7 Ways to Increase Open Rates in Your Student Recruitment

Higher education email marketing is a tough gig, no doubt. Many marketers will tell you email is fast becoming the wrong channel to engage prospective students.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you can adapt and really think about the types of media (and social media) your target audience is consuming, this is a crucial step toward maximising your email marketing campaigns.

Not to mention connecting with your prospects on a deeper level.

So, why are your open rates sitting somewhere between 12-14%? When it comes down to it, it’s usually one of three scenarios.

Scenario 1: Prospective students submit unused high school emails.

This is the most common problem faced by Australian universities and TAFE institutions. You’re just not thinking enough in the early stages of your data collection.

The solution: always ensure you collect their personal email address or give leads the chance to update.

Once a year 12 student graduates, in most instances they no longer have access to their school email and so never receive your meticulously-crafted email campaigns.

Higher education institutions should focus on getting personal email addresses instead of school email addresses to ensure a clear and consistent line of communication can be established.

Scenario 2: You’re not A/B testing your subject lines and content.

I’ve read my fair share of shockingly bad subject lines and seen firsthand the disjointed process that can arise as part of sending out marketing collateral.

The solution: find an email marketing tool and start testing.

Using a marketing automation tool in your student recruitment allows you to A/B test different subject lines and content – so you’re not left guessing what prospective student customers want to read.

We see huge differences in terms of open rate and cut-through with these insights. Remember, prospective students receive these emails every day – how will yours compete?

Scenario 3: The end destination is junk mail. Eek.

There’s this thing called IP warming. If your email server isn’t warmed up through practices like progressively sending to small batches of students first, you may find your emails end up in junk mail. This is because email service providers such as Gmail and Yahoo won’t recognise you as a trusted sender.

The solution: warm up your damn IP address first.

If you’re doing any kind of email communications in your higher education marketing, this will let Gmail and other platforms know that it’s safe and secure.

Ergo, delivered straight to the primary inbox.

Higher education email marketing strategy in 2018

Current industry standards say that higher education marketing emails are opened at 22%. But if you can adapt your digital marketing strategy successfully, this should be far higher.

Prospective students live in a mobile world where the desktop environment is not only unfamiliar but avoided. So, in order to cut through you first need to utilise the platforms and channels your advertising target audience and customers is on.

This means making your content mobile friendly.

Above-the-line marketing campaigns are great for generating awareness but you want to create something that advertises directly to the student – not their parents.

The student journey of today is seeing young people increasingly decide for themselves where they want to study, based solely on their own research (usually conducted on their phone and social media).

How can you increase open rates?

We’ve put together seven hacks you can start implementing now to increase open rates in your email marketing campaigns.

  1. Find the right platform
    There are so many marketing automation platforms out there for higher education institutions to choose from, with different capabilities depending on your own objectives. See our breakdown of the most popular platforms here.
  2. Test your subject lines
    A great subject line will give you the leg up you need to better engage your audience. Consider testing short (6-10 words) vs. long, title case and sentence case, or even emojis!
  3. Make things personal
    Emotional content that appeals directly to the prospective student with ‘you’ or a first name often increases open rates significantly.
  4. Test your value exchange
    Why not test a double opt-in or the type of value exchange, such as a brochure against a course page.
  5. Decide on the day and time
    Sending emails from your email list on a Monday morning or Friday lunchtime can impact your results. Consider what your prospective student is likely to be doing and test different times of the day/week.
  6. Segment your database
    According to actions taken or interests, this way leads with different levels of intent can receive emails that are relevant to their stage in the student cycle.
  7. Optimise for mobile
    If your content isn’t loading correctly and images are cut off by the screen, prospective students will bounce. It’s that simple.
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