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    10 Email Marketing Best Practices for Higher Education

    In this article, we'll look at 10 email marketing best practices for higher education that you can use to boost your university's marketing efforts.
    Last updated:
    December 15, 2023

    It's 2023 and we have a plethora of options when it comes to communicating with the world around us. We could, for example, use our phones to call and SMS each other or messenger platforms like Slack to send instant messages. But when it comes to communication between colleges and their students, email is still widely used.

    In this article, we'll look at 10 email marketing best practices for higher education that you can use to boost your school's marketing efforts.

    1. Segment Your Email List

    Email list segmentation is important for those in higher education because your subscribers base will likely run the gamut. You'll have email addresses from prospective students, current students, parents, high school guidance counselors, etc. Furthermore, each of these people will come from different backgrounds, have different income levels, want to study different subjects.

    The only way to keep all of them happy and to, ultimately, increase the number of enrollments your school obtains is to segment your list and send more personalized email communications.

    2. Consider the Student Journey

    When emailing your list, we also suggest taking the student journey into account. Every potential student goes through the same stages before enrolling. They have an initial curiosity regarding your college, they seek more information, they fill out an application form, and finally, they enroll and show up on campus to learn and obtain their degrees.

    The thing is, students will require different messages at each of these stages. So we suggest segmenting your subscribers based on their lifecycle stage and any other important criteria that you might use to personalise.

    3. Nail Your Subject Line

    When it comes to actually sending messages, it could be argued that your email's subject line is the most important part. After all, if it isn't enticing and nobody opens your communications, what's the point? Here are a few tips to help your emails stand out in crowded inboxes:

    • Short and Sweet: Long subject lines bore recipients. They also run the risk of getting cut off on smaller screens. So keep your subject lines short and sweet.
    • Action Words: Action words like "Explore" and "Discover" induce curiosity and will increase the probability of your messages getting opened and read.
    • Preview Text: Sometimes your subject line isn't enough. In these cases it helps to have preview text to help engage recipients and convince them to open your emails.

    Follow these three subject line tips and you'll quickly boost your email's open rate!

    4. Keep Your Messages Short and Sweet

    Subject lines aren't the only thing that should be kept short and sweet. Your actual messages should also err on the side of brevity. Remember, your recipients are busy. They have plenty of other emails in their inbox to read. If you send them an essay, they'll probably decide it isn't worth the trouble and delete your message before reading it.

    Feel free to include all relevant information. But, at the same time, don't add unnecessary details just for the sake of it. Say what you need to and then bid your subscribers ado.

    5. Personalize Your Communications

    We've already talked about a few different personalization techniques: email segmentation and considering the student's journey for each of your subscribers. But we want you to personalize your messages even more! You can do this by:

    • Using Your Subscriber's Name: A simple way to personalize your communications is to address your subscribers by their first name. Sounds like a basic one but many institutions still greet their audience by "Dear Reader" or "Dear student" and it makes a big difference to be greeted by the first name.

    • Sending Relevant Content: You should personalise the content of your email based on relevant criteria such as demographics or interests. For example, you can adapt the content of the email based on the country and city of residence, academic background or even their career goals.

    6. Make Sure Your Emails Are Mobile Friendly

    If you haven't noticed, your students love their phones. In fact, studies show that more than 70% of people read email on their mobile devices. Which means you need to optimize your communications for mobile. If you don't, your messages simply won't get read.

    7. Enhance Your Messages With Eye-Catching Images

    Email may be one of the more "old school" marketing strategies out there but that doesn't mean you can't spice it up with eye-catching imagery. Appealing visuals grab attention, engage students, and will help your university promote its unique brand. Use them

    Just remember to include alt text. Not every email provider will render your images, but your recipients will at least know what the image is supposed to convey if you use alt text.

    8. Include a Compelling CTA

    What do you want your subscribers to do after reading your message? You need to tell them! This is what's known as a call-to-action, AKA the CTA, and every email should have one.

    You could include a CTA asking a subscriber to take an action such as start or finish their application, register for an event, or download some additional content.

    Here are a few CTA tips to keep in mind:

    • Use Action Words: Just like in your email's subject lines, action words will help entice your subscribers to actually click on your CTA.
    • Make it a Button: Buttons are made to be pushed. So make your CTA look like a button and your recipients will subconsciously want to click it.
    • Give it a Contrasting Color: By making your CTA a different color than the rest of your message, you'll help it stand out and get noticed by your audience.

    9. Automate Your Email Campaigns

    Technology continues to progress and it would behoove you and your university to take advantage of it as much as possible. You can do this in your email marketing efforts by implementing automation.

    Automated emails are messages that are pre-programmed to send when specific criteria is met. For example, you could automate a welcome message to send whenever someone first signs up to your application portal or a series of personalised messages when a prospect downloads a programme brochure on your institution's website.

    Email automation is important because it will allow you to deliver the communications you need to on autopilot, saving you time and making sure that each of your subscribers is taken care of.

    10. Test and Optimize Your Messages

    Finally, successful email marketing is entirely predicated on testing and optimization. Even the greatest marketers in the world don't always get it right on the first try. The trick is analyzing specific data points like open rate and click-through rate and discovering how you can improve each of them in future mailings.

    The easiest way to test your emails is through a strategy called A/B testing. Here's how it works:

    • First, you craft your message as you normally would, making sure to include a great subject line, punchy body text, and a compelling CTA.
    • Then, you create a second message that's nearly identical to the first, but has one distinct change. You could, for example, use a different image or subject line.
    • Next, you send both emails to a small portion of your list and see which performs better. The winner can then be emailed to the rest of your subscribers.

    A/B testing is a straightforward and proven way to improve your email campaigns. We encourage you to use it on a regular basis.

    In Conclusion:

    Email marketing is still one of the best ways for universities to communicate with their current and prospective students. But your college must go about it in the right way. Fortunately, you now know 10 email marketing best practices for higher education to guide you as you craft future email campaigns and attempt to connect with your institution's subscribers. Good luck! 


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    Jacob Thomas

    Jacob Thomas is a freelance copywriter and content marketer based in Nashville, TN.

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