7 Winning Email Marketing Strategies for Higher Education
09 November 2021
According to Statistica, total college student population in America is about 14.6 million. And that population is expected to grow very gradually in future years.
Exactly who is today’s college student? Certainly, the majority of this population comes from Gen Z. But there is another population too – that non-traditional student, often older, who has returned to school to pursue greater career options.
At the same time, colleges are becoming highly competitive in order to attract and keep students on their campuses. They have stepped up their marketing campaigns and strategies, and using email has become a major part of those strategies. And businesses that market to college students also rely heavily on this venue. Why email? Because studies show that, of all marketing dollars spent, email has the biggest return on those dollars.
So, exactly how do higher ed institutions, as well as other businesses with this target audience, use email effectively to market to students?
Here are seven winning strategies.
1. Get Intimate Understanding of the Audience
It’s impossible to successfully market to any target without a full understanding of who they are as a group. For example, the traditional Gen Z student values diversity, equality, honesty, and value for his money spent. He is also a “digital native,” meaning he has grown up with technology and is as comfortable with it, if not more, as he is with person-to-person communication.
The non-traditional student is a millennial. He has many of the same values as the Gen Z student, in terms of valuing diversity and honesty, but is also a product of the world or work, often holding down a job while going back to school and, often, having a family. He wants efficiency, convenience, and flexibility in his learning.
Once anyone from either of these groups contacts a higher ed institution for information, it will be important to provide email marketing content that will strike the right chord with his needs and values. This brings us to the next key strategy.
2. Segmentation is Critical
The most logical segmentation of audiences for higher education is the traditional Gen Z on-campus audience and the non-traditional older potential student. The email messages to these groups will be very different. For example, a message to Gen Z recipients might speak to the diverse community on the campus and the surrounding community. To a non-traditional student, it might focus on the availability of online coursework.
3. Develop Compelling Subject Lines
Those organizations that get the most “opens” of their emails have a subject line that is intriguing and engaging. If not, busy recipients who do check their emails daily will quickly gloss over one that has a boring subject line and that does not present value. A Gen Z student might enjoy a video of an event the demonstrates campus diversity or a free concert; a non-traditional millennial might want a list of new courses in his proposed major that are offered online. Subject lines should be crafted with these in mind.
4. Use Media if Possible
Busy people, especially Gen Z’ers, are on their phones more than PCs or laptops. They don’t have time to read walls of text on small screens. And, newer research shows that people absorb visual content about 60K times faster than text, as well as retain that content at a greater rate. A short video of a satisfied student describing his satisfaction with the school, his courses, instructors, and activities, can be quite compelling.
5. Personalize the Email
We’ve all experienced emails that speak to us by name, once we have engaged a company and explored what it offers or make a purchase. Follow-up emails ask for feedback, present new/additional products or services, offer discounts, etc. Addressing recipients by name adds that personalization can motivate someone to open an email and read its message. And personalization can also occur by addressing an individual’s initial interest in a program – what’s new in that program? Has it received some national recognition? These should be the subjects of emails, and the work to further segment audiences by their individual interests and needs.
6. Always Have a CTA
There is no point in an email unless the sender asks or tells the recipient what to do next. For example, suppose an online writing service has received an inquiry from a student for online essay help. Follow-up emails might invite the student to subscribe to a newsletter, to take advantage of a new customer discount, etc. The same holds true for higher ed institutions. It could be an invitation to join in an upcoming podcast in their field of interest; it could be a call to subscribe to a department or campus newsletter; it could be an invitation to take a virtual tour and talk with instructors or students from a program of interest. Never send an email without a call to action.
7. Test Effectiveness
Higher ed institutions use email services, because they are experienced, effective, and can provide a wealth of information about the effectiveness of campaigns. One important strategy is to use this service for data on the response effectiveness of subject lines. Two subject lines can be created and then sent out to separate halves of a target audience. The email service will then track which receive more opens and responses to CTA’s. This provides great information going forward.
Email campaigns can be some of the most beneficial marketing strategies to use. They require some creativity in writing, an investment in people who can provide that creativity, and reputable email service that can get those messages out, keep segmentation up to date, and track the results. These seven strategies should be top on any institution’s list for developing successful campaigns.