It has become commonplace the last few years to dismiss email, as social media has moved from curiosity to staple for millennials to sociological phenomenon, while email has taken on some of the shady practices and spammy techniques that cast a pall over direct mail in the 1990s. However, email for educational institutions and most legitimate businesses remains the most responsive and cost-effective way to stay in touch with your current students, parents, other key constituents, and, usually, prospects.
The Simple Power of Email
Email at its core is a simple medium, with the ability to send newsletters to your most loyal constituents, easily present effective images, link to videos, and deliver surveys. Besides your website, email is the most critical medium for independent schools. It is a relatively easy tool to learn; most packages allow the creation of templates that ensure proper branding and facilitate the execution of ongoing communications such as newsletters. Email can often be used by multiple people for different audiences like parents, prospects, and alumni with minimal risk if there's a basic commitment to up-front training and cross-team proofing. For higher ed, email is still very important, even without frequent parent communications. In those cases, email's role in fundraising as well as alumni communications is magnified.
Strategic Opportunities with Email
While being such a crucial communications staple, email is also very capable of many more high-value applications. The medium permits highly targeted communications based around your database marketing strategies, forming the core of "nurture" programs such as dynamic Admissions follow-up campaigns with "content trees" that can deliver emails to small audience segments based on their interests and web and email activity. These nurture capabilities are also very applicable to fundraising and alumni relations. Email is also a prime candidate for testing to improve results, including subject line and copy length, tone of message, use of images, and other variables
Planning and Thinking Still Required!
Effective email shares an important premise with other marketing communications media: the need to think strategically FIRST about your goals and your audience's interests versus simply whipping out a newsletter. Your ability to define your communications goals in the context of your institution's larger objectives directly affects your email strategy, planning, audience definition, cadence, analytics, and tactics.
Need help? William Bullard has been developing email programs as part of integrated marketing campaigns for 15+ years in the business world and independent schools. He has significant experience with the following email services/providers: Whipple Hill (Blackbaud); Hubspot; Constant Contact; Silverpop; Cheetah Mail; and MailChimp. We look forward to helping your institution improve the effectiveness of your email programs!