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This post is written by Mirko Widenhorn, Senior Account Manager at iModules.

Investing time into outlining and understanding your email marketing strategy is critical to the success of any campaign. When done correctly, an effective email marketing plan will not only engage your constituent base, but also deliver a cost-effective way to increase donations, collect updated directory information, or drive event registrations.

Whether you’re emailing alumni, donors, prospective students, or current students, here are seven steps to creating a successful email marketing plan:

  1. Set qualitative goals. Determine what it is you’re trying to achieve through your email marketing campaigns. Do you need to capture data and increase updates to constituent profiles? Are you looking to build upon your institution’s latest capital campaign? Or are you looking to drive registration to local alumni events? Work with your team to identify the most important goals, as this will impact all aspects of the campaign. /li>
  2. Assess current communications. Evaluate the format and tone of your emails. Do they support your goals and is the message relevant to the audience receiving them? I like to do this by printing out a series of emails and looking at them spread out on a table. This will also help you to see whether you are using consistent branding in the communications. Be sure to check that  the emails  display beautifully on desktop and on mobile. With mobile claiming the majority of email opens according to the US Consumer Device Preference Report, it’s more important than ever to make sure your communications are in line with the constantly changing digital trends.
  3. Understand the current situation. Study your email metrics to understand your program’s effectiveness.  How are your open and click-to-open rates performing? Are you seeing any trends with unsubscribes? How frequently are you emailing your audience? Focus on the data as this can help you better understand what works well and where there are opportunities for improvement. /li>
  4. Identify and segment your audiences. Take a closer look at your current email segmentation and think about ways to segment further for more personal and relevant messages. Personalization continues to drive email engagement. Communicating to your institution’s alumni is a unique challenge because your messages span multiple generations. When thinking about communication segments, also keep in mind that different segments may respond better to a different “voice” in your communications.
  5. Review your email schedule. How do you know if you’re communicating toomuch or not enough with your constituents? Look at open rates and unsubscribes relating to frequency, day of week, and even the time of day you send your email campaigns.
  6. Set quantitative goals. Moving forward, set measurable email goals based on the results of your findings. At the minimum,  include the open rate, click-to-open rate and number of unsubscribes.
  7. Evaluate and adjust. Examine measurable results, optimize those strategies for the future and keep improving your email marketing communications. Don’t be afraid of dropping a segment that is not responding effectively; instead, use this as an opportunity to look for a new segment to focus on. In an ever-changing digital landscape, we must constantly adapt and evolve. Be open to testing new strategies.

Email marketing continues to deliver results. But we, as marketers, need to pay attention to the details to keep our approach fresh to maintain relevancy with our constituents.

For more helpful tips on email marketing for higher education, check out the iModules Resource Library.

Mirko joined the iModules team in July of 2013, bringing over 11 years of higher education experience. Most recently, he was the Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at Wilkes University. At iModules, he provides consulting services related to engagement scoring, strategic planning as well as in-depth analyses of client websites and programming. Mirko is a Drew University graduate and recently completed his Ed.D. in higher education administration at Wilkes University, focusing on whether giving differs based on participation in different types of alumni programming.


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