If you had to name the most effective recruitment tool in the enrollment marketer’s toolkit, what would you say it is? If you said “email,” you’d be correct. According to our Student Sentiment Survey™, which measures the college search behaviors of more than 4,700 college-bound high school students, email is both the most used and most trusted information source .
While email outreach is highly effective, it is not enough to follow the Nike motto and “just do it;” it has to be done right. With the onslaught of emails students receive from institutions, it can be challenging to make a lasting impression: 93% of respondents told us admissions officers communicate with them via email, and 85% reported they had received emails from schools they had not previously considered.
So, how can your email campaigns stand out from the crowd?
Fortunately, the students we surveyed gave us some pretty good clues about this. In our survey, respondents told us about a school whose outreach made a lasting impression, and what this school did that was particularly memorable. Based on these verbatim responses, which often mentioned email outreach, we identified four best practices for an effective marketing strategy.
According to students, email communication has to be:
1. Personalized. Your prospect pool consists of individuals, treat them as such.
Students understand that admissions offices are busy reaching out to thousands of prospects. That does not mean they appreciate being treated like an anonymous face in the crowd. Luckily, it is easy and cost-effective to personalize emails with the correct names and content of interest at scale. It can be as simple as addressing the student by name and merging information about their program of interest.
Better yet, go the extra mile and verify information or pose a question to show interest in your future student. Your emails should not merely disseminate information they should build a relationship with the prospect. Ideally, outreach is the beginning of a conversation.
What students said about personalization:
“They contacted me and called me by my name in 8 or 9 emails.”
“They sent emails tailored specifically to my future major and interests.”
“A personalized email that you can tell wasn’t sent out to dozens of other people that addressed my interests and how I could pursue them there.”
“They also asked to make sure they were sending emails to the right email address. This shows that they personally want to get a hold of me.”
2. Consistent. Familiarity does not breed contempt.
Science says it takes 100 hours to make a friend. Similarly, you won’t sway a prospect who may not be considering you yet with just one email. Consistency is key to building that relationship, and it’s okay to keep the communication flow going even if they don’t respond. If you consistently express interest in your prospects, some of them will reciprocate that interest.
What students said about consistency:
“Their constant communication through phone calls and emails and letters made it feel like they actually wanted me at their campus. They always kept me in the loop and consistently kept up with me as a person especially when I was unresponsive in the beginning.”
“They were very frequently sending me emails and postcards to keep me updated on all the important dates I needed to know and continue to send them till this day.”
3. Relevant. Inform, don’t spam.
While consistent outreach is important, it’s also important not to email if you have nothing to say. There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. It is good to be proactive with information you think is relevant to the student: deadlines, events on or off campus, information relevant to their interests. Don’t repeat yourself, and do provide a variety of content. Humor is effective so long as it’s used to inform, rather than to entertain.
What student said about relevancy:
“They constantly send me emails of their events, interviews, and important information. They exemplified that they cared for my college education.”
“They sent me many emails about different things, most schools sent the same email repeatedly.”
“The fun facts about the campus in some of their emails, or the aesthetically pleasing images of the city were quite intriguing and made me want to learn more about the school.”
4. Unique. Find your own style.
Perhaps the most challenging part about creating a memorable email campaign is to find a unique way to set your communication apart from everyone else’s. According to students, the key to this is finding your own, authentic voice. According to the responses, humor helps to draw attention and build a sense of community, but first and foremost, you want your message, style, and voice to match your institutional brand.
What students say about communication style:
“They have a somewhat unique way of communicating. Sure, they still send the mail, emails, etc. like all colleges do, but they have a very casual tone to them. This makes the college kind of intriguing because a lot of schools don’t do that.”
“They made their emails and prints funny and quirky, which caught my attention.”
“I had already considered going there and they were always sending emails even if it was just to wish Happy Holidays and it was nice to see their effort and read about the friendly school environment.”
“They emailed me and the way they talked about their college and really focused on the word ‘creativity’ made me so excited to check it out.”
The Bottom Line
Effective recruitment marketing – across all channels, not just email – requires a well-thought-out strategy. As much as using the right channels is imperative, the messages themselves are equally important. Good marketers understand who they are communicating with, what they need to say, and how to get the message across. In order to do that, institutions need to know the types of students they attract, the reasons they attract these students, and how to reach them.
Enjoying this content? Hear more about the results from the Student Sentiment Survey™ at the AMA Symposium where Eduventures VP of Research Cara Quackenbush and Eduventures Senior Analyst Johanna Trovato will present Monday, November 5th at 10:15 am.
Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.
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