While many schools have someone on staff in charge of sending out emails that contain important information about school governance, policy, or events, it’s rare to find a school that views email as more than just a means for communication. However, emails can be a lead driver of revenue for schools, so long as there is a strategy in place that utilizes email marketing best practices.
Identify Your Revenue Streams and Your Buyer’s Journey
The essentials to creating an email marketing strategy that drives revenue involves first identifying your revenue generation streams. For most schools, revenue verticals are:
- Tuition Dollars
- Annual Fund Donations
- Summer program or other ancillary program money
You can break each revenue stream into buyer’s journey progression. So for example, when gaining tuition dollars, you’ll need to think about your re-enrollment contract touchpoints and your prospective student touchpoints. What does each journey look like? At what point in each journey do you send out communication? Finally, at what point in the journey should you be sending out communication?
One of the primary issues business offices run into when it comes to using email marketing to drive revenue is that the process to collect money has a lot of friction. Either there are confusing rules about how money will be accepted (no American Express, Wire Transfer only, etc), or the rules are never articulated and emails simply say “Log into this software and follow the instructions.”
In order for email to drive users to complete an action, like submit credit card information, email marketers need to reduce friction in the buying process, cutting down on things that could be confusing to customers and making it as easy as possible to submit payment.
Are your emails driving folks to pay their tuition complicated and lacking in bullet points, headers, or other visual guides? Is the primary Call-To-Action (CTA) small and hidden, or worse-- is there even a CTA at all? These things all create friction for your customers. Instead, create marketing emails that are simple, clear, and contain a bold CTA.
Smart communication is informed by your user’s profile and behavior and by your knowledge of what’s happening around the school. You can use data to send follow up emails to people who opened your email but didn’t submit payment. Instead of resending the same email, ask them “I see you opened the email but didn’t complete payment. Is there something I can help you with to make the process easier for you?”
If you can tell a family hasn’t opened any of your emails, pick up the phone and call! Make data work for you and drive your behavior.
It goes without saying, but if every email sent from the school is self serving (an ask for money, an update on what makes the school great, etc), you will train constituents not to open your emails. They will quickly learn that there is nothing interesting to read in them, and they will instead rely on other channels for school news. Send emails that are timely, relevant, and interesting, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly your readers come to look forward to your emails. They’ll then be primed and ready to give when asked.
When setting your email strategy, it’s important to remember that while other companies may be able to add new emails to their lists every month, schools only have new emails added once a year during enrollment period. Bad experiences through email that leads users to unsubscribe can have a lasting impact on your school’s ability to maintain relationships.
Many of my recommendations come from my time working in consumer services, where a revenue-driven, customer-centric philosophy is key to meeting sales goals. Prioritizing reducing friction, nurturing customers, and delivering smart and relevant marketing content in business office strategy will allow schools to focus more on meeting those revenue streams for each customer vertical.