Schools and districts of all sizes rely on email communications to reach community members to share important news, updates and upcoming events. However, because email marketing has been around since...well, what feels like the beginning of time on the digital marketing timeline...it sometimes gets a bad rap for being "old hat."
But it isn't email marketing and email newsletters that are old hat — it is the strategies that you use when you send emails that might be. For example, linking to PDFs and using lots of text doesn't take into account that 88% of smartphone users check their email on their phone — not their desktop. And not segmenting your email neglects that targeted emails often generate nearly ⅔ of all revenue.
As someone who has spent a lot of time creating and analyzing email newsletters, here are 10 proven strategies for creating better email newsletters your district's parents and other stakeholders will enjoy reading.
1. Make it Personal
The first step for creating a great email newsletter is to make it personalized. By simply adding the personalization token of [First Name] to the top of the newsletter will make your constituents feel like it was written just for them. As a matter of fact, emails with personalization can increase click-through rates by 14% — and conversions by 10%! So, if you're asking your community to take action in your newsletter (like purchase a ticket or donate to the football team) ensuring the email is personalized will go a long way.
If you use eNotify, Finalsite's email marketing tool, simply select your personalization token by clicking the "merge tag" option. The email will then automatically pull in the first name of each recipient.
2. Make it Scannable
Heavy amounts of text tend to overwhelming — especially on mobile. It requires a lot of scrolling, and might be hard to read. Emails that are easy to scan will have higher click-through-rates as users will be able to find information they care about, quickly.
Follow the same kind of structure in your email as you would on a website page:
- Header Image
- H1 Headline
- 2-3 Sentences of Text
- CTA Button
- And Repeat
Think that sounds like too much work? Elmbrook Schools in Wisconsin makes it look easy! Elmbrook Schools is a district of 10 schools — each of which send a daily announcements email. That's 10 emails per day, and 50 per week!
While their template is simple, the content is easy to scan and click:
3. Make it Visual
Branding, images, font size — they all play a role in how easy it is to consume your district's email newsletter. Use photos, icons, graphics, and even emojis to draw your subscribers in. Visuals can also be used to help segment email content.
Consider that each email you send should have the following elements:
- A branded header: This lets subscribers know which newsletter subscribers know which newsletter they're receiving — especially important for parents with children at multiple schools.
- At least one image: This makes your email more engaging.
- CTA buttons: This makes finding links easier, and encourages subscribers to visit your website.
For example, Rochester Catholic Schools, a school system in Minnesota, often uses a large image to showcase their "Featured News" to make it stand out in their email. Similarly, they also use photos to divide content in lengthy newsletters, letting images be the divider between each news story. Each panel also has a call to action button. This makes their emails visually engaging and easy to scan.
Free eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Better Email Marketing
4. Segment Your Lists
Whether you're a district of three, 30, or 100 schools — segmenting communications for each school in your district will make for much happier parents, as they know they'll only be receiving news relevant to their child.
Bloomfield Hills Public Schools in Michigan has 11 schools, and 11 separate parents newsletters that get sent on a weekly basis. Each email has the same template, branding, and fonts. Although the emails follow the same structure, they each have a unique header, and colors that are specific to that particular school.
Additionally, they each have unique calendar dates and news articles that are automatically pulled in through Finalsite's calendar and Posts modules — saving their website admins time, while ensuring their community has the most up-to-date information.
5. Be Organized Internally
What was the open rate of that last newsletter? Who receives the middle school newsletter? Is everyone keeping up with their required weekly send? When you keep your newsletter organized internally, you have the ability to hone in on a lot of key data to improve your newsletters done the line.
For example, Madison Public Schools in CT organizes their emails by school, as well as their lists — making it easy to keep track of who is receiving what, and when!
6. Prioritize Content
Always put your most important content at the top of your newsletter! I know sometimes it may be hard to choose but ask yourself: What do these stakeholders need to know and want to know? By putting important content at the top of your email, you'll ensure your stakeholders get the communications they need, without having to scroll.
7. Analyze Your Email Data
Open rates and click through rates provide a lot of information about the content your community enjoys, so use them to your advantage. Keep in mind that open and click-through rates can be deceiving. For example, and email that goes to 2,000 people with a 2% open rate performed better than an email that goes to 100 people with a 20% open rate.
For a high-level overview of analyzing data, my personal cheat sheet for analyzing opens and clicks is pretty simple (and effective!):
- High Open Rates: You did something right! This is most often the hardest part, and means you caught your subscribers attention.
- Low Open Rates: Either the subject line wasn't engaging or the timing wasn't just right. Try again at a new day or time, or try a new subject line next time to see if that helps increase open rates!
- High Clicks: Content with high click-through rates.
- Low Clicks: Low clicks indicate a piece of content wasn't interesting, or it was buried in your email. If you find that content at the top of your newsletter gets a lot of clicks, but content at the bottom does not, shorten your newsletters and send more frequently, with less content.
- Open-to-click Conversion: Keep an eye on your open-to-click conversion. For example, if your email has 100 opens, but only 2 clicks, it might mean your subject line was misleading and they didn't get the content they expected.
8. Be Consistent
Consistency has a few meanings for email marketing, and all are equally as important for your marketing and communications efforts:
- Consistent branding: Keeping the branding of your emails consistent with the branding of each school in your district will simplify the user experience and strengthen your brand
- Consistent templates: Like the user experience on your website, using the same template for all the schools in your district, but changing the content, simplifies the user experience for parents when they are trying to find information relevant to a particular child.
- Consistent subject lines: While it is fun to get creative on email subject lines when promoting upcoming events, when it comes to email newsletters, sticking to a standard subject line template will help increase click-through rates, as your subscribers know what they're getting and what to expect.
- Consistent timing: If you send your emails daily, send them daily. If you send them weekly, send them weekly. If you send them monthly, send them monthly. Don't change things up without notice, and aim to send at the same time on the same day of the week or month.
9. Don't Forget to Test!
Check to see what your email looks like on all devices before hitting "send." If you use Finalsite's eNotify, simply click the "preview" icon to view your email on desktop and mobile:
10. Use a Tool that Makes it Easy
There are a lot of email marketing platforms out there for districts to use — from cheap and clunky to pricey and complicated. If you're in the market for a new email marketing tool, be sure it checks off the following boxes:
- The tool should have personalization tokens available
- The tool should integrate with your school's website platform to dynamically pull data for news, calendars, blogs, and even lists
- The tool should have responsive templates and a device preview tool
In the market for a new email tool? Request a demo of Finalsite eNotify! (It has all those features, and then some!)
Your district is most likely using email as a main source of communications, and spending time putting together and sending emails — so you want to make sure there's a ROI in terms of opens, clicks, website traffic and engagement. Follow the tips in this blog post, and you will most certainly be on your way to email newsletter success!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, and Marketing Manager for Public Schools, Mia creates content that is helpful to public schools and districts. 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, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.