A School Marketer’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

Writing good emails is challenging.

You want to write emails that will be opened, clicked, and remembered – each and every time.

Some school marketers may wonder whether email marketing is still a viable marketing strategy. There’s so much focus on video, social media, and chatbots, it may seem like email marketing is no longer viable.

But the reality is that email marketing is not dead. Email marketing is still going strong and may be the best marketing strategy to gain inquiries and enrollments. According to Statista, approximately 281.1 billion emails are sent every day.

Email is a powerful marketing channel. Landing in someone’s inbox is a more personal way of communicating than other types of marketing. And, you are not depending on an algorithm to reach your audience – you know your email will be delivered to your subscribers.

But before we get to the steps to take to create a great email marketing strategy, there’s something I want to point out – you’re a guest in your subscribers’ inbox.

Everyone who has an email address (which is pretty much everyone) is being inundated with tons of spam and companies pitching advertisements to them. No one wants more emails unless they offer value.

Think of sending emails to someone’s inbox like you’re being invited to their home for a visit and use good manners, which means to send valuable, meaningful emails that are not spammy.

Here are 8 steps to building a successful email strategy.

Step 1. Build your list

It’s important to remember building an email marketing list is a long-term strategy. The strategy isn’t complicated or difficult. But it does require patience and consistency.

  • Determine how subscribers will opt-in to your email list.

Creating an email list is not the same as asking prospective parents to fill out an inquiry form, nor is it the beginning of an application. You can’t just use the names and email addresses of prospective parents unless they’ve given you permission to do so.

Building an email list is one tool your school has to build trust and earn the right to take the relationship to the next level.

Even if you do ask for permission to add prospective parents to your email list, be sure to only ask for the information you need at that moment to add them to your list and no more.

  • Create opt-in forms for your website

Place opt-in forms in strategic places on your website, such as:

  • Sidebar widgets
  • Landing pages
  • Free download pages (we’ll get to this in a minute)
  • In your header or footer

Most email service providers these days offer opt-in forms as part of their automation feature.

  • Create pop-up forms

Pop-up forms are opt-in forms that appear when and where you place them. For example, you can create a pop-up to appear so many seconds after a visitor lands on a page, before a visitor exits the page, or after they’ve been on your page for so long. I use and recommend OptinMonster for pop-up opt-in forms. OptinMonster offers many variables you can set including exit-intent (a very cool feature).

  • Offer an incentive to encourage website visitors to sign up on your email list

Incentives, also called lead magnets, offer valuable information to prospective parents in exchange for their email address. Email address are valuable to your school so you need to offer something in exchange.

There are many ways to do this.

  • Offer fun, interesting updates daily or weekly (I offer Cup of Coffee Newsletter every Monday morning)
  • A free ebook (such as, “A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Private School for Your Child”, or “7 Habits of Highly Effective Students” or “5 Strategies to Motivate Your Child to Learn”, etc.)
  • A free checklist (such as “Checklist for Evaluating and Comparing Private Schools”)
  • A free, specialized webinar (such as an hour-long, on-demand webinar “Learn How to Choose a School for Your Child with ADHD or LD”
  • A free mini-training offered in a sequence of emails (such as “Taking Care of YOU – Tips on Ways Parents Can Take Care of Themselves”)
  • Free recipes (such as “Easy School Lunch Ideas for Kids (Teens, Picky Eaters, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan, etc.)
  • Free toolkit (such as “Awesome Projects for Kids of All Ages, Includes Printables”)

A couple of tips about developing an incentive. Make sure you:

  • Have a clear objective in mind
  • Write good quality copy
  • Use a strong call-to-action
  • Establish your school’s credibility
  • Explain what you will be sharing in your email messages
  • Get parents excited about receiving your emails

Step #2. Heed Email Marketing Laws

There are laws that regulate email marketing, such as CAN-SPAM and GDPR. These are also email marketing best practices.

Don’t let the legal aspect scare you. The main things to keep in mind are:

  • Never buy email lists
  • Use double opt-ins to ensure people are aware they are signing up on your email list
  • Make it easy for people to unsubscribe

Step #3. Offer Great Content

The secret to good content is answering the questions parents want you to answer.

Parents came to your website with questions and concerns in mind. It’s up to you to provide content that answers their questions and alleviates their concerns. And your content needs to adds value by using your school’s expertise and mission to provide them with answers to questions they don’t even know they have yet.

Create effective content by writing engaging articles. Engaging content entices visitors to want to keep reading, uses storytelling techniques and leaves people reflecting on how they can use the information you’ve presented.

Another tip is to pay attention to grammatical and copywriting best practices for the web. One important convention is to write in a concise manner. People – and parents in particular – are very busy and don’t want to read copious amounts of language to get to the point. Make your writing succinct and easy to read, using headings, lists and bullet points.

Step #5. Use visual aids

The best emails are ones you remember; visual aids can help with that. Images, videos, GIFs, memes, and screen flows, and an infographic for marketing can add value and interest to your messaging.

Visual aids increase engagement, help people remember your school and your message, and improve conversion rates (click-throughs, phone calls, completing an inquiry form).

In order to be most effective, make sure your visuals are relevant to your message, convey an important point, and can be clearly understood by parents.

Step #4. Send out a welcome email

Start your email relationship with your subscribers with a well-thought-out welcome email or email sequence. Here are some tips on what to include in your welcome email (or email sequence).

  • Say “thank you” for subscribing
  • Set expectations about the type and frequency they will receive
  • Give them interesting information about your school they might not already know
  • Don’t forget to deliver your incentive
  • Share helpful resources
  • Invite them to connect with your school on your social media channels

Step #5. Don’t try to pitch too soon

I get it – the goal for your email campaigns is to secure inquiries and enrollments. But if you pitch too soon, potential families may unsubscribe before they are ready to make a decision. Parents didn’t sign up for your email list to feel pressured into a decision.

On the other hand, parents expect you to invite them to ask their questions, attend a tour of your campus and possibly fill out a registration application.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules on when to invite parents to take the next step, but it’s better to err on the side of caution than coming across as spammy and pushy too soon.

Step #6. Make your emails memorable

The worst emails are the ones you don’t remember.

Make sure your subscribers remember you by writing a memorable headline and emailing consistently (don’t let too much time lapse between emails). Using visual aids can also help your emails stand out.

Step #7. Use email automation wisely

Email automation is a way to schedule your emails ahead of time. It enables you to segment and send relevant emails at scale. You can also use automation to personalize your messages.

Segmentation is a way to divide your subscriber list into smaller segments based on set criteria. For example, you may have a segment for alumni, parents of currently enrolled students, parents of prospective kindergartners, parents of prospective school-agers, etc. You then can compose emails specifically to those separate groups with messages that make sense for them.

Step #8. Data and Analytics

Most email service providers offer a dashboard that includes analytic information. Usually, you can collect information on:

  • How many people received your email
  • How many people clicked on a link in your email
  • Which links receive the most clicks
  • What time people open your emails
  • How many people unsubscribe from your emails on average per email sent
  • How many subscribers filled out an inquiry form

You can use data to help you create email campaigns to get the results you are aiming for.

If you haven’t been focused on your email marketing, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy.

Email marketing delivers enormous returns on investment for marketers willing to learn how to do it right. One of the most important things to remember is to provide parents with answers to their questions related to their child’s education and how your school can help their student succeed. And, make sure you follow through on the promises you make.

What other tips would you add to this list on building an email marketing strategy for school marketers? Please comment below…

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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