Email marketing for higher education… do you get “delicious” results?

Higher education marketing…. how to get maximum success in your email communications

Today I’m starting another two-part interview around an important marketing topic for higher education: crafting successful email communications. 

Jens Larson, manager of student communication strategies at Eastern Washington University, knows that email is far from dead in today’s communication mix. At eduWeb14 he’ll be doing a workshop on “Where Did All the Email Strategists Go? The Contrarian’s Guide to Winning at Email Marketing

Here are Jens’ answers to my first three questions. The next installment follows tomorrow and includes his picks of 5 universities that really do email well. For today, let’s start with what makes an email campaign “delicious.”

1. You say in your workshop description that an updated email campaign has “potentially delicious” results. Can you elaborate on the two or three elements that are most important to get a “delicious” result?

  • One: Emails should add value to recipients’ lives. Quality, targeted, and personalized content does this. Personality–such as humor or touching success stories–can do this, too. So can content that lets recipients feel like they’re an insider who’s communicating with real human beings.
  • Two: Emails should be easy. Easy to open. Easy to scan. Easy to understand. Easy to take action.
  • Three: Emails should track beyond the CRM. Knowing how emails lead to website engagement, call campaign success, and campus visits lets institutions improve emails, landing pages, websites, events, and phone scripts in one beautiful synthesis of data.

2. What do you think is the best way to measure ROI of an email campaign?

  • I’m going to hedge on this: the best ROI measurement depends on the goal, the audience segment, and the role of cumulative actions in the campaign.
  • But to avoid too much hedging, here are some of my favorite email ROI measurements:

·         Channel attribution. As a true ROI sales metric, channel attribution lets you compare conversion costs and conversion success rates across platforms and campaigns.

·         Engagement. Usually a long-term or soft goal, engagement is the primary ROI metric for nurture campaigns and for identifying high quality leads.

·         Time-to-conversion. Much like a website’s frequency and recency metrics, time-to-conversion lets marketers determine how many touches (and their frequency) it takes before recipients complete the desired action.

  • Perhaps the easiest takeaway is that we have to move beyond opens and click through rates to get to true ROI analysis.

3. Any thoughts on the frequency of contact with potential students after they first identify themselves?

  • Don’t be slave to a schedule. Be slave to the content. I’d rather send one great email per month that adds value than four mediocre ones that don’t.
  • In my ideal world, I vary email send rates based on an individual prospect’s engagement with the content I’m sending. Of course, that means a CRM has to handle engagement metrics well, and most don’t, at least not yet.
  • But from data as well as from focus groups with future and current students, it’s pretty clear that institutions underestimate how many touch points it takes to get students to complete specific actions or remember key steps in any kind of months-long process.

A Sample Communication Schedule

Week 1: Once a day (not all email)

Week 2-3: Two or three times per week (not all email)

Week 4-8: Once a week

  • The schedule above is a bit myopic since it will burn through a list pretty quickly. I’d rather nurture prospects with engaging, less frequent emails than with huge blasts of generic content. But to pull that off, an institution needs strong copy writing, great strategy, well-implemented technology, and lots of room to be creative.

That’s all for now.

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