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Non-Profit Fundraising

Stay between the Lines! Your School Email Marketing Campaign

By Lance Trebesch October 20, 2009

You’ve got a school that needs marketing, and you know email is a fast, cheap, and effective way to spread the word. But how do you go about it? Here’s a simple outline to get started.
Stay between lines1. Target Your Audience
Successful marketing campaigns build meaningful relationships with an audience. Boring emails and constant pleas for money do not endear you to parents and alumni. They erode trust and generate email that ends up in the trash. Effective emails offer valuable and relevant content. Sculpt information around your audience’s interests.

1. Upon first contact, provide some friendly, useful data: basic details about your school, its philosophy, or history. Then, ask your readers what they want. Create a list of topics with corresponding check boxes, or send questionnaires and surveys so you have firsthand information for the future.

2. Interests may change or shift. Send update surveys once a year to ensure that your content maintains relevance to your audience. Continually gathering this data allows you to tailor your content to your audience. Emails will become more valuable and recipients will anticipate their arrival.

3. If there are more than a few dozen addresses on your mailing list, organization can get complicated. Buy an email marketing program to target your email messages while eliminating the time-consuming task of manually uploading and inputting data. Email Labs (www.emaillabs.com) provides an excellent email marketing application, but there are several out there. Shop around and see what works best for you.

2. Link to Relevant Information
Add value to your emails with relevant links: new or popular pages on your school website, related articles, resources, and other websites. For example, a parent with a child involved in football may wish to receive links to the football schedule, as well as a link to information on preventing adolescent injuries.

3. Timing is Everything
Time – Weekends are a terrible time to send an email. Tuesday and Wednesday (and, to a lesser extent, Thursday) are the best days . Over 60 percent of emails are opened between Tuesday and Thursday. Roughly 30 percent of emails are sent between 9 am and 11 am. Seven percent are opened at 11 am and 60 percent are opened between 8 am and 4 pm (www.emaillabs.com). Early morning in the middle of the week is the optimal time to send new emails. Of course, you need to find out what works for your school and your campaign, which is why measuring and adjusting (discussed below) is incredibly important.

Frequency – Send too many messages (and especially too many donation requests) and your audience will tune out. On the other hand, if you don’t send enough, you can’t maintain your connection. Choose a regular schedule, once a week or twice a month. Ask people what they want. If you’ve effectively completed steps one and two, recipients will look forward to your regular, interesting, and ingeniously written email newsletters. Create and stick to a reasonable schedule, taking into account the resources needed to gather relevant information and the time necessary to write, edit, and publish the newsletter.

4. Keep it Catchy and Clean
Titles, subject lines, and introductions should be short and catchy. When your recipients are skimming through email subjects, what compels them to open yours? Grab their attention with easy to read subject lines on interesting topics. The body of the email should also avoid clutter and information overload. Stick with clean, logical, and organized layouts. Edit down to the essentials.

5. Facilitate Viral Marketing
If you’ve created relevant, clever, catchy, interesting content, recipients will want to share it. Make it simple for them to provide you this free advertising by integrating an “Email This” or “Share This” link into your template. Provide a link at the top of the email near the headline or title, as well as the bottom of the email. Include the “Email This” icon (the back of an envelope) or something similar so it‘s easily recognized. This type of social marketing helps you reach new audiences. People who are willing to share your email may have friends who are also interested and willing to share. As your emails spread, so does your schools’ exposure. You may recruit potential students or engage new supporters.

6. Tracking, Measuring, and Adjusting in 3 Steps
1. If you can, track all statistics relevant to your email campaign, and review the numbers. Understanding your click-through-rate, open rate, click to open, bounce rate, referral rate, and unsubscribe rate helps you gauge the success of your email campaign and adjust accordingly.

2. Your email marketing campaign should increase hits on schools website. Track website traffic coming through those targeted links in your emails to determine the overall effectiveness of your campaign as well that of individual emails.

3. If your current email campaign has a lousy performance record, reconsider design and implementation. Ask readers basic questions. Why don’t they find it valuable? Does the content need to be more targeted? Email campaigns are an ongoing process requiring continual attention and direction. Success will vary in the short term, so keep historicals and adjust your approach every year.

7. Build Trusting Relationships
The key to any marketing campaign is building trusting and ongoing relationships with your audience. Period. Email is a useful tool, but if you abuse it, you will shatter that trust. Also, don’t disregard your tried and true forms of marketing and communicating with your audience either. And always remember that people give to people, not organizations or emails. Be human!

Email is an exceptional way to encourage communication with your community, and communication leads to feedback, donations, recruitment, and promotion of school events. These seven tips are an outline for achieving your goals. It’s up to you to fill it in!

Lance Trebesch and Dustin Stoltz
lance@TicketPrinting.com
TicketPrinting.com