What is an Email Marketing Strategy and How Does It Work?

An email marketing strategy is a plan laid out to achieve your email marketing goals. This blueprint based on best practices gives your school a direct channel of communication with families and prospective families.

Email marketing offers a great return on investment (ROI). According to Litmus, every $1 you spend on email marketing has an average return of $36. For this reason, more and more schools are implementing an email marketing strategy.

Why It’s Imperative Your School Have an Email Strategy

There are several reasons your school needs an email marketing strategy. Here’s why:

  1. Planning

Having a strategy allows you to lay out a plan for your email marketing, including a timeline, who’s responsible for which activities and a budget.

  1. Measuring your results

Having a strategy allows you to set measurable outcomes, benchmarks, and results so you know how well your email campaigns are performing.

  1. Choose the best tactics

Developing a strategy allows you to pick the best tactics based on your goals and objectives. For example, you may want to segment your mailing list based on your subscriber demographics. This way, you can be sure you are sending appropriate and customized emails to each segment.

When to Use an Email Marketing Strategy

Basically, email is a highly effective way to communicate with subscribers. Your subscribers may be existing families, prospective families, former parents, alumni, etc.

Common school email marketing objectives include:

  • Build relationships with your target audiences
  • Boost awareness of your school and keep your school top-of-mind
  • Promote blog content or other assets
  • Generate inquiries
  • Promote your school’s offerings
  • Nurture inquiries to move forward in their enrollment journey

Steps for Writing an Email Marketing Strategy

  1. Determine your audience

In order to write effective emails, you need to know who you’re communicating with. Start by creating your parent personas, determining what they want to read in your emails and how to tailor your email campaign to your personas.

  1. Set your goals

What outcomes are you looking for from your email campaigns? Before you set your campaign goals, establish reasonable expectations based on average current email statistics for your industry (Education and Training).

  1. Decide how you will build your subscriber list

A subscriber list is simply people who have subscribed to your email list, giving you permission to send them emails. In order to build a list, you will need a way for people to opt-in to your list. There are many creative ways to invite people to sign up for your list (and please, don’t buy a list – that’s spam) but the most common one for inbound marketers is to create an irresistible lead magnet and opt-in form on your website. A lead magnet is simply an incentive to encourage website visitors to sign up to your email list.

Typical lead magnets include:

  • eBook
  • Webinar
  • Mini-course
  • Daily emails (i.e. parenting tip)
  • Virtual library
  • Cheatsheet
  • Checklist
  • Audio version of an ebook
  • White paper or report
  • Guide
  • Toolkit
  • Case study
  • Resource list
  • Calendar
  • Worksheet
  • Plan or planner
  • Recipe or activity instructions
  • Printable pattern (think Pinterest)
  • Round up (collection of curated information in one document)
  • Inspiration list
  • Quiz
  • Giveaway
  • Coupon or discount
  • Free consultation
  • Move up on a waiting list

You will want to include time for creating your lead magnet(s) and uploading opt-in forms to your website within your strategic plan.

Read more: A School Marketer’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

  1. Choose the type of email campaigns you will use

Your email marketing strategy needs to include the types of email campaigns you intend to use. There are many different types of email campaigns, such as:

  • Automated welcome series
  • Regular newsletters
  • Event announcements
  • School news and updates
  • Internal updates
  • Inquiry nurturing
  • Milestone emails (birthdays, number of years since initial enrollment, etc.)
  • Re-engagement emails (subscriber isn’t opening emails, write an enticing subject line and offer an incentive for re-engagement)

When it comes to your strategic email plan, you will want to include all the different types of campaigns you want to use.

  1. Choose your email service provider 

There are many email service providers in the marketplace today. You may already have one you’re happy with. But in the event you’re searching for an email service provider, here are few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Features

Does this service offer the features I need now and will potentially need in the future? A free trial can give you a chance to test the service and determine if it works for your school.

  • Ease of use

Let’s face it. You don’t want a complicated email process, especially if you are planning to use automation (and you should).

  • Security

Security is an essential element of an email service. After all, you need to protect your families’ data as well as your school’s information. Look for an email service with a multi-layered security protocol.

  • Support

Sometimes things don’t go as planned or are harder than expected to figure out. Believe me, I’ve been there. It’s times like these when you need good customer support, preferably in the form of live chat or phone calls.

  • Integrations

Integrations are another integral part of email these days. You need integrations so you can send extremely personalized and relevant campaigns to your subscriber segments. Make sure the email service you are considering offers integrations with any apps or software you think you might want to, well, integrate.

  • Reporting

Yes, you will want to measure your results. You need to know how well your campaigns are performing so you can make adjustments as needed. Reporting will give you the data you need to make decisions and improve your messaging in the future. And isn’t that what emailing is all about?

I use ConvertKit for my email list and lead nurturing campaigns. While ConvertKit is primarily an email marketing platform, it also includes other features such as basic landing pages, automation, and lead nurturing at a great price.

  1. Create a timeline

Strategic planning should always include a timeline. Usually, strategic plans are written on an annual basis so your timeline should cover the upcoming year. Of course, you don’t need to know the content of your emails yet, but having a general idea ahead of time when you’ll be sending out your campaigns will help you gather needed information, design graphics, and solicit help from others well ahead of your campaigns.

  1. Measure your results

Do I sound like a broken record here? As marketers, we always want to set up measurable outcomes, track and analyze our performance so we can replicate the campaigns that work well, and make adjustments to the ones that don’t perform as well. Be sure to include your measurable outcomes and key performance indicators (KPIs) in your email marketing strategy.

Final Thoughts

When developing your email marketing strategy, keep in mind the families you will be messaging. Always bear in mind they are looking to your school for information and support, especially when deciding whether to enroll their student in your school. Put yourself in their shoes and become a genuine resource for them, and they will look forward to opening your emails, just like they would from a trusted friend or family member.

*Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for at least one of the above resources which means that, at no additional cost to you, I make a commission if you purchase via my link.

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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