The Importance of Segmentation in Higher Ed Email Marketing

Written by Laura Thrasher on March 17, 2014

Posted in Education, Lead Generation

More marketers than ever rely on email segmentation to increase the number of people who open and click on their messages. In fact, a recent marketing analysis shows that segmented email campaigns produce 30% more opens and 50% more click-throughs than general ones. When marketing for higher ed, separating a large email list into narrower targets results in increased audience engagement.

You probably already segment your audience based on who they are: for example, you send prospective students different emails than alumni. But an advanced level of segmenting responds to what your audience has done. What do you do with prospective students who create an account to apply but never submit an application? Or alumni who give online once, but never again? Your website and email newsletters have trigger points that are opportunities for more customized marketing efforts. By segmenting your email marketing based on both behavior and demographics, you can get greater results.

  1. Prospective Students. Prospective students who are interested in your institution need to feel connected. Generic or irrelevant email marketing runs the risk of turning them off before they even set foot on campus. For greater effectiveness, segment prospective students based on where they are in the admissions process. Whether they are requesting information, signing up for a tour, applying, or have been accepted, your prospective students want messages that fit their situation. For example, an email mentioning orientation is irrelevant for a student who has not yet applied but is appropriate for an accepted student.
  2. Geographic segmentation is important so that you can customize marketing materials from your regional recruiters. If you host events across the state or country, segmenting your email list keeps you from blasting—and annoying—your audience.
  3. Alumni. Alumni offices want engaged grads, and segmented email marketing can help. You can segment alumni based on their fields of study to create a sense of community. As they receive news of accomplishments from their colleges or departments, they will feel an increased sense of pride in their alma mater. Additionally, try segmenting your alumni based on graduation year so that you can send targeted marketing for homecoming events and class-based alumni giving initiatives.
  4. Segmenting alumni by location also a helpful way to increase alumni engagement. To encourage participation in regional events or alumni clubs in various cities, segmented email lists will target specific alumni in those locations.
  5. Parents. Parents of current and former students are an often-overlooked audience for higher ed marketers. But they can be just as emotionally (and financially!) invested in your school as students are. Segment parents based on their child’s college or major to encourage interest in departmental news or interesting research. Include interviews with current students and alumni. And offer the opportunity to select additional communications about specific interests, such as athletics or cultural events on campus, to increase their connection to your school.
  6. Current Students. Although current students are often inundated with emails from their university, an occasional marketing message can increase awareness of special events or initiatives. For example, students segmented based on their fields of study can be contacted regarding relevant speakers or shows on campus. Or segment students by their class year or dorm to encourage participation in on-campus contests or competitions.

How do you segment your email lists in higher ed? We’d love to hear your success stories in the comments below!