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Complete Guide to Higher Education Email Marketing

Complete Guide to Higher Education Email Marketing

The world of higher education is fascinating, full of diverse and demanding audiences ranging from tech-savvy Gen Z students to accomplished faculty members and the ever-proud alums. However, the enrollment game is getting fierce, and recruiting teams are turning to marketers for advice on how to break through the noise. To engage with such a broad spectrum of audiences and improve outreach, institutions have turned to one powerful tool: email marketing.

As you work to advance university initiatives, consider a new set of strategies to increase the volume and impact of your email marketing program. Let’s unravel some practical ways to implement best practices to make your higher education email marketing campaigns more effective. 

Building an email list: Your first step to success

Where do you start when you think about email marketing for colleges? 

We recommend the first step be constructing your email list. That way, you know who you’re communicating to before you begin to develop the email.

But putting together a list may not be as simple as it seems.

After all, you’re building a community of future learners, that range in diversity from age, race, and interests, and you need to attract their attention strategically.

How to collect email addresses:

One way to collect essential email addresses for your list is to use a landing page. Landing pages can provide the prospect with valuable content, invite event registrations, or offer course materials—all in exchange for an email address. 

Your institution’s website is also an excellent resource for gathering email addresses of potential subscribers. Use callouts on your website to highlight the benefits of joining your email list and make subscribing easy. Create pages with blog posts or course descriptions and insert a simple sign-up form—this can be an effective method of building a list. Similarly, you can leverage social media channels to encourage followers to sign up, offering exclusive content or deals that sweeten the pot.

Read more: Create an effective email sign-up form: 6 expert design tips. 

The power of segmentation: Personalize and engage

Once you have a robust email list, it’s time to divide and conquer—literally. Using segmentation in email marketing for educational institutions is a valuable practice. Segmenting your email list lets you target specific groups with relevant content, keeping engagement high and helping build stronger relationships.

For instance, prospective students might enjoy emails about admission procedures, deadlines, and tips for a successful application. On the other hand, current students might prefer updates about campus events, academic deadlines, or new courses. Alums could be interested in news about reunion events, campus developments, or opportunities to contribute to their alma mater. 

You can slice and dice a list in many ways, so define segmentation criteria based on your communication goals. Splitting your list similarly for each message may not always be necessary.

It’s personal: Customizing emails for higher engagement

Personalization is often times displayed by using the name of the recipient in the email. According to studies, email subject lines personalized with a name have as much as 50% higher open rates. 

But personalization is so much more than that —it’s about understanding their needs, interests, and goals. From dynamic content that changes based on the recipient’s profile to triggered emails sent based on specific actions, personalization can take various forms in higher-ed email marketing. Most forms of personalization have been shown to pay dividends for marketers by improving engagement, increasing ROI, and making conversion more likely.

Read more: How to drive student engagement using personalization in email. 

Entertain the eyes: Using images and videos

Audiences enjoy visual elements in communications. Images and videos are found to drive up to 650% more engagement than a simple text-only message. Emails covered in chunky text can be tedious to read, but adding images or videos can help break up the text, making it more digestible. Plus, visuals will make your emails more entertaining and memorable.

Images and videos are also a great way to offer glimpses into campus life, showcase success stories, and highlight campus events. They can also simplify complex information or concepts using infographics or icons. What do they say about the digital age? … Content is king, but visuals rule.

Automation and AI: Taking efficiency to the next level

Technology advancements continue to improve the effectiveness of email marketing. With the integration of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), it’s now possible to send emails at more optimal times, analyze data for valuable insights, and personalize content with minimal effort. 

Automation helps you plan and schedule emails to send when they are most likely to be opened. At the same time, AI can analyze behavioral data to provide insights that inform your email marketing strategy better. AI can also help create personalized emails at scale, which would otherwise be a time-consuming task if completed manually.

Keep testing: The road to continuous improvement

The success of your university email marketing strategy relies on your willingness to monitor and test your email campaigns regularly. A/B testing helps to determine what works best for your audience. You could try different subject lines, calls to action, email layouts, or even sending times—the possibilities for testing are endless.

Monitoring your campaign’s performance through analytics is also essential, giving you insight into open, click-through, and conversion rates. These metrics will guide you in fine-tuning your campaigns for better results and understanding your emails’ success.

Read more: How to begin A/B testing email designs.

Mobile-friendly: A necessity, not an option

In today’s modern campus environment, mobile-friendliness isn’t just nice to have—it’s necessary. Nearly half of all emails are now opened on mobile devices, and this trend continues to grow. If your email doesn’t display well on a mobile device, you risk a poor user experience, which can lead to lower engagement rates and landing in the digital trash can.

So, ensure your emails are responsive to the screen size they are being viewed on and optimized for best viewing on mobile devices.

Read more: Email design for mobile.

Email design: The secret to increasing engagement

Design plays a crucial role in how your emails are perceived. A well-designed email can capture the recipient’s attention, keep them engaged, and guide them toward taking your desired action. Think carefully about how you use layout, typography, color, and visuals in your emails because it all matters for capturing attention and ensuring readability.

Read more: 6 tips for designing a great college newsletter 

Consider using email templates designed specifically for Higher Education to make this task easier. Beefree offers various industry-specific templates that can help you seamlessly manage these essential design strategies.

The Beefree Advantage: An email builder for Higher Education email marketing

While email design tools are abundant, not all are cut out for the unique demands of higher education email marketing. That’s where Beefree comes in.

Minnesota State University, Mankato, is a comprehensive public institution with 14,500 students and 1,700 faculty and staff. While email marketing was an essential part of their communications – the challenge was finding a tool that allowed them to establish their consistent branding, save resources, and ensure their data privacy and security.

Beefree’s agnostic nature allows Minnesota State University to easily implement the tool into their every day and integrate it into their workflows. Our email builder allows them to effortlessly customize and create captivating email designs across their decentralized teams. To learn more about how the university uses Beefree, watch our latest webinar: Collaboration, decentralization, and data security: Why Beefree is the go-to solution for Minnesota State University. 

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Emily Santos
Emily Santos

Emily Santos is a Content Specialist with experience as a Brand Strategist and Designer.