I’ve been doing a lot of email writing over the last couple of weeks for a client of mine and it’s been a good time. Recently I talked about how Will Patch who is the senior enrollment insights leader at Niche posted on LinkedIn about his experience with secret shopping colleges and how he received the same old generic bland emails from most of the schools. His research will be available in Spring 2023 on the Niche Enrollment Insights Blog.
So, this topic seems timely and is also one that I know a lot of schools, and businesses for that matter, need help with. Let’s get into it.
Why Email Marketing for Schools?
The first reaction I get to email marketing is usually this. Email? Does email even work? Isn’t email marketing… old? Well, no. The fact is that bad email marketing is dead. In fact, bad email marketing never worked. And I think that’s what makes email marketing even better.
It’s gotten so generic – think the non-personalized emails you get about products you don’t care about – that it’s pretty easy to impress your readers with simple practices.
Remember, email is just a platform. And the platform itself is definitely not dead.
In a recent study, Optinmonster found that 99% of email users check their email every day.
I’m willing to bet that you’ve got at least 50 emails that you don’t care about sitting in your inbox right now, even though you check your email every day.
I’m also willing to bet that there are a couple of companies or people, that you read every email… why is that?
It’s because those emails have something to say. They bring you value in some way every single time. That needs to be standard with your emails. Value every single time.
Does Email Marketing for Schools Work?
Yes, email marketing works.
It’s worked since email was a thing. The problem is most businesses use it… badly.
What that means for us regular people (and for your prospective families) is email blindness.
Now, the main goal is to be one of those handfuls of people that our subscribers actually care about.
Achieving that is the entire name of the game.
So let’s talk about how to become one of those people.
There are a few things that you can do to achieve this status in the minds of your readers.
The overarching idea is to deliver a great email experience.
That should be the standard that you check all of your emails against.
What does that practically look like?
Email Marketing Strategies for Schools
Segmentation in Email Marketing
The first thing is segmentation.
Your entire email list should not get the same emails every single time you hit publish.
Doing so will guarantee you’re being too generic and falling into the category of “I don’t really care” in the minds of your subscribers.
In any given list there are at least a few ways you can segment to enhance the experience of receiving your content. For example:
- Interest – what types of things are they interested in – sports teams, school clubs, etc.
- Relationship – how engaged are they with your school? Do they open every email? Are they active in your FB group? These people should be segmented and treated differently because they are your most engaged customers.
- Grade – the grade the students are in
By delivering content that your users are interested in, you’re taking the first step towards being important in their minds.
Segmentation alone will put you ahead of the pack because your emails will stand out in the sea of generic useless emails that flood the inbox every single day, so start with segmentation.
Also, as a side note don’t be scared of the unsubscribe.
Unsubscriptions are a GOOD thing.
They keep your list clean and free from people who aren’t interested in what you have to offer anymore which helps your open rates and deliverability.
If you’re doing email marketing the way I’m teaching you today then people unsubscribing is a fine natural thing that will happen and is good for your list health.
Put Yourself in Your Readers Shoes
Next, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of the reader. By doing so, we see that no company, or school, emails us just because they want to catch up on our personal lives. They’re not here to chat about anything really granular going on in my specific life because they don’t have that personal of a relationship with me and in most cases, they can never have that personal of a relationship with me.
So, 99% of the time they’re emailing me to sell me something.
Every email subject line I see in my inbox I’m looking at it through this lens.
As a school marketer, that makes it hard to break through the guard that our readers have up unless you write your emails from their perspective.
What I mean by that is to make your emails entertaining and interesting enough that your subscribers want to read your emails even though they know that you’re trying to sell them something.
I’ve used this method for dozens of clients and it works like a charm.
Fun fact, I learned it from a marketer who used it on me. For years I was part of Perry Marshall’s email list, only purchasing a couple of low-ticket items like books over that time span.
But, I read every single one of his emails even though I knew he was trying to sell me on his other marketing training.
Eventually, I had enough money in the company to invest in training, and guess where I went? That’s right, I didn’t need to look anywhere else because for years I’ve been receiving proof after proof that this is the palace to go to get the training I need.
Now I’ve spent thousands of dollars with his company and couldn’t be happier with the investment. That’s what you want to achieve.
That’s what I’m trying to teach you to do today.
Email Marketing for Private Schools Example
I think the best way to illustrate writing emails that your readers find interesting and entertaining is to give you an example.
Let’s say you want to help push your prospects through the funnel and move them closer to becoming an enrolled family.
In one of the emails, you want to talk about your accreditation with the FCIS.
This is something that other schools in your area might all have, so it might seem like it’s not a differentiating factor for you, but if they’re not talking about it then it is.
Rather than not stating this fact altogether OR rather than simply saying “we’re accredited by the FCIS” let’s turn this into a story that’s enjoyable and relatable.
I might title that email something along the lines of
- “What We Learned by Welcoming Critique from One of the Most Rigorous Private School Associations on Planet Earth.”
- “How Being Critiqued Got Us to Where We Are Today (And How it’s Shaping Our Future)
- “While Some Shy Away from Critique We Welcomed it With Open Arms (and Here’s What We Learned)
In that email I would tell a story of how critique can be scary, how no one likes to be judged, add in a personal anecdote of a time when I was judged and how it made me feel, drive home the pain that it causes us with a few real-life examples, start to resolve that pain with the pleasure that we get when we grow, and finish it with what it means to be an accredited school.
Alternatively, I might talk about a time when I had a boss that demanded the most from her team, how she came off as tough and hard to please but ultimately how she developed her team into the best they could be by pushing them, and how that lead to a successful business.
These are much better ways to say “We’re accredited”.
Why? Because the average person doesn’t know what that means or what that takes.
But, the average person can relate to being pushed to grow and the pleasure they get from achieving that growth when it’s all said and done.
That is how you get your point across.
Email Marketing for Student Retention
I can hear you saying “Nick, I get it. This sounds great. But what the heck do I write about in all of these emails?!”
Here are a few ideas.
My favorite strategy is to take a page out of the old-school media publications book.
Content builds audiences and strengthens brand loyalty like no other. Think about how Disney shows, movies and Disney + strengthen the value of their theme park business and vice versa.
This is why you’re seeing major tech and retail companies get into streaming.
Apple+ and Amazon Prime video strengthen the brand and deepen the relationship that people have with each company.
There’s only so much you can connect to a product, right? Connecting with the stories and characters in a series as they relate to your life is much easier.
So, valuable, entertaining, and helpful information is what you should be producing on a regular basis. That information NEEDS to be something that your audience cares about. Most often, that audience is parents and families.
So, ask yourself, what do they care about? What problem do they commonly face that you can help solve for them? As a new parent myself I’ve got a little bit of a new perspective on this question. Here are some ideas to get you going
- Ways to connect with your child
- How to strengthen your family bond
- Time-saving/scheduling tips
- Updates on dangerous or helpful social media trends
Become a trusted source of information for parents and help them solve complicated challenges and your school will be hard for them to leave.
You are no longer a place where they send their kid. You are the best place for them to send their kid. They know that you know what you’re doing because you’re the authority on education, family building, and student development.
That is what consistently delivering helpful content via email can help you achieve. It’s stacking reasons on top of reasons for families to stay in your school.
So, now is the time to take this information and commit to putting out high-level content consistently through email marketing.
It’s one of the best ways you can shore up your school against any threat to your student enrollment.