Tackling the E-Mail Student Prospecting Conundrum?

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April Clark

There are many successful ways to market via e-mail. I will discuss some of those methods in this article. There are also pitfalls that await your e-mail marketing campaigns. It is important for college marketing departments to be aware of these stumbling blocks ? it may save you from some headaches further down the road!

The first pitfall is incorrect e-mail addresses. There are a number of competent e-mail append and e-mail prospect vendors out there, the secret is finding one that can give you what you need ? accurate, opt-in e-mail addresses. In addition, you must always be on the lookout for opportunities to ?capture? e-mail address information from your students and prospects.

The process of adding e-mail addresses to your student prospectrecords is not complicated. There are a? number of steps you can take to achieve your goal of adding e-mail addresses (and telephone numbers) to your databases.

The first step is to find a vendor that uses opt-in databases. You may want to find one that adds e-mail addresses, as well as telephone numbers to college and university databases. One way to find this vendor is to ask your colleagues for a referral. CAS is such a vendor. We offer both e-mail and telephone append services to our many college and university clients.

The second step is to contact your chosen vendor and talkwith him/her about your objectives, and inquire? about the scope of the services offered. You will want to ask if they offer more than one pass as e-mail databases are often limited to several sources. This means they will ?pass? your student database by more than one e-mail database ? thus increasing the number of matches. Often you can double the number of your matches simply by using multiple passes.

One situation you will run into – if your database is small, minimum append fees can be high.

Your vendor may suggest doing some file hygiene on your database as well. If the name and addresses have not been run through the National Change of Address system of the US Post Office in the last six months, you may want to invest in that service. Updated addresses will result in a higher match rate for both e-mail and telephone appends.

The third step is the creative process for your message. The e-mail append vendor will be sending out your first message as part of the append process. This is called the opt-out or permission pass. It gives the e-mail recipients the opportunity to opt-out of receiving your future messages. This message is important because people that do not opt-out, give you permission to contact them via future e-mail messages. It is important that this message be inviting and let them know the wonderful things they will be getting from you (i.e. newsletters, financial aid information, marvelous and exciting messages? you get the picture!) This message also saves you money because this opt-out ?welcome message? is used to eliminate hard bounces (non- eliverable) and non-interested prospective students. You should not be billed for optout and non-deliverable permission matches. Be sure to ask your vendor if this is their policy.

The fourth step is also very important. After you receive your prospect or student database back from the append process, you MUST send out a connecting e-mail to all the addresses. By connecting e-mail, I mean to tie them to you and get them expecting to receive your wonderful messages. The other purpose to sending out an immediate message is that you will reach them before they change their e-mail address. You will find that e-mail addresses change quickly. If you wait longer than a week, the undeliverable addresses will increase exponentially. Even if you send your message out within a week, you will get some undeliverables back, but it should be a low number, less than 10%. If you wait, say a month, the number will be more like 25%. So this is a critical step.

Now for some discussion on how to collect e-mail addresses for your database. You should set up “links” to your School Website. Be sure it is easy to link to your website. You can set up link contact e-mails for different questions from prospective students with different landing pages. Please be sure it is easy for them to navigate and find answers. Always ASK each person who logs onto your website for their e-mail information and be sure you are saving that information.

Here is a little more on your e-mail messages. You might like to try these related ideas. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – check out your competitor schools’ e-mail programs to see what they are doing. Remember that relevance ALWAYS “trumps” frequency ? so make sure that your messages out to your e- ail database are always worthwhile ? don?t waste their time, or you will definitely lose them. It is wise to understand your audience, and deliver on that understanding by communicating in a media and language your students understand, being sure your e-mail program reflects their behavior by tuning into their interests. Be sure to use your offered curriculum programs as key words in “pay per click” – being sure to use current vernacular descriptions. It is always wise to use personalization methods to make each message relevant to each prospective student.

One ?trick of the trade? is to ALWAYS ask them additional information about themselves each time you “touch” them and use it effectively. For example:

-please verify the name and address we have for you

-or add your phone number here

-or what course(s) of study might you be considering

-or are you interested in living on campus or off

-or what are your extracurricular interests, etc.

You must be sure to capture each piece of information and use this information in your next communication with that student. For example – “Susan” told you last week that she wants to join a swim team -so the next week’s e-mail has a message from your swim team coach that says ” Susan – we wanted to tell you about the tryouts for…………………” This is called “triggered messaging” and can be automated by setting up specific rules for responding to information provided by prospective students. You can see how powerful this can be in persuading them to commit to your school!

Another idea is to add a picture and short bio of a current happy student who is in the program they are interested in – add a link to that student’s e-mail address and encouragethem to ask that student questions to start a mentoring relationship.

The mechanics of this communication would involve your IT people, but the basics would be to set up standard, generic information to be sent in a message. Then the variable personal content is loaded in a staging area or library, and finally the rules are established to have the greatest effect on each prospective student. If program interest is X, then insert the piece of information Y. You will work with your technical department on the details.

Here are some ideas on the Frequency of E-mail Channel Contact:

-quantity does not reflect quality, you must always have something relevant to say before e-mailing

-send out a series of Welcome to XYZ University messages, each gathering a new piece of information

-then send several triggered responsive, personalized messages working off the new pieces of personal information

-add personal touch messages from an assigned mentor in the prospective student area of interest

-track any indicated interest on the part of the prospective student such as clicking through to your website or responding back to mentoring student; responses should trigger a telephone call or other channel contact, so be sure to provide them with multiple channels of response from text messaging to telephone numbers.

It is a whole new world out there, and you can take advantage of the new channels of communication with careful planning and attention to the details of your new age marketing programs.

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