Higher education email marketing offers endless opportunities to engage with target audiences, tell your story in creative ways and stand out from the competition. Is your institution harnessing the power of email marketing to its full potential? One of the most valuable, reliable and affordable digital marketing methods, research finds that email engagement outperforms popular social networks by 40 times.

If you’re looking to launch a new higher ed email marketing strategy, this comprehensive guide will answer all of your questions and share tips and tricks to get you started. Here’s everything you need to know about email marketing for educational institutions.

Understanding Email Marketing for Higher Education

What exactly is higher ed email marketing? In short, strategic emails that are tailored to target audiences, including university students, prospective students, alumni, and partners, as part of a comprehensive strategy to achieve marketing goals. Among the best-performing channels for strategic marketing for education organizations, email campaigns allow colleges and universities to personalize students’ experiences based on their preferences, data and interactions.

Now is an opportune time to develop and execute an education email marketing strategy. The education sector has seen a steady increase in open and click-through rates since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. To remain competitive in marketing to college students today, colleges and universities must execute email campaigns with relevant content that reach, attract and thoughtfully engage with a spectrum of audiences – especially potential students.

4 Reasons Why Higher Education Institutions Should Use Email Marketing

Why should your institution prioritize email engagement? The answer to that correlates to your institution’s overall marketing goals. Are you striving to increase enrollment? Bolster the on-campus student experience? Target new demographics? Build brand presence and affinity? Email marketing strategies can help you achieve all of these goals. Explore four key reasons why your institution should implement an email strategy:

1. It’s Cost-Effective

Email marketing efforts are touted as affordable — but how much do you need to spend to be effective? Think $200-300 per month for unlimited platform access to 50,000 email addresses. Internal resources can take on content development or an external partner would require an additional cost. In other words, email campaigns can make a big impact on a small budget.

2. It Promises a Great ROI

One of the most affordable marketing methods for a higher education institution, email marketing is also one of the most effective when it comes to seeing a return on investment (ROI). In fact, the ROI for email marketing can be as high as 4,400%, averaging $44 for every dollar spent on an email marketing campaign.

3. It Boosts Student Enrollment and Retention

Did you know email is nearly 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined when it comes to attracting new customers? This applies to recruiting prospective students for education institutions considering the high percentage of the Gen Z population utilizing social media.

4. It Effectively Promotes Your Higher Education Institution

Telling your higher education institution’s story in a way that resonates with potential and current students through personalized emails is a strategic way to promote your mission. Email marketing automation ensures you can send relevant information to the right audiences at the right time for promotional communications.

How to Create Effective Email Marketing Campaigns in Higher Education

Higher ed marketing continues to grow in competition. For colleges and universities to attract students, build cohesive brands and convey their unique messaging and offerings, they must be both creative and strategic in their recruitment marketing tactics. To remain competitive today, higher education institutions must execute email marketing strategies and campaigns that resonate with the types of audiences they want to attract. Check out these tips for designing effective email marketing efforts.

Leverage Data With Email Marketing Automation

Send relevant content at the exact time your audiences need it with email segmentation. All of the data you collect from prospective students, current students and alumni can be used to create detailed audience segments for personalized touchpoints and targeted messaging. Email segmentation categories in the education sector might include enrollment status, dorms, majors, schools and extracurricular interests.

Personalize Everything

Personalized emails are key to increasing click-through rates and creating successful email strategies. Ensure every piece of content is relevant, engaging and personalized to your audience’s preferences and journey.

Ensure Emails Are For All Devices

Don’t design email content to only be viewed on a desktop. In fact, your audience will most likely view email newsletters from their phone or tablet. The average Gen Z-er looks at five different screens each day. Consider a responsive design or create a separate template for each device.

Increase Click-Through Rates With Compelling Subject Lines and Content

We all receive a lot of emails these days. To stand out and increase engagement rates and click-through rates, add catchy subject lines that encourage readers to open them. Then consider the content at the top of your emails — 42% of college students preview emails before opening. Put your best picture and an eye-catching headline at the top of your email.

Complement With Social Media Campaigns

Work smarter, not harder. Make the most of your social media campaigns by integrating them into your email marketing strategies and be sure to include links to social media channels in your emails.

Lean On A/B testing

Test emails to determine what is working and what needs improvement. From subject lines, formatting and graphics to send times, colors and language, A/B testing is key to boosting engagement rates and ensuring your emails are properly resonating with your target audience.

5 Tips to Get the Most ROI From Your Email Marketing Campaign

Not all education email marketing campaigns are created equal. Consider these five tips to achieve the most success for your university email marketing strategy.

1. Less is More

Don’t send emails for the sake of emailing. Ensure every email has a strategic reason behind it. Remember, recipients can unsubscribe at any time.

2. Boost Engagement Through Imagery

When it comes to email imagery, less is more again thanks to image blocking — when an email provider blocks your image until a user manually clicks a ‘show images’ button. Ensure your email newsletters feature images when necessary and include alt text — a short piece of text that indicates the content of your image. Alt text allows email list recipients to understand what your images depict even if they can’t see them.

3. Avoid the Spam Folder

Dodge the dreaded junk folder by making emails as personal as possible through the use of merge tags, personalization tokens or dynamic content. When an email appears as though it is being sent by a person, and not an organization, it has a better chance of showing up in someone’s inbox rather than spam folder abyss.

4. Add the Double Opt-In Safeguard

Did you know 79% of initial email subscriptions are double opt-in? It’s a good measure to adopt to avoid future legal issues and increase engagement. When your email addresses are all people who are very interested in your institution’s communications, click-through rates skyrocket, the quality of your email list improves, and your email campaign achieves more success.

5. Team Up With an Education Marketing Expert

Consider partnering with an education digital marketing agency with the expertise to help your institution achieve its marketing goals. Seasoned with a spectrum of social media and digital marketing experience, Communications Strategy Group (CSG®)  gives colleges and universities the messaging and tactics needed to connect with audiences — wherever they may be — and demonstrate value.

FAQs About Email Marketing For Higher Ed Programs and Institutions

Is E-mail an Effective Marketing Tool to Use with College and University Students?

Yes. In fact, 98% of students say that they use email at least once a week.

When is the Best Time to Start a College Newsletter?

As soon as your institution understands its goals, strategy and content creation schedule for launching a college newsletter.

How to Use Email Marketing for College Recruitment?

When potential students apply or request program information, take the opportunity to stand out from the competition through compelling personalized email content. Provide value by highlighting unique differentiators, the latest news and research and alumni case studies.

What’s a Good Open Rate for University Emails?

A recent MailChimp survey found emails in the education sector have a 24.42% open rate. A good open rate surpasses the industry average.

Ready to Develop a Winning Higher Ed Email Marketing Strategy?

Higher education email marketing holds incredible potential to help your institution boost enrollment, grow student retention and cultivate audience engagement. The right strategy can take your marketing efforts to the next level.

Are you searching for the right higher education PR agency and leader in strategic communications to develop a winning higher ed email marketing strategy? As an experienced education marketing and public relations agency, CSG understands how to elevate your institution’s brand best, translate its unique offerings into compelling storytelling, harness the latest marketing trends and technologies and effectively resonate with your target audiences.

Contact us today to discover how CSG can help your institution create a personalized higher education email marketing strategy that gets results.