Looking for a surefire way to quickly boost engagement with current and prospective students’ families? You might be surprised to learn you already have one of the most valuable private school marketing tools in your toolkit:
It’s true. Although business and marketing leaders have been predicting email’s imminent death for years, this powerful medium has only grown stronger. In fact, it's predicted email will surpass 4.3 billion users (half the world’s population) in 2023.
But when you stop to consider your own tendencies, email’s continued success isn’t so surprising. And like you, the parents you serve are habitual email-checkers — casually scrolling through their inboxes in grocery store check-out lanes, school pick-up lines, and immediately after silencing their alarm each morning.
There’s no denying email marketing is a great way to get (and stay) in front of the people you want to reach. But with more than 293 billion emails sent and received each day, according to Statista, you’ve got quite a bit of competition.
To help you significantly grow your engagement and stand out from inbox clutter, we’re breaking down several best practices and 14 inspiring ideas.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is a type of direct marketing that uses email messages to engage with members of your audience.
Typically, email marketing works by first building contact lists in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform or content management system within your school website, usually segmented by specific criteria. For example, you may have one for prospective families, another list for families in the admissions and enrollment process, and a third for the families of current students.
Then, you can craft messages specifically for each segment, leverage data and automation to personalize those messages further, send your emails, and then review performance metrics to measure success and optimize future email efforts.
When it comes to private school marketing, email campaigns can help you achieve the following:
- Establish a relationship with prospective students’ parents and begin fostering a sense of trust
- Increase email engagement with parents throughout the admissions and enrollment process
- Strengthen retention by keeping in touch with existing students’ parents
Does email marketing really work?
Email requires a significant investment of time, talent, and energy. As a resource-strapped marketing or admission and enrollment professional, you’re probably wondering: is it worth the effort?
The answer is a resounding, “yes!”
In fact, for every $1 spent on email marketing, organizations generate an average return of $42, according to a 2019 report by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). And if you’re leveraging the right tools, you can expect even more phenomenal results.
Here are a few reasons email works so well as a private school marketing tool:
- It’s direct: Email allows you to engage with your audience 1:1.
- It’s fast: Email is near-instant, which means you can deliver information when it’s most relevant.
- It’s convenient: Nearly everyone has access to email [literally] in the palm of their hands.
- It requires recipients to take action: Emails prompt recipients to engage. When a message lands in their inbox, they have to take some type of action.
- It can be personalized: Today’s sophisticated data-driven tech allows you to tailor your messages to each recipient (and do so at scale).
- It's automated: Pre-scheduled automated workflows can send important communications to inquiring families, so you can get back to the work that matters most.
Email marketing best practices
Here are a few things you should focus on to maximize your email marketing success:
Email marketing can be time-intensive, but it’s much easier when you have the right technology in place. Invest in tools that allow you to personalize and deploy marketing emails at scale.
Don’t overwhelm your audience’s inbox. Ideally, according to research from CoSchedule, you should email your lists at least once per month, but less than five times per month.
Additionally, according to research compiled by OptinMonster, emails sent on Tuesday perform best, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And there’s a sharp decline in open rates for emails sent after 3 p.m.
Of course, it’s a good idea to test different days and times as each audience is different.
To make things easier on your team, and ensure your recipients get the information they need at the proper intervals, consider setting up drip campaigns or an automated communication plan. This is a type of email marketing campaign in which a subscriber’s action, like beginning the application process, triggers a series of pre-written emails. These emails are delivered to recipients’ inboxes based on a pre-determined cadence.
Make sure your email design is clean, mobile-responsive (i.e., it renders correctly on any screen size), and uses your school’s branding.
Start by segmenting your contacts into lists, then personalize further as you collect relevant data and information (like students’ interests). For example, you could segment your email lists by persona.
Email Subject Lines
Make sure your email subject lines are captivating and informative. Try to include pronouns like “you” and “your.” For example, instead of the headline “Informational Webinar on Thursday,” you could use the more enticing headline, “You’re invited to our prospective student webinar!” Likewise, you could use the actionable headline, “RSVP to save your spot for Thursday’s webinar!”
Never send a marketing email without first sending a copy to yourself or a colleague to check for errors and ensure the email renders correctly.
Emails should not only render appropriately on all screens, but it’s important they’re also optimized for a positive mobile experience. That is, make sure buttons are large enough to tap and use a single-column design for easy scrolling. Given a whopping 44% of emails sent through SchoolAdmin, Finalsite's admissions & enrollment software were opened on a mobile device, creating a mobile-friendly experience is essential to your success.
Measurement and analysis
One of the benefits of great admissions and enrollment software is the insights it will provide into your campaign performance. Identify key metrics, analyze your performance, and use those outcomes to drive future decisions.
Voice and tone
Ensure your marketing emails reflect the voice and tone of your school’s brand to ensure a cohesive experience.
14 engagement-boosting email ideas
Need some inspiration for your next email marketing campaign? Here are 14 ideas designed to boost your engagement rates:
1. Welcome Series
Welcome newly admitted students to your school with an automated communication plan. For example, start with a general welcome email, and then in each subsequent email, delve more into your campus, clubs and activities, ways to get involved in the community, and more. Try to feature a variety of voices from across campus to keep things fresh.
Before each school year, send an email letting families know you’re excited about the year ahead. Share useful information about annual orientation or teacher meet-and-greets and things to know before the first day of school.
3. Financial Aid Series
Financial aid processes can be challenging. Help parents out by sending a series of educational emails breaking down each step and offering your assistance.
4. Coffee Chat
Send prospective parents a gift card for coffee and invite them to sign up for a short 15 to 30-minute virtual “coffee chat” with one of your faculty members or leaders. This type of conversational meeting allows parents to ask questions and establish a relationship with a member of your admissions team.
5. School Event Invite
Send an invitation to an upcoming game, theater performance, or concert. Or, send a pre-recorded video of past events so they can get a feel for the extracurricular opportunities their child may enjoy at your school.
6. Campus Visit Invite
Send families images of life at your school, or a virtual tour. End your email with a call-to-action (CTA) to sign up for a personalized tour.
7. Student Ambassador Introduction
Share information about your student ambassador program and give parents the opportunity to connect their child with a student ambassador. This way, their child can ask questions and learn more about the day-to-day experience from a current student’s point of view.
8. Interview Prep Series
Interviews can be anxiety-inducing for prospective students and their parents. Ensure they’re well-prepared by sending a series of emails, including helpful tips, information, and reminders.
9. Deadline Reminder Series
10. School Event Reminder Series
Do you have a can’t-miss school event coming up? Be sure to send a personalized invitation and reminder. Afterward, send a follow-up to thank families for attending. And, for those who were absent, send a recap of what they missed.
11. Important Announcement Round-Up
Instead of sending several announcements, send a bi-weekly or monthly round-up of critical upcoming dates and events.
12. Request for Feedback
Invite families to fill out a survey about their experience with your school, whether they chose to enroll or not. This will help you better understand the process from a parents’ perspective, and provide you with critical insight you can use to improve the experience.
13. Monthly Newsletter
Send an entertaining school newsletter highlighting events, student achievements, campus updates, and other newsworthy information to keep parents in the loop. This is also a great way to show prospective students’ parents what they can expect.
14. Blog Invitation
If you have a blog, send an email inviting parents to check it out. Consider including links to a few popular pieces to give them a taste of what they’ll find.
When it comes to private school marketing, connecting with parents early and often is crucial to your success. Plus given its popularity — and the fact that it’s already highly integrated into our daily lives — email is the perfect method to reach current and prospective students’ families.
By developing an email marketing plan using the above best practices, and launching captivating campaigns using the ideas we’ve shared, you’ll be well on your way to boosting engagement and reaching enrollment goals in the year ahead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.