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Get Started With Email Marketing For Educational Orgs In 4 Steps

Brian Rahill

July 27, 2017

There are plenty of marketing options available for educational organizations:printed brochures, take-home flyers, newspaper inserts  and more. The challenge is that these options and time consuming and for a budget-strapped organization, are usually out of reach. Rather than spending a large amount of time and resources on a big ad campaign, education providers  should consider email marketing. According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing returns $44 for every $1 spent – that’s an amazing return for your time and money!

Why is email marketing such a powerful tool?

  • It’s easy: Everyone knows how to send an email!
  • It’s cheap: There are plenty of email marketing systems that are very inexpensive or even free.
  • It’s effective: An email blast can reach 1 student or 10,000 students in the same amount of time.

At CourseStorm, we have tested lots of different marketing strategies to help our customers fill their classes, and we’ve seen for ourselves that email marketing is the most efficient and cost-effective option to grow enrollments. If you’re already using CourseStorm, you know how the software automatically collects email addresses for every person who registers for your classes. Since collecting email addresses is the first step in an email marketing strategy, you’ve already got a nice head start!

Ready to start creating great email marketing campaigns? Just follow these 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Gather Email Addresses

The first thing to do is get as many email addresses as you can. You want anyone who is likely to use your services or support your cause. This can be people who donate, former students, or even volunteers.

At events, a great way to do this is good old fashioned pencil and paper (a laptop or tablet can work too!). When you are checking people into events, you can politely ask if they would like to be notified of future classes or events and then collect their email.  

Also, on every form you ask your registrants to fill out, make sure there’s a spot for their email address. This way you’ll have a list when you’re ready to start your marketing campaign. Just make sure you get everyone’s permission to add them to your mailing lists.

Step 2: Set Up Your Email System

When you’re first setting up your mailing lists, Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, or any other basic email system will probably be sufficient. But when you’re sending emails to more than a few dozen people at once, you’ll need something more powerful. We recommend that you start with one of these systems so it can grow with you. There are many options available to you, but here are a few easy solutions to start with:

  • Mailchimp: This program is very easy to use, with built-in templates that look professional whether the email is opened on a computer or mobile phone. It integrates with other apps that you already use, such as Facebook, which means new followers can be automatically added to your email lists. There are several price points ranging from the basic free account up to a professional paid version.
  • Constant Contact: This user-friendly program has several customizable templates, the option to automate your emails (for example, when a new person is added to a list, they are automatically sent an introductory email), and the ability to import your contacts from Excel, Outlook, Gmail, or anywhere else you’ve been storing them. Constant Contact is priced based on the size of your mailing list.
  • Get Response: This email marketing software features an easy drag-and-drop email editor and extensive resources for getting started with email, list building, and more. Basic plans start at $15 per month for email, but the system offers many more features that users can graduate to as they become more confident with email marketing.

For more help choosing an email marketing solution, check out this article from Business News Daily for a more in-depth review of some of the top systems.

Step 3: Decide What To Send

Now that you have your contact list assembled and your system set up, what kinds of emails should you send? There are four basic categories:

  • Invitations/Notifications: Notify your current, former, and prospective students when you have a new class or event coming up. For large lists, it can be helpful to divide your contacts into multiple mailing lists so that you can target only those who would be interested in the event; for example, fitness students can be notified of a new water aerobics program, or you can tell parents of young children about an upcoming summer camp.
  • Newsletters: A regular newsletter is ideal for keeping your community up to date on your organization’s activity. Whether you send it monthly, quarterly, or annually, it’s a terrific way to remind people of the services you provide and update your donors about the projects their money is being used for.
  • Fundraisers: Speaking of donors, when it’s time for a fundraising push, email is a useful tool to help with general fundraising or a specific project. Make it a snap for donors to give by including a link to your secure online payment portal.
  • Thank-You Notes: Everyone loves appreciation! Thank donors for money, volunteers for their time, and students for participating in your workshops.

Step 4: Craft The Perfect Email

Email marketing is more than just typing up a quick note and hitting send. These messages are the voice of your organization and should represent your nonprofit’s mission and values. Here are some tips for making those emails the best they can be:

  • Use an eye-catching layout: This is where templates in your email system come in handy. Find one that’s simple, easy to read, and fits with your mission. Save it as your default template so that all you have to do is add a new message each time you want to send a new email.
  • Keep it concise: For marketing emails, you want to keep your message clear and brief so that your readers get the idea easily and quickly.
  • Include a “call to action”: Make it easy for your readers to follow through by including a button or link to your website so that people can donate, register for a class, or otherwise take the action you’re asking of them.  
  • Write a powerful subject line: This can be very tricky! It should be clear, concise and engaging. It should make your reader want to click “open.”  Keep the subject line short and sweet and try to show your readers the value in reading the email. For some great tips, check out this article on AddThis.com.

Make Email Marketing Work For You

You don’t need to be a marketing guru to run a successful email campaign. These five steps will get you well on your way to opening a new line of communication with your community while making a positive impact to your bottom line. With a little practice and preparation, you can make email marketing one of the most powerful tools for your organization!

Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.

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