Prospective students, applicants, enrolled students, staff, alumni — as a school you want to make it easy to communicate with everyone simultaneously. Ideally, you engage with prospects, nurture relationships with current students and keep in touch with alumni after they’ve headed off into the real world.
Email marketing can help you manage all these audiences so you can send tailored messages to each group.
In higher education, email marketing helps you to:
In this guide, you’ll learn how email marketing can streamline your student and staff communications. You’ll know exactly how to segment your subscribers, what types of email campaigns to send to each target audience and how to create professional newsletters (no prior experience needed!).
Though it might seem like all Gen Z communication goes down on Instagram and Snapchat, 90% of the American internet users use email monthly in 2019. When it comes to college scouting, 76% of high school students ranked email as their preferred medium to find their future school.
Needless to say, email is the right channel to communicate with students.
So why use email software and not just send messages via an email provider like Gmail or Yahoo? Here’s why:
Having all your subscribers in one place gives you a good overview and makes it easy to keep your list updated. Subscribers can be segmented into groups, based on things like their program, role, interests or enrolled year.
Groups can be used to send personalized school emails to each one of your subscribers.
Different departments can use pre-saved templates and easily add their own content using a drag & drop editor. This helps to keep a uniform look.
Most email tools allow several teams to work on email campaigns simultaneously. User permissions define what each person is allowed to see or do, so a student newsletter intern won’t be able to access any billing information.
Most schools don't have huge marketing budgets. Still today, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available.
As you can see, using email marketing in higher education is a no-brainer. Now let's get into the practical details!
When you’re starting with email marketing for your university, you’ll have a bit of homework to do.
We’ll leave step 1 up to you to decide ;)
When students and parents are browsing around for the most suitable university, it’s very unlikely they’ll make their decision on the spot. That’s why you want to collect emails to continue the student recruitment process after the initial contact.
To collect prospect emails, integrate (pop-up) signup forms on the school website. Create one for each one of your website visitor target groups. For example, use separate signup forms for prospects requesting information and students registering online. This way you segment them automatically.
Tip: Though for signup forms we recommend asking for as little information as possible, in this situation you want to be specific. Let subscribers choose what studies they’re interested in so you can directly send them the correct information.
Signups don’t merely occur online. During your next open house, ask college explorers to sign up for your email list via an offline app.
When importing email addresses from current students and staff, make sure you have their consent to send newsletters.
Your subscriber base has very different needs. To send valuable messages to each subscriber, you need to segment them into groups.
These groups could be:
Tip: When you use segments in MailerLite, your subscribers will always be up-to-date. Segments are updated automatically as soon as a subscriber complies or no longer complies with the created rule. You create the rules, the email tool takes care of the rest. Read here how to optimally use segments.
Done? Let’s continue with some ideas for your first targeted educational email campaign.
How can you address the needs of each individual target group? Let’s have a look at what email campaigns are suitable for prospective students, new students, current students, alumni and staff.
Once prospective students show interest by leaving their email, it’s your task to make them feel excited about the idea of attending your college.
To stay top of mind, send an email a few days after the initial contact that sums up the benefits of the study they’re interested in. You can let current students and alumni do the talking, by incorporating testimonials and case studies. Paint a detailed picture of what life at your college will look like!
Base your email content on the student’s situation — are they still trying to explore their options? Or is the application deadline coming close and do they just need that final push for your school to be the lucky candidate?
Tip: Provide a real reply-to address to make sure students can get in touch for any remaining questions.
Immediately start building relationships with students that applied to your college by sending them valuable information.
Create segments for each field of study and send content about placement rates, after-school activities, internship opportunities, extracurriculars, travel possibilities and more. This will keep potential future students interested.
The first day of school is the start of a new chapter.
Make it easy for students to onboard by sending them a warm welcome email. This could be a personal note from the head combined with all the resources they need to keep a clear head. You can also send content about move-in and sign-up dates, course material, contact information, a layout of the college building and other practical information.
To make new students feel at home, tell them in an educational email what fun things are happening in their new city. Or maybe the first football game is already planned! This helps in shaping the school’s image and reputation.
Registration dates? Deadlines? School trips? Parties? A newsletter can serve as a reminder to get your students to take action or mark things in their calendars.
Your student newsletter can also help to make people familiar with each other. Highlight student initiatives and curricular activities, take interviews, show teacher fun facts, report sports results or announce mentor speed-dating and lunch roulette dates. This makes the students feel more connected and involved.
Tip: Pictures or photo signatures make your emails feel more personal. Do double-check that if you’re using student photos, the people involved are okay with their faces being shown.
What happens after your students throw their hats in the air? As they’ll no longer be tied to a number in your system, it’ll be hard to keep them connected to the school. That’s too bad, as alumni play an important role in supporting the school.
Ask newly graduated students for their personal contact information.
An alumni newsletter to the student’s private email address makes sure you can still keep in touch after they’ve left.
Implement surveys to gather data on what fields and jobs students venture into or invite them to a school reunion. Maybe some of your alumni are even interested in mentoring freshly enrolled students.
While fundraising is a critical role of alumni, make sure you are not just sending emails that ask for money. Create longer-term strategies that build relationships with alumni to keep them connected to the traditions and maintain the fond memories of attending the school.
Your staff might be relatively small, and therefore your communication happens directly via an email provider like Gmail or your in-house email system.
However, the main benefits of using email tools to send internal messages are that your subscriber list is always up-to-date and you can see who read your messages.
In your list, you can change subscribers statuses from active to inactive. This makes it easy to filter out ex-staff members and update your list.
You can also use segments to send emails to staff from a certain faculty.
Furthermore, email campaign reports show you exactly who did and didn’t open your email. Now you can keep track of who might need a personal reminder, in case your message is urgent.
You want your newsletter to look visually attractive, but your organization probably doesn’t have teachers that are graphic designers by night. Luckily, you don’t need to!
For your newsletter design, follow these best practices for professional educational emails.
When you use an email marketing tool, you can often choose from prebuilt templates. These just need some minor tweaks, like adding the school’s logo, matching the font and designing it with the respective school colors. This way, students immediately see that the newsletter comes from their university.
Once you’ve created the first school newsletter, you can use the template as a base for each following newsletter. Email tools will make sure your newsletter is showcased correctly on mobile devices, by automatically resizing the template.
Students juggle classes, homework, social outings and hangovers — you want to make sure your higher education email campaign grabs their attention. Be precise in your subject line and tell students what they can expect to read in the school newsletter. Want to remind them of a deadline? Mention the exact date and express urgency in your email subject line.In our how to write email subject lines article, we’ll dive deeper into this topic.
Your students have their homework, you have a pile of paperwork waiting to be reviewed. As effective as school newsletters are, no one has time to sit through another essay. Keep the content clear and don’t make your newsletter unnecessary long. Think of one call to action for each educational newsletter and pick one (or a few) relevant topics that support this CTA.
With university email marketing, your school can efficiently manage its large and ever-changing subscriber list. It helps to streamline communication with (future) students and staff and deliver all audiences exactly the right message — resulting in many different relationships being nurtured at the same time.
You now have the power to create professional-looking newsletters With a little help of prebuilt templates, your inner Basquiat will flourish by itself. This template can then be used to maintain consistent branding throughout all the future email campaigns send by diverse departments.
Does your school’s organization currently send newsletters? If not, what’s holding you back?