Emma Email Marketing Syllabus: A guide to your best school year ever

August 24, 2015 McKenzie Gregory


Course Objective: To craft emails that other schools (especially your rivals!) will envy.

University marketers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to their email communications. They have to reach a wide range of audiences, including faculty, students, parents, alumni, athletics fans and more. Everything they produce has to maintain a cohesive brand image. Their universities often have several different departments sending out overlapping messages, so they have to find a way to ensure that email recipients don’t get frustrated with duplicate content or – due to miscommunication between departments – miss out on need-to-know information like move-in dates or financial aid information.

There are plenty of complications involved in the university marketing game, but with a little knowledge of current best practices, you can craft consistent, organized emails that will help recruit prospective students, rally fans and inspire donors. So to celebrate the beginning of another school year, here are some of our best tips for university marketers. And rest easy – we won’t take attendance, but participation will be a significant part of your final grade!


Unit I: Admissions

Show why you’re the #1 school on prospective students’  lists by crafting the best admissions experience possible.

Automation: One of the best ways to establish and maintain contact with potential students is to set up an automated welcome series. When a prospective student fills out an inquiry form on your school’s website, they’ll get an immediate response – and later, they’ll receive a series of emails that helps maintain that conversation. That way, you’ll be able to ensure that no student slips through the cracks and that you form a positive, personal relationship with each prospect from the very start.

Live social feeds: Many prospective students rank “campus experience” as the #1 factor that influences their university selection. So select a hashtag, then get current students to post pictures on Instagram of all the things they’re doing on campus, from showing their school spirit at football games to volunteering with their sororities. Then use those images in your admissions mailings to show prospects exactly what it’s like to be a student at your university. This kind of user-generated content is a surefire way to boost engagement with your mailings.


Unit II: Athletics

Create a winning athletics strategy by capitalizing on smart marketing tools.

Audience segmentation: There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all email, and it’s especially important to consider the needs of your audience when marketing for a university Athletics Department. Segment your lists by interest – football fans get emails about football, basketball fans get emails about basketball, etc. Your email recipients will be impressed by how well you personalize your communications, and your email engagement will skyrocket as a result!

Dynamic Content: And if you want to take the manual work out of it, use Dynamic Content to send personalized content to your individual recipients – all from a single email. If you have some information that needs to reach all of your audience members (like the season schedule), but still want to cater your content to the individual needs of your subscribers (like ticket purchase or renewal info), Dynamic Content provides the perfect option. To see how it works, here's how The University of South Carolina Athletics Department has been using Dynamic Content to get an impressive 46% open and 24% click rate.


Unit III: Alumni & Development

Keep school spirit alive and well – even after backpacks become briefcases – by developing stronger relationships with alumni.

Tell a personal story: In order to compel alumni to donate, it’s often best to use the human element – eye-catching photos, student profiles, faculty spotlights, etc. – to maximize engagement. And crafting a strong story is an essential part of any successful marketing campaign, especially when it involves fundraising. For example, Brandeis University came up with a donation campaign called “The Louis Challenge,” during which alumni could help Justice Louis Brandeis (the school’s namesake) find his way back to the center of campus by making online gifts to the Annual Fund. It was fun, effective and pulled all the right alumni heartstrings to reach their fundraising goals.\



List growth: To reach as many alumni and donors as possible, it’s important to maintain a healthy, thriving email list. In order to keep your list growing, consider deploying a Lightbox Form on your university’s website that encourages site visitors to sign up for your emails. Incentivize signups by highlighting the benefits of joining your list: access to exclusive news or content, a chance to win swag like t-shirts or football tickets… you name it! Lightbox Forms are a great way to collect more emails than ever. And don’t worry – they won't effect your bounce rates.


Final Exam: University-wide Communications

Create a lasting impression by displaying consistent branding across departments.

Connect your accounts: Most universities have several departments communicating with the same or overlapping audiences, so it can be difficult to keep everything in sync – especially when it comes to marketing efforts. Maintain a consistent brand image for your school by connecting all of your departments’ email communications through a single platform.

Capitalize on resources: You don’t have to be an email marketing pro to get great results. You just need the right resources to help. Since it’s difficult for many university marketers to find funding for professional development, free resources to learn more about email marketing are always helpful. So swing by our Content Hub. We’re constantly adding new material – from blogs to webinars to infographics – to help you stay up-to-date on current email best practices.

Note: This course is cumulative – any of these suggestions can be applied in departments campus-wide!

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a content writer on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

Follow on Twitter More Content by McKenzie Gregory
Previous Article
Litmus TEDC ticket giveaway: The honorable mentions
Litmus TEDC ticket giveaway: The honorable mentions

These guys may not have won a ticket to the Litmus Email Design Conference...

Next Article
To Lightbox or not to Lightbox? One brand's resounding answer
To Lightbox or not to Lightbox? One brand's resounding answer

Enticing website visitors to join your email list can be an incredibly...


Get our latest content straight to your inbox

Thanks! You'll hear from us soon.
Error - something went wrong!