February 1, 2024

How Colleges Can Leverage Email Automation to Increase Applicants

Email marketing is no longer an optional marketing strategy for colleges and universities. But in a world where just about everyone is using email to promote their organization, how do you make yours stand out—and bring in new college students in the process?

To boost college applications without drowning in a sea of email creation, it’s time to get creative with email marketing strategies. More specifically, it’s time to set the dial to “autopilot” and cruise into email automation.

What Is Email Automation?

Email automation is a marketing method that allows organizations to reach contacts at every stage of the marketing funnel based on their behaviors or time triggers. This allows the organization to keep in touch with contacts, consistently delivering key or relevant information without requiring a new email to be built every time.

Automated emails can provide timely content to the individual contact within a database or audience segment according to occupation, location, or habits.

For colleges and universities, email automation can serve as an excellent tool to deliver personalized, relevant content to potential students that keeps them informed, excited, and ready to enroll.

Email Automation Types

The type of email automation used will depend on the campaign goal and list structure used. First, determine the purpose of the campaign and identify what results you want. Then, structure your contacts into a segment list or audience that you will use in the campaign.

Once those planning elements are decided, you can determine the best email automation to use for your campaign. Email automation campaigns are typically split into one of two categories: drip and nurture.

Drip Campaigns

Automated emails that are scheduled and sent over an extended period of time are called drip campaigns. These types of emails are typically sent to broad audience segments to keep the organization at top of mind with relevant information, events, sales, or offerings. Drip campaigns can onboard new contacts, reengage old ones, educate readers, and even prompt users to take action.

Colleges can use automated drip campaigns to remind students of upcoming enrollment opportunities or new classes, programs, and degree options that become available.

Nurture Campaigns

Unlike the time-based emails used in drip campaigns, nurture campaigns send automated emails to contacts based on their behaviors. These email campaigns allow an organization to create a pattern of engagement that is tailored to the specific needs and actions of an individual without requiring the organization to create a personalized email every time.

Nurture campaigns often provide relevant information, generate feedback, or reengage the user as needed. For example, a student who has recently attended a college event may benefit from the content a nurture campaign may provide.

Which Colleges Need Email Automation?

According to Forbes, applications to public colleges and universities increased by 82% in the 2023–2024 school year. Now more than ever, smaller colleges need to utilize the right marketing tools to reach these students and obtain their applications.

Especially for organizations that have a low email reputation, email automation can streamline and strengthen their communication process with potential recruits. In turn, these organizations will experience more success in utilizing email to reach new students and grow their application list.

Implementing email automation may benefit your college if it has struggled with the following email issues:

Finding Success with College Email Automation

If it sounds like your email marketing strategy for admissions may be lacking, don’t worry—email automation can help you beef them up! Let’s explore some of the benefits and successes that email automation can bring to colleges and universities.

Improved Marketing Strategy

One of the biggest benefits of email automation for colleges is the general improvement of the organization’s marketing efforts. The marketing team will spend less time manually organizing lists and scheduling emails while the automation does the leg work on its own.

Additionally, colleges with smaller staff sizes are able to reach more students than they could with a manual approach, allowing them to cast a larger net for admissions. This means the marketing team can spend more time developing student relationships and less time curating content.

A Personalized Approach

Although a manual approach may seem like the best way to personalize emails, email automation can arguably provide more personalization than the traditional way. The triggers used in email automation allow students to receive highly relevant, time or behavior-based content at the exact right time, taking out any guesswork or room for human error.

When an email contact is segmented correctly, colleges can use that information to send them specific content that appeals to their interests or needs, such as relevant programs, clubs, or financial aid opportunities. Plus, many CRMs and email-building tools allow for merge tags that automatically include the student’s name in the subject line. Talk about personalization!

Highlight Your College’s Uniques

While some students may have a very clear understanding as to which career path they plan to take, some students are not aware of the options available to them. That’s where you, the expert of your college, come in.

Using the unique personalization elements that email automation offers, you can take things a step further by pointing to popular or unique courses that prospects may be interested in. You might be the only college in your state or area that offers specific courses or certifications. This is a great thing to promote to potential applicants.

Many students will also want to know about the social aspects of your college. This is where email automation can find the right times in the recruiting funnel to share information about campus life, housing, or clubs and help an applicant see themselves on your campus.

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit!

Most colleges that run email marketing campaigns for potential students have one common goal: admissions. With the help of email automation, a college’s marketing team can begin the recruiting process early providing information that aids the student in every step of the decision-making process. Especially for high school seniors, it can be helpful to start this process long before college applications are due so that the students can consider their options.

These types of campaigns will help your organization stay at top of mind with valuable, pertinent information that will keep the student engaged—and hopefully, lead to an application.

Execute Your College Email Automation Strategy with PHOS

Are you ready to start automating your emails? With the right strategy and execution, you can take your email marketing to the next level. Or, let our team here at PHOS Creative take care of the college email automation for you! Connect with us today to get started with better email automation!

Callie Marolf

As a Digital Campaign Specialist, Callie strives to integrate creativity and the latest marketing trends to build unique strategies that support her clients’ missions. She partners authenticity with innovation to establish community and exceed goals.

In her free time, Callie loves to write music, read books, and watch movies under a mountain of blankets. She also enjoys hosting game nights, trying new restaurants with her husband, and thrift shopping with friends.