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Email Marketing Tips for Colleges and Universities
1. Rethink Your Email Strategy
Right now, most colleges are capturing names and email addresses from people that are reaching out and opting in because they interested in learning more about the institution and programs offered. This leads to a series of emails with the same "Apply Now" offer with a few "Register Now" offers tied to a campus tour or an Open House.
That's a very small piece of the adult audience in your market and it represents those that further along in their decision-making process. Think about email as a lead generation tool. A way for you to show adults that you are an expert on topics that they are interested in.
Think outside the box a little bit and identifying some ways you can better leverage your resources so that you can reach more adults earlier in their decision-making process so that when the time comes for them to go to college, you're at the top of the list.
2. Make subscribing easy.
There are some web forms out there that scare away prospective students - don't do that. Your subscription form should be short and sweet and easy.
- First name.
- Last name.
- Email address.
- Program of interest
- Desired start date.
If you have to ask for "Phone", ask for "Mobile Phone" and have them opt-in for text messaging.
And if you have unique processes for [ex] international students or members of the military, ask that too.
But don't go much further. You can get other critical data over time - and then use it to provide more value.
3. Unique, relevant, valuable and compelling content.
For adults in any stage - pre-inquiry, inquiry, enrollment, drop-out/stop-out, and even graduate/alum - there is a need for information about things of interest. And that's the content you need to deliver.
- How to network.
- How to interview.
- How to start your own business.
- How to make sure you have the necessary skills to advance your career long-term.
- How to better manage time.
- How to be a more effective communicator.
- How to build winning teams.
- What the new tax laws mean.
- Planning for retirement.
Tie those topics to what you offer. For example, under "How to start your own business", perhaps you interview some students and alumni that have done just that. You also interview the program chair so that they can share how the entrepreneur program offered at your institution offers unique value that helps alumni launch successful businesses. And maybe you include a little bit about how career services helps you develop networking skills that you can put to use at the alumni association which happens to have several members involved in venture capital.
4. Keep it personal.
This means more than just starting off with "Hi Bob" rather than "Dear Student". It could mean giving them the option to receive the email on a weekly, twice monthly or monthly schedule. It could also mean providing them with options to select their topics of interest so they receive content that is relevant to their personal needs and interests.
If they are interested in nursing and healthcare, include content that addresses those topics. Same for teachers, accountant, entrepreneurs...you get the point.
Keep it simple is important here too. Don't get too creative too fast. Start slow and make sure you enter the right merge codes so you're referring to them by their name rather than their phone number. But have a wish list that you can share with your subscribers and get their input on. Then roll those enhancements over time. Remember, the more personal, the more relevant. And the more relevant, the more valuable.
5. Test your offers.
As mentioned earlier, "Apply Now" is often used - or misused. In this example, test offers so you can qualify and prioritize them. Invite them to an event based on their interests. If they register and attend, you're engaging them and positioning yourself to be their choice when they are ready to enroll.
Some of those topics mentioned above are perfect for being quickly turned into checklists or guides that you can offer to your subscribers - or potential new subscribers - as downloads.
And better yet, if you happen to get caught in one of those situations where a term is starting in a few weeks and there don't appear to be enough applicants or people in the application process to achieve those enrollment goals - it is easier and more fruitful to turn to your subscriber base with strong offers to enroll today. Typically, when this happens, there is a lot of discussion about running more ads or calling contacts that haven't responded in a long time but these options are targeting people that aren't engaged and might not have the trust in you to go from zero to enroll today. But the list has people that are going to be at various levels of engagement - so you can reach out and make a personal offer that generates enrollments,
A few years ago, a client had set up a process that whenever anyone clicked "Reply" to an email, it went to a specific In-box that was managed by a member of the marketing department. Unfortunately, that person moved on to new, exciting opportunities and now no one was receiving the emails. Over a period of about 6-months, several thousand replies went unanswered.
Please don't let that happen to you.
Have a process in place that ensures a timely, relevant response to all replies to your emails.