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Effective Email Marketing Strategies for Higher Ed Admissions

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When it comes to marketing to prospective students, Admissions teams across the country have effectively become more agile and strategic than ever before. From the pandemic to quick pivots in campus plans and increased Summer Melt, our world in higher ed looks a little differently every day. 

That’s why it’s especially critical to utilize the right strategies and tools in the right ways to reach, attract, and engage students. Such as prospecting software and email marketing, for example. 

Email marketing works, and here’s why.

Email marketing is not only one of the more affordable marketing methods a university can take advantage of, but it’s also one of the most effective when it comes to seeing a return on investment (ROI). For every single dollar that a marketing team spends on email marketing, they can expect to see an average return of $44.

Email is also near 40x’s more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined when it comes to attracting new customers. Considering the way Gen Z uses social media, this can apply to recruiting students, too.

When executed correctly, email marketing can significantly bolster a university’s enrollment and retention, while actively engaging your current student body and alumni. When you couple this together with products like Unibuddy, you’re well on your way to helping power students’ decisions through peer-to-peer connections and nurturing those relationships.  

Tips for creating effective email campaigns in higher ed

Optimizing emails for engagement is the ultimate goal for any email marketing strategy, and it should be a top priority for colleges and universities who have to reach and engage a wide variety of readers.

All email campaigns should include:

  • Scannable content for quick, easy reading
  • Incorporate a variety of different mediums, such as event invites, videos, and blog posts
  • A compelling call to action
  • Responsive design so displays properly on mobile devices, as well as desktops and tablets (and don’t forget accessibility

While creating or updating an email marketing strategy may seem intimidating at first, these four tips will help you start on the right foot.

1. Personalize the subject line.

Personalized emails are powerful in email marketing, especially when a massive (or more difficult) audience is involved. Plus, personalized messages can improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and increase conversions by 10%.

A university campus may range in size, but no matter how big or small, a student or faculty member wants to feel apart of the community. An easy way to do this is to personalize your email subject line. An even better approach is to use your data on hand to craft content more specific to their interests, location, or degree of interest.

Takeaway: Craft your emails as if you were sending each one individually, rather than to an extensive list.

2. List segmentation is your best friend.

List segmentation is vital, especially if a university has more than one department that oversees their email campaigns. This feature also goes hand-in-hand with personalization, as you can segment specific lists (think, curious prospective students vs. students who’ve applied) in order to craft more custom and relevant content. 

List segmentation ensures that emails get to the audience that will find them most useful and relevant. Sending an email from the English Department to a prospective student interested in Graphic Design is not only irrelevant but a waste of time and resources. (Plus, may not be a great look.)

Takeaway: Know your department’s targeted audience and cater to their needs.

3. Always include captivating copy.

Captivating content is how you’ll keep readers interested in what you have to say. Not only does it have to be interesting, but it must also be relevant to the reader.

Source: Really Good Emails

This email is an excellent example of relevant copy for a college student and their family. The newsletter covers a variety of must-know topics that any student, especially a freshman, may need to know how to be prepared for life on campus.

Readers may be instantly drawn in thanks to the title, “The money issue—everything you need to know.” University students are known to struggle in the financial department, so having a newsletter to address must-know topics dealing with money is relevant to all students.

Takeaway: Captivate the reader but keep the information relevant.

4. Always be testing.

This last step, which is sometimes forgotten, is essential. How else will you know if your emails are working or helping you achieve your goals? As marketers and higher ed professionals, you should always be testing.

Various forms of testing will allow you to not only understand who is opening your emails and how often, but it will also give you insight into what readers are clicking on (and what they aren’t), what’s engaging and what’s inspiring them to act. 

You may choose to A/B test the content of your subject line—does your prospective student audience prefer a subject line that appeals to them emotionally, or something short and direct? You can also A/B test imagery or other singular aspects within your email. 

This topic loops back to proper email list segmentation and personalization, as well as having compelling copy in the body of the email. All aspects of your email will benefit from being thoroughly tested to see which will garner the best results.

Takeaway: Test every piece of your campaign by sending it to small sample groups. This will guide you as to what works and what doesn’t with your readers.

Wrap up

When working on effective email marketing in higher ed, there are several things you should keep in mind.

  • Personalization is key—Go beyond using their first name.
  • Subject lines can make or break an email—Make a great first impression.
  • Copy matters—Always be personal and relevant. 
  • Testing is vital—You should always be testing.

Having the right tools can not only simplify your email marketing but give you the option to create large-scale campaigns, while also allowing you to focus on specific goals that your admissions team may have.

The secret behind successful higher ed marketing?

Community marketing! Explore how 33+ universities have leveraged key strategies to stand out among the crowd.


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