The Educated Marketer


How to Fix Underperforming Student Recruitment Email Campaigns

by Leah Peters | Nov 23, 2015

 |  college recruitment, inbound marketing


There’s an art to a really great email marketing campaigns…and you can learn it.



Email 2.0

Email marketing isn’t what it used to be.

Whereas in the old days, email marketing consisted of simple robo-responses and mass emails, these days, it’s much more advanced. With the support of sophisticated technology, marketers can, to a greater degree than ever before, refine their email messages based on all kinds of information gleaned by that very same technology. Far from being ‘spam,’ email marketing 2.0 is the kind of thing your prospective students will actually want to sign up to receive.

But a great email marketing campaign doesn’t begin from scratch -- there are a few things we think you should know.

Step #1: Create a Great List

We’ll be honest: we’re all about inbound marketing, and that means that we’re less excited about purchased lists than we are about lists that are grown ‘organically’ -- built by prospective students and their parents opting-in to receive communications you're your admissions department.

Building a list organically through inbound marketing relies, of course, on great content and compelling downloadable offers (a topic we’ve covered in several other places) but at the most basic level, it means that you’ve got to have easy-to-use forms (landing pages) on your website with compelling calls to action, allowing visitors to give you their contact information.

Yes, it takes time to build a list organically, but don’t worry. We believe that the highest-quality leads -- the leads that matter most -- are much more likely to arrive when your prospects opt in. What that means is that when it comes to building great email lists, quality beats quantity.

Step #2: Choose a good email automation system

There are all kinds of automation systems to choose from: simple lists and scheduling systems, and much more complicated ones, which can offer all kinds of information on your prospects -- what they’re interested in studying, what kind of communications and offers they find most appealing, and more. With a comprehensive inbound system in place you can offer highly tailored emails and campaigns. It’s important to choose the right system with the capabilities you need to achieve your goals.

And speaking of goals, it’s really important to decide in advance what your objectives are before sending that first email. The answer will be different based on who you’re emailing and where they are in the decision-making journey (or admissions funnel.) Are you trying to get students who’ve already expressed an interest in your institution to make an appointment to talk to an admissions counselor? Are you trying to encourage students deeper into the admissions funnel to finish an application they’ve started and then abandoned? Decide what you’re aiming at, and you’ve got a chance of hitting it!

Step #3: Write up your automatic email responses

You’ll want to set up a good number of emails that will automatically be sent in response to certain actions taken by your leads. Try to avoid the temptation to deliver a heavy-handed sales pitch -- use your emails to offer more information of value and to build the trust of your prospects. Ensuring that what you send is of high value -- and that it has clear calls-to-action and links for further engagement -- is key to keeping prospects interested and figuring out how best to respond next.

Figure out what works -- and what doesn’t

It’s important to look at your metrics regularly (see our guide on which metrics are most important -- and which you can safely ignore) to determine which email responses are working with which prospects. Conducting A/B testing on your emails (including content quality, topic, and subject line) is well worth the time investment. Remember -- you’re going for high quality leads.

Don’t be afraid to be creative

We believe it’s possible to create email campaigns that people actually love. It’s all part of inbound marketing -- the new kind of marketing that people actually enjoy. (Check out this great post by HubSpot on creative, eye-catching email campaigns.)

To Sum Up:

Email 2.0 -- as part of a comprehensive and integrated inbound marketing campaign -- can be much more effective than generic, spammy email blasts to purchased and rented lists. By generating a solid list organically, through the creation and distribution of great content, creating valuable and tailored emails, and using responsive, advanced technology to automate emails in response to prospects’ actions, you’ll be well on your way to fixing an ailing email marketing campaign!

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