Email Marketing for Higher Education: Tips and Best Practices

Interested in learning how email marketing can improve recruitment efficiency at your college or university? Consider a recent survey by Mailchimp that found education-related emails had an open rate of 24.42%. That’s a pretty impressive statistic that you can’t afford to ignore.

If increasing engagement and enrolment is a priority for your team, it might be time to create and implement a higher education email marketing plan. This post will tell you about the features of an effective plan, including:

  • The importance of email marketing for higher education.
  • Why you should optimize your email marketing campaigns for mobile.
  • The importance of brand consistency.
  • How images and videos boost engagement.
  • Reasons for segmenting your email campaigns lists.
  • The benefits of automating your email marketing campaigns.
  • Personalization tips.
  • Email marketing software designed specifically for higher education.

Taking the time to get your strategy right from the start and structure your email marketing plan properly will not only give you better results but also provide you with a roadmap for future email marketing campaigns.


Learn Email Marketing

The Importance of Email Marketing for Higher Education

Today’s high school students are digital natives, spending up to nine hours a day on their digital devices. However, according to the 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report, email is still the preferred way for prospective students to communicate with colleges, with 98% of students saying they use email at least once a week. In fact, the closer students get to the application process, the more questions they will ask the admissions committee.

Email Marketing

Email is also the easiest way to reach parents and sponsors, so be sure to target your email marketing campaigns to them.

Email Marketing Tip: Mobile-Optimize Everything!

As the web evolves, so do the devices used to view content. This is why mobile responsiveness should be a must for your college or university’s higher education marketing efforts. Just think – some students will stop working on their computers to search for information on their phones! It is imperative that your email marketing campaigns are easy to read on any device or you will lose your target audience.

Mobility starts with a quality content management system (CMS) that supports mobile responsiveness. If your CMS is missing this important feature, it might be time to switch.

Email Marketing Tip: Emphasize Brand Consistency

When designing email marketing campaigns for higher education institutions, remember that they should reflect your school’s brand. Strong brands have as much recognition as a product or company name, so if you want your college or university to get as much attention as possible, stay consistent. Items to consider:

  • Exact colour matches
  • Tagline and logo consistency across media
  • Content style and tone, or the way you phrase content
  • Design elements on web pages
  • The fluidity between print and online media
  • Placement of ads that reflects similar values and goals of your brand

Branding is a project in itself, but it will ultimately benefit your efforts through email marketing campaigns.

Best Practice: Use Images and Videos When Appropriate

Students surveyed for the E-Expectations Trend Report 2019 indicated that emails with a visual component are much more effective than plain text emails. Be selective in your choice of photos and images. It is better to use images that target a specific audience rather than a general image. Likewise, younger and older students love the attractive graphics and images of the college campus with classical architecture.

Email Marketing

Segment Your Email Lists by Interests or Demographic Information

Segmenting your email list into groups based on characteristics and interests is a great way to target a specific audience with your email marketing. For example, donation emails to new alumni should have a different prompt than emails sent to longtime alumni donors. The same is true for applicants. High school students will have different needs and interests than sophomores who are just starting out at research colleges. To save time, write one email as a template and then tailor it to suit the needs of your specific audience.

A quality email marketing tool that integrates with your CMS will allow you to specify how you break down your listings for specific campaigns. It can also help you create new lists and reports, as well as monitor and view analytics to understand how your email campaigns are performing.

Automate Different Email Campaigns

Another time-saver is email marketing campaign automation. This includes any follow-up responses to your emails and “drip” emails that move leads through the signup funnel. When your software automatically tracks and sends acknowledgements and requested information, you don’t have to worry about a potential student or alum slipping away from you.

Best Practice: Personalize Your Emails

Just because you’re sending emails in bulk doesn’t mean you can’t personalize them. A quality email marketing tool will have templates that you can personalize by importing names and areas of interest into the body of emails so that they are tailored to specific audiences with special needs and interests.

Email Marketing Insights

Email Marketing Software

The right email marketing tool will make your email marketing projects so much easier—especially if you choose one designed specifically for higher education. Beyond personalization, a quality email marketing tool that integrates with a CMS such as Omni CMS will allow for A/B testing to see which emails and related landing pages perform best, delivery optimization that can detect anything that interferes with the delivery of your emails, analytics with customizable reporting features for performance evaluation and list management so you can manage, segment and create targeted lists.


With enrolment numbers decreasing, communication is more critical than ever. Establishing an effective email marketing plan for higher ed can go a long way in recruiting and maintaining contact with prospective students.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.