Enrollment Blog

Your New Year's resolution: Email prospective seniors—now

by Doug Henderson

As the year comes to a close, it’s important that we take some time to reflect on the most important things in life...

Ok, while we’re doing that, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we can still make the most of email marketing campaigns to reach the entering class of 2018 applicants.

After nearly 20 years in email marketing and thousands of successful application programs, my EAB colleagues and I have developed a deep understanding of the inflection points in the life of high school seniors that can mean the difference between making a class—and missing it.

Press SEND on your engagement emails NOW

Schools that are just now trying to grow their applicant pool are in luck: there are many students who are still exploring their college opportunities. They are eager to hear from new institutions throughout the year, even after many of their peers have made their college choice, typically by the spring of their senior year in high school.

For institutions that have been engaged in EAB Application Marketing throughout this entire enrollment cycle, these winter months may seem to signal the chilling of opportunity. You've been at this for quite a while, so you may be thinking that time has run out to reach prospective seniors.

But don't throw in the towel quite yet. There is still opportunity for institutions to engage with undecided students, and we have research that suggests quick and nimble action can help you to best capitalize on the remaining application opportunity.

For both institutions, time is of the essence. We even see that reflected in the deliverability of email campaigns we send on behalf of clients, let alone all the other email metrics we track. Emails that are sent to seniors too late, after their messages are relevant, sometimes don’t even make it to the inbox. The key is maximizing your particular message at the right time.

Inbox deliverability rates, the percentage of emails that deliver to the inbox rather than the spam folder, drop for seniors as graduation draws closer and students are more likely to have already deposited at one or more institutions. The next three months are critical to reach them. Our analyses of email deliverability span both new and long-term campaigns and indicate senior inbox deliverability rates are 16 percentage points higher now than they will be by the time the trees blossom in the spring.

Email enrollment marketing

As professional communications and marketing experts, many of us might be tempted to dismiss poor Inbox Deliverability Rate to something other than timing. We want to say, "Well, the reason I didn't deliver to the inbox was because I had stale creative," or "My subject line was too long and boring." But the reality might be that our timing is off, so those other elements of our messages become irrelevant. We can adjust our imagery and phrasing, but we cannot turn back the hands of the relentlessly-ticking enrollment cycle clock.

Related: Reach students, not spam filters

Align all elements of your emails

Even if we recognize that the email timing was the main culprit of our inbox deliverability woes, we may still struggle with how to fix it. Simply going dark is usually not an option that our management teams, or partners, want to hear. "Let's just wait until the timing is better" doesn't sound so good when we say it out loud, but, in practice, it may sometimes be the right answer for some of our target audiences.

If we accept this cold, hard fact, the question then becomes, "How can I reach the portion of my audience that is still in play without trashing my inbox deliverability rates due to low engagement or (shudder!) spam complaints?"

  1. Segment: You've got to do deep and honest analyses of who is engaged when. Run your data. Know your audience. EAB will help you to determine which students are undecided and only reach out to those students who might be still be interested in what you have to offer. For institutions still looking to grow their applicant pool, emails should remind students that it’s not too late to apply and include links that make it really easy to do so.

  2. Refocus: If you're too late to encourage your most desired students to apply to your college, focus on yield efforts to enroll admitted, but non-committed students. Our Deposit IQ program enables you to know in real-time whether these students’ intend to choose your institution and now includes digital display advertising in the yield phase, in addition to emails that encourage campus visits.

  3. Send: Email remains a tremendously powerful channel to reach students and their families throughout the year. Being hyper-specific and sharply-targeted can make a huge impact in ROI at different times in the marketing cycle. As creative email marketing professionals, it’s up to us to capitalize on all aspects of the science and art of our craft. Nuance is important, no doubt. But let’s always remember the fundamentals. We have to align the best audience, with the right offer, pitched in just the right way, and at the right time of year to land—and be engaged—in prospective students' inboxes.

Enjoy this special time of year with friends and family—and take advantage of these winter months to shore-up your senior recruitment.

Need help understanding which messages prospective students will respond to?

Our team is constantly testing the most innovative recruitment marketing technologies, so we know a lot about the kinds of messages that resonate with prospective students. View our EAB Enrollment Services offerings to see how we can help.

Learn How We Can Help


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