• Independent Schools
Email Drip Campaign Ideas for Admissions
Mia Major

Inbound marketing is all about getting the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time in order to spark a conversion. Email drip campaigns can help you do just that!

What is an email drip campaign?

An email drip campaign — also known as an email workflow or nurture campaign — is a series of automated emails sent to a targeted audience over a specified period of time with the goal of moving them down the admission funnel and ultimately causing them to take action (converting).

 

Most of your school’s email drip campaign efforts will likely fall into in these four main buckets:

1. Top-of-the-Funnel (TOFU) Campaigns

These campaigns are for individuals still in the awareness stage of the funnel. You have their contact information because they downloaded an eBook (like this one from The Woods Academy) or another content offer on your website that indicates they’re interested in something. They require gentle nudges to learn more about the benefits of the type of education you offer (montessori, catholic, all boys, etc.), as well as your school. Approach this campaign similar to how you’d approach your social media content strategy: about 80% of the content should be informational and helpful, and only about 20% should be promotional. The goal of this campaign is to move them from awareness to consideration. They likely end in some type of conversion, such as attending an open house, inquiring, or speaking with someone on your admissions team.

2. Middle-of-the-Funnel (MOFU) Campaigns

These campaigns are probably the most important, and are intended to move someone from consideration to decision. The recipients of the campaign should have already made a conversion that indicates a high level of interest, such as an inquiry or open house registration. The goal of this campaign would be to get an application (or if they haven't visited campus, that might be the next step for this group). The content of these campaigns may include subtle and direct answers to why your school should be their top choice.

3. Bottom-of-the-Funnel (BOFU) Campaigns

BOFU campaigns are used to help with yield. The goal of these campaigns is to keep accepted families engaged with your school to meet your enrollment goals. Because these individuals have applied and been accepted, the content of these campaigns can focus on answering the question: Why your school?

4. Engagement Campaigns

Intended for current families, engagement campaigns are used to aid in retention efforts. The goal is to create evangelists — parents who love your school and help in word-of-mouth efforts. The end-goal of these campaigns could be to gain positive online reviews, help improve retention, or assist in fundraising efforts. 

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Now, let’s dive into each of these in a bit more detail.

Top-of-the-Funnel (TOFU) Email Drip Campaign Ideas

Timing and content guidelines:

  • About one email every 7-14 days is a nice cadence where they hear from you frequently enough to stay top-of-mind, but not too often where you may be bothersome.
  • The first “welcome” email should be sent instantly once someone is enrolled in this drip campaign.
  • Opting an individual out of a campaign after they don’t engage with two to three emails keeps them from unsubscribing.
  • Picking up the frequency (say, sending an email every 5-7 days) can be helpful when individuals are actively engaging with content and you don’t want to lose momentum.
  • These initial nurture campaigns can have anywhere from four to ten emails depending on the content you have available. This timeline will greatly vary based on the final call-to-action, especially if it is time-based like an open house. You can speed up or slow down these campaigns based on your needs — however at this stage it isn’t recommended to send more than one email a week.

Your TOFU campaign should include the following emails:

1. A Welcome Email

This is your first impression, so make it a good one! Welcome emails give you an opportunity to say “hello!” to your new subscriber, and tell them a little bit about your school. Keep it short and simple, include beautiful photos and a soft call-to-action, like Elgin Academy does in this welcome email (built using Finalsite’s email platform, Messages).

welcome email example from elgin academy

2. Three (or More!) Emails with General Content Pieces

The content pieces you use at this stage of the funnel should merely be educational. Depending on the content you already have available to you, a TOFU drip campaign may contain anywhere from three to six content pieces.) These content pieces might be blog articles, or simply helpful content about the industry.

For example, St. Anne’s-Belfield has a great series of emails educating prospective families on the benefits of an independent school education. This email is particularly compelling because it provides information both from the school and NAIS. It also references the content offer that triggered the download, which increases its relevance. 

top of the funnel email example from st annes belfield school

This email from Elgin Academy is also a nice example of top-of-the-funnel content.

top of the funnel email example from elgin academy

Zurich International School includes blog content in their email drip campaign, which is a very effective route because you can track clicks, but also expose your prospective families to other types of thought leadership content.

email example from zurich international school

3. A Converting Conclusion

Every workflow should have some sort of conclusion — and that conclusion should be a call-to-action that makes sense: such as schedule a tour, attend an open hour, or inquire. At this stage in the funnel, it most likely doesn’t make sense to ask prospects to apply. We’ll save that call-to-action for the middle-of-the-funnel emails.

In this example from Post Oak School, the school includes stunning visuals and compelling content with a simple call-to-action. 

email example from the post oak school

Middle-of-the-Funnel (MOFU) Email Drip Campaign Ideas

Timing and content guidelines:

  • Send one email about every 4-7 days, with the first “thank you” email sent instantly after the conversion. Frequency can pick up for these email drip campaigns because they come after a high level of interest is shown.
  • Opting an individual out of a campaign after they don’t engage with two to three emails keeps them from unsubscribing.
  • Picking up the frequency (say, sending an email every 4-5 days) can be helpful when individuals are actively engaging with content and you don’t want to lose momentum.
  • These initial email campaigns can have anywhere from four to ten emails depending on the content you have available.

With these best practices in mind, every nurture campaign should include:

1. A “Thank You” Email

Any time a conversion happens on your website, saying “thanks”  with a thank you page and follow up email keeps the momentum going. In this example from Sandy Spring Friends School, the email first thanks the prospective family for their registration, and offers a compelling content piece about the school’s six distinctions. This school-focused content piece works in this email because the recipient has expressed interest in the school.

middle of the funnel email example from sandy spring friends school

2. Three (or More) Emails with Compelling Content Pieces About Your School

Because the goal of a MOFU drip campaign is to get a student to apply, these emails should share compelling information about your school. Your marketing and admissions teams should work together on this one, as it’s important to create content that answers FAQs asked during the admissions process.

middle of the funnel email example from st. Anne's-Belfield School

At this stage of the funnel, affording your school is likely top-of-mind for parents — so sharing information about available scholarships and how financial aid works is key at this stage.

sandy spring friends school email example

3. Offer Up Next Steps

Similar to TOFU workflows, we want to offer next steps and more opportunities for conversion to conclude a MOFU campaign. Picture these campaigns like a relay — when one ends, another begins. 

For example, if someone attended an open house but hasn’t applied, that should be your goal. Or if someone has inquired but hasn’t registered for an open house, that should be your goal. Workflows are intended to be personalized and targeted, so the more granular you can get, the more successful your emails will be.

In this example from The Woods Academy, the message and calls-to-action are clear: learn more about the admissions process and apply. 

middle of the funnel email example from the woods academy

Bottom-of-the-Funnel (BOFU) Campaign Ideas

Why is it that we often neglect the bottom of our funnel? Just because we’ve gotten someone to apply doesn’t mean they will actually enroll. For students looking into higher education, the average number of schools they apply to is eight! While that number is often less for parents looking into the K-12 market, it’s important to remember that your school is likely not the only one on their final list.

Timing and content guidelines:

Timing is going to vary greatly at this stage of the funnel. Two popular email drip campaigns at this stage of the funnel include:

  • An email drip campaign for applicants
  • An email drip campaign for accepted students

The major difference between these two campaigns is the timing. While a campaign for applicants can be spread across weeks or months, a campaign for accepted students is typically taking place between that short four to six week span between decision and enrollment. For this reason, you may send emails at a more frequent rate (maybe two per week) to maximize conversions.

In either case, you will likely have 4-6 emails for a BOFU campaign. These emails include:

1. A Congratulatory Email

The first email you send should be a personalized, congratulatory email about their application completion or acceptance. For accepted students, this should be timed so that it comes after a print letter mailed to their house.

bottom of the funnel email example from sandy spring friends school

2. One to Two Emails with Compelling Content

For content, it is recommended that you focus on removing any remaining barriers that could prevent someone from enrolling. While this is important at all stages of the funnel, it is particularly important at the bottom of the funnel.

This might be information on transportation, financial aid, or boarding life. Bringing in authentic testimonials at this point is important. You may even want to invite accepted students to reach out to advocating families in a Facebook group.

3. One to Two Emails with Important Information

Any remaining, important information they need to know at this stage should be shared — such as importants dates and deadlines, who to contact if they have questions, etc. can be automated in a BOFU drip campaign. Remember: people (usually) don’t like surprises — so letting them know what happens next is important.

4. Final Reminder and Call-to-Action

The end-goal of this campaign is to turn an accepted student into an enrolled student, which means the final call-to-action should provide a link and any instructions to enroll.

Engagement Campaigns

In addition to campaigns to aid in admissions efforts, email drip campaigns can also improve engagement with current families. These campaigns can get extremely granular, as you focus on segments of your school community you wish to engage for a variety of different initiatives, including earning positive reviews, building awareness about where their tuition dollars are going, or aiding in fundraising efforts.

engagement email example from elgin academy

(More on this in another blog post later.)

Other Email Drip Campaign Considerations

Drip Campaign Segmentation

It should go without saying that there are literally hundreds of variations to these email drip campaigns. For example, there shouldn’t just be one MOFU campaign for anyone who inquires. Sandy Spring Friends School has different MOFU campaigns based on which school the inquiry came from: upper, middle, or lower. 

You might be thinking — wait, that’s a lot more work! Not necessarily. In this example from Sandy Spring Friends School, we see two similar emails, with different images and slightly different content. But in general, the templates and messaging remain the same.

email example from sandy spring friends school
screenshot of an email example from sandy spring friends school

Similarly, you may want to split email campaigns based on where your students are from: local, boarding, international, etc. These different groups have different goals and obstacles, and the email content should address this.

Email Drip Campaign Content

Before getting started with your email drip campaigns, keep this in mind: Good content is at the heart of any good email drip campaign. Simply purchasing Finalsite’s Inbound Platform to automate emails may be step one, but it doesn’t mean you have an effective inbound marketing strategy. In order to execute an inbound strategy that converts, you need content: helpful, informational, entertaining content that takes a prospective family from awareness all the way to decision. Without that, your emails are just noise. 

Email Drip Campaign Structure

There isn’t any right or wrong way to build an email drip campaign. It is easy to go down a rabbit hole and make your email campaign very complex with lots of “if/then” statements. If you’re just getting started, keep it simple with one path for those engaging with content, and those not engaging with content.

We recommend dropping a contact from a workflow entirely once they don’t engage with two to three emails.

Email Drip Campaign Software

To execute a successful email drip campaign, you need the right software. Finalsite’s email drip campaign software, Workflows, is an ideal fit for schools looking to enhance their inbound marketing strategy. Because of Finalsite’s integration with Ravenna, admissions campaigns can easily be automated based on applicant status. 

Our Workflows software is affordable, easy-to-use, and can integrate with your SIS data to ensure your content is always getting to the right person.

And all those amazing emails you saw in this blog post? Yes, they were all built using Finalsite Messages — our email marketing tool. 

Key Takeaway

Email drip campaigns are an effective way to nurture prospective families into enrolled students. With the right strategy, timing, content, and software, you can keep families engaged throughout the entire admissions process, all while saving your team time.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Major

As Finalsite's director of demand generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.

  • Email Marketing
  • Inbound Marketing
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