Email Marketing Lessons for Higher Education

Email marketing strategies for higher education

Whether your audience is school leavers, career changers, or parents returning to study, these buyers remain in the consideration stage for much longer.

An education is one of the most expensive products a customer will consider in their lifetime, often with several years’ time commitment, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Similar to other high-value investments like a home or a new car, it is something that all prospects will shop around for. This is a perfect opportunity for you to empower their decision.

Organisations should design an optimised content strategy to nurture prospects towards your offering and back it up with marketing automation software.

The right content can encourage prospective students to trust your brand and eventually settle and invest in a course that they feel is tailored to their abilities, life stage and goals.

This should be your top priority to take the lead in a customer first approach.

What is the Purpose of a Nurture Campaign?

When so much time is spent considering higher education products, a hard sell straight up can be off-putting and detract from the objective of your nurture strategy. During the early stages, prospects are likely to be sceptical, looking for more information and considering what their life will look like while studying.

This is the time to reaffirm familiarity and trust with your brand. One of the best ways to do this is to act as a guide through the whole process. To be identified as a useful resource without further expectations is one way to influence prospects over the long-term.

At each touchpoint in their journey, you can introduce the benefits and USPs of your own institution. To deliver this content to the right people, a robust marketing automation strategy is key. If you can use automation to invest more time into creating dynamic, relevant and enriched content for these audiences, then higher engagement will follow.

By harnessing automation tools and audience segmentation, you can nurture prospects from their first enquiry through to enrolment. The possibilities after this conversion objective are endless, where a savvy marketer could transform fulfilled students into ambassadors—perfect for enhancing your future marketing tactics.

Without an agile strategy, you risk being perceived as out of touch and prospective students will feel as if they’re facing a bureaucracy. Here, we’ll step through the dos and don’ts to ensure that your strategies in email marketing for higher education providers gets an A+.

Personalisation is Key

Marketing automation tools can enhance human connection through each stage of the marketing funnel. With the right strategy, your brand will resonate with more prospective students than you could hope for through traditional media channels like TV or radio.

Personas are a great starting point for personalisation. Use them to address the pain points of prospective students.

The lifestyle considerations of a high school leaver are completely different from that of a parent looking to enter a new industry after several years at home. Even the conversations around the dinner table asking ‘which course?’ will be based on individual circumstances.

How can you tailor content for a first-in-family student with ambitions to be a doctor compared to a high-performing private school student looking for a hands-on engineering degree with exchange opportunities in the US?

This is the nexus where technology facilitates hyper-personalised communication to accelerate trust and enrich your relationships with prospects. Invest in it.


Fall into the trap of thinking that ‘students’ is a clear demographic segment.


Create nuanced personas, and segment your email marketing content accordingly.

In order to do this, you’ll need a wealth of well-organised data and research at your disposal, which brings us to the next point.

Data-Driven Lead Generation

Data is the key to building a successful marketing automation strategy and harnessing the true power of the platform. Without it, your campaigns will overlook pain points and result in low engagement.

Use the data you capture to create valuable content that people want to consume, and then track how they interact with your brand. Profiling forms will allow you to not only understand what course interests a person is considering but their level of commitment and factors that may impede their decision to study.

To get current, detailed information which can infer why someone has already decided to study with your institution, consider investing time in developing focus groups to map your current student journeys – before and after they have applied and enrolled. Your current students will give you insights a form never could.

This isn’t an overnight process, however, the difference it will make to understanding your leads and student journeys will be considerable and measurable.


Neglect the value of each touchpoint when gathering data. Avoid hitting prospects over the head with forms, but plan in advance what you want to know and how you’re going to extract this.


Capture information that enriches the data you already have, without being irritating (a fine line).

Slot in Timely Check-ins

Prospective students are better organised than we might give them credit for, so timeliness is key in your content strategy. Concise, need-to-know communications in time for key milestones ensure no-one misses out on the support you can offer.

The trust you build at these moments might be the little nudge that encourages them to engage further, such as attending an Open Day, which often serves as a critical decision making touchpoint.

Enrich your subject lines with useful content at a key calendar date, and your time-sensitivity will be rewarded. Key questions to ask at Open Day? Some top study tips for your final exams? Over time the data will reveal what prospects want to hear and at what time of day, so you can tailor each email to each segment accordingly.


Flood their email with clickbait. Be relevant.


Keep an eye on key dates and always optimise for mobile.

Educate & Inform

If you put in the hard yards to ensure your structure and timeline for delivery is spot on, ensure you finish it off by developing a try-and-test content strategy.

With so many education providers vying for enrolments, it’s not enough to simply state what your courses offer.

Instead, map out a strategy that is relevant to what your audience is interested in, be that a university lifestyle, flexible options, inspirational content, or comparison tools, and to find out what they want to see more of.


Write slabs of text. Opt for scannable text content (headlines, bullet points), rich media (video, imagery, infographics) and a clear objective (CTA buttons) where possible.


Be a thought leader–an authority on how to understand further education. Perhaps it’s content relating to how caps on student places may impact admissions or how your hands-on approach leads to fast, direct employment outcomes.

Ultimate Lesson in Email Marketing for Higher Education Providers

Marketing automation should drive your email strategy to be defined, efficient and engage at every point.

By investing the time in understanding who your prospective student is and the journey they take, education institutions will more accurately forecast enrolments and develop content strategies that convert.

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