5 Key Email Marketing Strategies for Running a Successful Higher Education Program

Over the past ten years, higher education has seen a significant change with the growth of online education programs– US News is currently ranking 860 programs. In line with that, the marketing mix of higher education programs has changed significantly. In the past, higher education programs were regionally confined and, thus, marketing to prospective students was also geographically bounded. In that era, the most effective methods of advertising to prospective students were direct mail and phone.  With the growth of online education programs, geographic limitations are no longer existent. Subsequently, the marketing mix has also changed. A range of innovative methods to attract students globally has been introduced.

One of these marketing tactics is email marketing.  Here, I outline 5 key strategies to a successful email marketing campaign for an online education provider:

1st Define Your Prospective Student Segments

It is imperative for all higher education institutions to communicate with their prospective students on a defined email schedule. Prospective students are ones that have already shown interest in the program and are found in your database. All higher education marketers need to define the stages of interest that these students go through before making an enrollment decision. Once these phases have been defined, higher education marketers should characterize, using an e-mail marketing platform, prospective students and distinguish them in different categories based on their interest levels.

2nd Build E-mail Campaigns Around These Segments

As the primary drivers for enrolling in higher education programs differ among prospective student segments, academic marketers need to appropriately target and convey the right message to each segment. A concerted effort should be devoted to the exact titles of the mails, the copy, and the offer (call to action) that the mail inspires.  In addition, campaigns should be built to be dynamic to the individual’s actions. Imagine if you have two prospective students in the same segment one of these prospective students does not open an e-mail, and the second does, the next e-mail within the campaign for these two students should be different.

3rd Timely Reponses to Prospective Students

One of the most common mistakes most educational marketers make is not responding in a timely manner to queries. Prospective students that e-mail questions are actively engaged in exploring the program and are looking to understand next steps.  When these prospective students don’t hear back from the school within two days of their query, they may lose interest in the program or pursue alternative programs. By responding promptly, the program builds on its reputation and esteem in the minds of prospective students.

4th Monitor Your Results & Optimize for Future Mails

After every e-mail sent, the educational marketing team should analyze the results.  Key performance indicators include:

  • How many people opened the mail
  • How many clicked on the active link within the mail
  • How many responded to the mail
  • How many people  unsubscribed

By analyzing the success of your emails, you can better understand if your communication was effective and if/what changes may need to be made on future mails.

5th Make Sure You Are Viewed as a Thought Leader

Prospective students want to attend higher education institutions that are active leaders in the fields that they want to pursue. In order to maintain the engagement of these prospective students, you need to make sure that in your communication, academic content and educational resources of departments are highlighted.  Links to articles published, blog posts written by university professors, or videos produced should be attached. Sending out these types of mail is an appealing way to humanize the higher education institution and engage the prospective student in their program of interest.

If You Build it, They Will Come

An effective e-mail marketing strategy can differentiate you from other programs and enable you to turn prospective students into enrolled students. The steps highlighted above are some of the foundational elements needed to succeed. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us at Nowspeed.


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