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Megan Youngblood

Content development

Why email still matters: 5 tips for student recruiting

May 12, 2016   //   Megan Youngblood

Worried you’re not reaching prospective students with your emails? Stop the handwringing. There’s hope for your email campaigns if you recognize the facts and deploy your messages with style and strategy.

Rest assured. Teens haven’t completely abandoned email for Snapchat or Yik Yak (but you shouldn’t discount those as possible communications channels either). According to a 2016 email usage study by Adestra, 68 percent of teens and 73 percent of Millenials prefer to receive business communications via email, and 74 percent of teens recognize they need email in their daily lives.

Email raves on because it’s within thumbs-reach nearly all the time. Smart phones have transformed mobile email open rates from 8 percent to 56 percent — a 600 percent increase in four years, according to Experian. And 90 percent of teens use smart phones for personal email (Adestra).

It’s great news that email is increasingly being consumed on the move. But that means your messages need to stand out even more. Because we know that at least 78 percent of prospective students will read your emails on mobile devices even if they’ve never heard of your school (see OmniUpdate’s 2015 E-Expectations Report), here are five tips to make yours shine.


Think campaign, not one-offs

Get in-sync with other communications tools. Every brand has a story to tell. To tell your story in a cohesive way, the messages you send in email need to match everything else across your brand. Write and design messages in context of what your audience sees: your viewbook, microsite, magazine, direct mail, videos, photography, signage, brochures.

For Union College, Zehno created an overall email campaign as part of an integrated marketing communications strategy that used the website, email, direct mail and campus experiences to deploy Union’s key brand messages. The email campaign touched prospects with a content-rich monthly e-newsletter, student profiles, event reminders and a yield series — all echoing the stories in the online viewbook and other tools.


Hit your key messages

Tie emails to key messages, making the points in a shorter, bolder way. Stay focused on why your institution is great. If intense teamwork is your academic program’s distinguishing feature, write about cool class projects. If your program connects students with gurus like Warren Buffett, say so.

For TCU’s Neeley School of Business email campaign, we used simple animations to get the main messages across. An animated checklist spotlighted real examples of how students could transform their résumés at TCU — like consulting for PepsiCo and interning on Wall Street.


Bring a key story element to the top

Hook your readers into stories about your school’s signature programs with in-your-face headlines. Then follow with the details.

For example, Zehno used the headline “Fear the Pretzel” to set up TCU’s standout program feature: consulting for multinational corporations. We moved the most interesting fact to the top, and showcased a uniquely TCU opportunity where students helped Frito-Lay VPs determine how its merger with Utz Potato Chips would affect market share. This email is quirky. It’s story-driven. And the total campaign got results: the proportion of students enrolling with GMAT scores above 650 has steadily increased.

Tip 4

Limit calls to action

Be clear about what you want people to do. Giving people five buttons to click on can ruin a good message. Instead, focus on one (or two) calls to action. Secondary calls to action should be noticeably smaller.

Zehno produced a yield email series for University of the Pacific using a single call to action: driving prospects to make their deposits. Each email covered key messages alternating between experience-focused and features-focused topics — such as location, rankings and ROI — with a single goal in mind: getting more students on campus in the fall.


Style it

To be effective, your email campaign needs more than just volume. It needs style and intrigue. And don’t discard the 30-percent-off emails you receive from Levi’s every day. You can find inspiration in almost everything, even the latest deal-driven email from your favorite designers.

For Nazareth College, Zehno created a series that used the unconventionally named Nazareth Golden Flyer mascot as a headline device coupled with bold, graphic visuals. Stories conveyed key brand messages and distinctive aspects of the Nazareth experience. This made Nazareth’s emails stand out from the loads of search emails sitting in inboxes and attracted the prospective students who were the best fit, increasing spring visits to campus.

Learn More

Read about Zehno’s admissions campaign services and find out how we can help you achieve your admissions goals.


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