Institute for Higher Education

To Email or Not to Email: Navigating Outreach Campaigns for College Recruitment

In today’s digital era, the debate on the efficacy of email outreach campaigns for recruiting high school students to colleges continues to gain momentum. With Gen Z fading from the spotlight and Gen Alpha coming into the light, educational institutions continue to grapple with a critical question: To email or not to email?

The Case for Email in Student Recruitment

Despite the rise of social media and instant messaging, email remains a cornerstone in the world of professional and academic communication. According to a 2021 report by Campaign Monitor, email marketing holds an impressive average return of $42 for every $1 spent (this reminds me it’s time to write about useful email metrics for colleges and universities to use). Furthermore, a survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) states that for high school students, email is still a preferred method of communication for college information, second only to in-person college visits.

Tailoring to the Audience

The key to success lies in personalization and segmentation. A recent study highlights that personalized emails have a 40% higher open rate compared to generic messages. Prospective students expect information that resonates with their interests, needs, and academic goals. In this vein, colleges must leverage data analytics to segment their audience and tailor their messages accordingly.

Integration with Multichannel Approaches

While email is potent, it cannot stand alone. Integrating email campaigns with other channels—like social media, texting, virtual college fairs, and webinars—can amplify reach and engagement. Platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat (ugh… also TikTok… sorry that’s the Gen X in me) are burgeoning hubs for teen interaction, and they present ripe opportunities for colleges to create a more dynamic and interactive outreach strategy.

Quality Over Quantity

Email fatigue is real, especially among younger audiences inundated with online content. Hence, the frequency and content of emails must be carefully calibrated. Quality trumps quantity. A report by MarketingSherpa suggests that sending relevant content is crucial to keeping subscribers engaged and preventing them from hitting the unsubscribe button.

Marketing Automation vs. Drip… Drip… Drip…

Email marketing automation and drip campaigns are terms often used interchangeably in the context of digital marketing, but they represent different strategies and functionalities within the realm of email marketing. Creating a email campaign that is complex and guides students through a unique journey is a key to supporting a long term engagement campaign.

  • Complexity and Triggers: Email marketing automation can handle more complex triggers and user paths, whereas drip campaigns follow a simpler, linear path.
  • Purpose: Automation can serve various functions beyond just nurturing leads, including transactional emails, whereas drip campaigns are usually focused on engagement and nurturing.
  • Flexibility: Automation workflows can change and adapt based on real-time user behavior; drip campaigns are usually less adaptable once they’ve started.

The Bottom Line

Email is not obsolete; it is evolving. To tap into its full potential, colleges must adapt to the communication preferences of high schoolers. The educational sector’s foray into sophisticated CRM systems, predictive modeling, and AI to craft impactful email campaigns is a testament to this shift.

Colleges that effectively balance the art and science of email outreach are more likely to captivate the hearts and minds of their future students.

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