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Has a prospective student shown interest in your school? Have they shared their contact information to learn more about what your school has to offer? If yes, then it’s time for you to trigger your recruitment email campaign. 

Email is an integral marketing tactic for engaging prospective students and nurturing their interest in your school. Perhaps you want to provide more information on a program or lead them to register for an upcoming event. An effective email campaign is about delivering the right messages to the right people at the right time. 

But there are many features to an email campaign, and understanding the impact of each one will help you to reap the results you want. From the tone of the content to deployment and delivery metrics, your school must know how to master the different layers of an email marketing campaign. 

To get you started, here is the anatomy of an effective recruitment email campaign that works to nurture prospects along the enrollment journey with the goal of converting them into school applicants. 

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1. Create a Plan for Your Recruitment Email Campaign

Whether you’re looking to develop an email campaign from scratch or boost your current email marketing engagement, it all starts with creating a plan. The worst thing you can do is send out a mass of generic emails with no thought to your audience or the information they need. A good plan will help you hone your email marketing efforts to focus on the right messages for the right candidates. 

What does that look like for your school? First and foremost, that means identifying the audience for your emails. This can be done by taking a look at your email subscribers and creating different student personas with information on their interests, motivations, and concerns surrounding your school. Details like their education, professional status, their location, and more will all play a part in their decision to attend your school. You can then segment your email subscribers into lists depending on their candidate persona. Each list will receive relevant emails with unique messaging that speaks to them. 

Once you know who you’re targeting, you can think about what you’re trying to achieve with each email and what kind of content will speak to that goal. Spend time planning between four and six different emails with specific goals, such as improving attendance at an event or getting prospects to meet with an advisor. At the same time, consider the enrollment journey and how your emails can target leads at each stage–what kind of information do they need at that point in time? For example, if a prospect has registered their interest in an engineering program, they’ll probably want to learn more about the faculty, courses, and facilities first. Then, you can begin to feed information on the other key details, such as financial aid and application deadlines. 

By developing a framework for your recruitment email campaign, you can direct your efforts toward achieving more meaningful outcomes. 

2. Subject Lines: Catch the Attention of Prospects

First impressions are everything, and subject lines are the first thing that prospective students will see in an email. Getting prospects to open your school’s email is half the battle; it’s up to the subject line to generate curiosity. According to a study, 33% of recipients open emails because the subject line is catchy. At the same time, 69% of people will report an email as spam based solely on the subject line. So how can your school hit the mark? 

Creating email subject lines is a chance to get creative with your school’s marketing copy. Aim to strike the right balance between intriguing and relevant. You want to address the concerns or interests of your target audience while enticing them to open the email for more information–and do this all in one line. 

Example: An email from Boston University uses a question in its subject line to get recipients thinking about current career opportunities and their next step. Questions are a great way to pique a recipient’s curiosity and lead them to open the email looking for answers. 

A subject line for admissions email by Boston University

Another approach your school could take is to be even more upfront. As an educational institution, readers will be expecting clarity and credibility from your emails. While you want to make your email subject lines enticing, you also want to give prospective students the information they’re looking for. 

In the example below, the University of Pennsylvania opts for transparency above all else. The subject line tells prospects what’s inside the email while giving them a quick reminder of an upcoming event. 

A transparent subject line for automated email marketing in higher education

Personalization is another important feature of subject lines. For example, including the prospect’s name in the subject line can let them know that the content of the email is targeting them. We’ll discuss the value of personalization and how to perfect it in more detail later on. 

Whichever approach you take, subject lines should be unique to each email and relevant to the central message. If the email appears general, vague, or without a purpose, prospects are unlikely to feel any necessity to read it. 

3. Content: Find the Right Voice for Your Emails

The body of your email should equally be concise, relevant, and engaging. While you want to make sure the content speaks to prospects, you also need to ensure your emails are consistent with your school’s marketing style. In other words, the tone and voice of your recruitment email campaign should align with your school’s branding. 

Consider the style of your school’s website, blog, and other marketing materials. You want your emails to feel familiar to prospects and reinforce the unique selling points of your institution. Take the example below from McGill University. The content adopts a succinct and focused approach that sticks to the school’s central branding as a world-class university. With inspiring phrases like “We want you to dream big and achieve great things,” the content appeals to ambitious applicants who are looking for a school with a strong academic reputation. 

An email message as an example of a recruitment email campaign

Here, you can refer back to your original plan to identify the goals of your emails and the interests of your target audience and ensure the tone of voice remains true to those.  

Add a Personal Touch to Your Emails

What you’ll see in a lot of these emails are elements of personalization. A recruitment email campaign is designed to connect with prospective students who have already registered some interest in your school. In that case, you should be making the most of the information they have given you to show an investment in their future. 

Mass emails that feel like mass emails are far more likely to end up in a user’s non-primary or spam  folder. According to HubSpot, message personalization is the #1 tactic used by email marketers to increase engagement rates. Something as simple as including a recipient’s name in the subject line of the body of the email can make your content seem more targeted. 

The example below from the University of Waterloo serves to welcome new subscribers to its mailing list. Along with the name of the recipient in the subject line, the email also gives prospects the chance to register their personal interests. Moving forward, prospects can rest assured that they will receive information that is relevant to them. 

A welcome message as part of higher education inbound marketing

The information your school collects can also help with segmenting your audience for more targeted messaging down the line. 

Another way to personalize your school’s emails is by showcasing the experiences of real students. This tactic can help bring your school to life and distinguish its community from others. Prospects want to feel a meaningful connection with your brand and be able to envision what their own experience at your school will be like. Student testimonials–particularly videos–can add a personal touch to email marketing for colleges

Example: An email from McMaster University included a video featuring two of its Engineering students. This email is personalized to potential Engineering applicants, with the aim to educate those prospects and connect them with the community. 

An email featuring a video as an example of effective email marketing strategies for schools

Potential applicants who registered their interest in the Engineering program can hear from those who have been in their position and can receive information that is more relatable to them. 

4. CTAs: Lay Out the Next Step for Prospects

A Call to Action (CTA) is where the magic happens. As a part of your school’s wider marketing strategy, an email campaign needs to have a purpose–to incite a certain action. CTAs should reflect the original goals of your recruitment email campaign. Ask what your school hopes to achieve with each email, and you’ll have the CTA. That could be anything from booking a first consultation with an advisor to completing the final stage of an application. It all depends on which stage of the enrollment process a prospect is in. 

Example: The University of Edinburgh includes two different CTA buttons in an email promoting its upcoming Open Days. Each CTA clearly indicates where users should click to register for a specific event, with colours that correspond to the relevant text. 

An example of CTAs used in higher ed email marketing

However, it’s important to avoid confusing emails with too many CTAs. Research from Wordstream showed that emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks by 371%. Getting people to complete one action is better than asking them to do too much. Signing off each email with a strong CTA–one that is aligned with the content of your email and the stage of the enrollment process–will leave prospects with a clear idea of the next step they should take. 

5. Delivery: Choose the Right Time to Send Emails

Once you’ve got the body of your emails down, it’s all about feeding that content to prospects at the right time. The challenge is keeping your subscribers engaged while avoiding the spam effect. Careful delivery will help nurture the interest of leads and keep your school front of mind. 

If you’re wondering when the best time to send emails is, you can start by thinking about key events coming up around your school and time your emails to market those events. These could include open houses, webinars, high school graduations, or application deadlines. While there’s no set time to send those emails, some studies suggest that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to get your marketing content out there. 

The frequency of those emails is another thing to consider. As a general guideline, you should send two to four emails per month, starting with twice a month and then upping it to weekly. Increasing the pace of your emails will help to encourage engagement from leads, giving them more actions to take as they get closer to the conversion stage. 

The following two examples from the University of San Diego were sent one week apart. The first email is sent as a reminder of its upcoming application deadline, with the subject line “Mark Your Calendars!” to add a sense of urgency to the email’s delivery. 

An example of an email marketing for education strategy centered around application deadlines

The next email was sent one week later to inform prospective students that applications were now open. Each email promptly builds upon the next to remind users of the actions they should be taking. 

An example of email education marketing based on application deadlines

Don’t be afraid to try out some different schedules for your school’s email campaign to see what works best. Here, marketing automation services can help with organizing the delivery of your email campaign. Many schools will be looking to reach both local and international applicants at the optimal time. Using software, like Mautic by HEM, is particularly helpful because it allows you to schedule emails for different contacts based on their time zone. Those schools can segment contacts by admissions stage, program, location, and other criteria to ensure each prospect gets the right message at the right time.

Metrics: Review the Success of Your Email Campaign 

Marketing automation software is also a great tool for monitoring and reporting on the success of your efforts. Delivery metrics are the finishing touches of your email marketing campaign, so it’s important to know what you should be tracking and how to interpret the results. 

The image below shows a review of a school email campaign. In the “Email Campaign Performance” section, you can see the total delivery rate, open rate, click-through rate and more. It also shows how each CTA performed–the number of views and clicks they got. As you can see, for this email campaign, the CTA “Download Brochure” received the most clicks at 126.

data from a school email campaign to help schools develop effective email marketing strategies

You can get even more specific with these reviews by getting metrics on how each individual email performed. The image below compares key metrics from Email #1 to #4 in a campaign. This is a great way to measure user engagement over time and see how effective your campaign is at nurturing leads from one stage to the next.

Different metrics will reveal different strengths or weaknesses in your email campaign. Click-through rates, or CTRs, are one of the most important metrics to consider, as they refer to the percentage of email recipients who clicked on one or more links contained in a given email. This gives your school a direct insight into how many of your subscribers are engaging with the content in your email. It speaks to the relevance and quality of your content. Likewise, conversion rates indicate the percentage of subscribers who performed an action, thereby meeting the overall goal of your email. 

Getting to grips with the many different components of a recruitment email campaign is half the battle. You need to understand the finer details and be able to visualize an email as a chain of events, each bringing a prospect one step closer to enrollment. With these effective email marketing strategies, your school can begin designing a complete campaign that succeeds in converting leads into applicants. 

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