscriber fails to reengage after one or two reengagement efforts, it may be time to remove the address from your database.
An integrated online marketing platform can simplify these strategies, streamline your email marketing, and accelerate your recruitment campaigns. Contact our GetResponse representatives to learn more about tools for creating engaging email messages, managing email lists and automating email delivery.