How to Create Effective Email Workflows for Future Students

April 23, 2019 Stacy Jagodowski

We’ve all been in the situation where a prospective family reaches out years before their child is ready to apply. They’re eager, excited about your school, and they want to start thinking about the application process now. By creating a series of emails—an email workflow—you can nurture them as potential customers, improve their connection to the school, and increase the likelihood that these valued families will eventually enroll—even if it’s years down the road.  

1. Start small by planning a series of eNewsletters.

Since these are users who have already connected with your school, you know they are interested, so you don’t need to hard sell them. Keeping them updated throughout the year is ideal; plan a year’s worth (or more) of communication that simply shares information you’re already publishing for the school’s current constituents. Include

  • Two to three news articles about school events;
  • Two to three photos about campus happenings;
  • Invitations to community events such as athletic games, plays, recitals, and guest speakers.

Pro tip: Send emails at the same time each month to build regularity.

2. Provide value by giving advice.

While it’s great to keep promoting your school in an eNewsletter, email nurtures are also an opportunity to provide real value to users by sharing advice on the admissions process. Bonus: This strategy can also help reduce the number of questions fielded from applicant families.

Consider alternating the email sends between the newsletter and advice emails. For example, if you send the eNewsletter on the first Friday of every month, the admissions tips email could go out on the third Tuesday. The tips email doesn’t have to be an elaborately designed piece like the newsletter, but rather a quick, “I thought you’d be interested in this article . . .” note from the admission rep working with the family.

For the tips campaign, share articles related to the various aspects of the admissions process such as advice for answering interview questions, what to wear to an interview, insight on why it’s helpful to attend open houses, study tips for the SSAT or ISEE, and the process for financial aid applications. If your school already has an inbound-marketing blog, you can pull the articles from there.

The key is deciding how often to send the nurture emails. For families who are a year out, one email a month alternating between the school eNewsletter for prospects and admissions advice may suffice. For families who are two years out, you might use the same emails but send them every other month to extend your outreach timeline from one to two years.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a blog to pull from, look at your admissions FAQs for content ideas.

3. Personalize emails with automated and triggered workflows.

Once you’ve mastered the advice and the school-centric sell, it’s time for automated workflows. Using programs like MailChimp®, Constant Contact®, or Hubspot®, you can build automated email workflows that can improve nurturing and make the outreach more personalized.

Automated emails begin once a user is added to your email database (either by upload or by completing a form on your site), so it’s important to plan everything at once and create all of the emails in their entirety from the start. You’ll also want to use evergreen content (content that has a long lifespan) so your outreach isn’t quickly outdated. The workflow can be simple with one set of emails that sends on set dates or timeframes, or it can be more complex with triggered actions based on when a user enters the workflow and their level of activity.

For example, users who receive the first general email might be asked to answer a question such as, Are you most interested in athletics or arts? Users that choose athletics get added to an athletics-specific workflow that sends during the months that the general workflow doesn’t. Users that didn’t answer the question or didn’t open the email would continue through the general workflow.

Pro tip: Watch engagement rates. Some families will devour your school’s content and want more while others would prefer fewer emails. As they progress through the process, users who are accessing content might earn their way into the admissions tips workflow for more. Users who aren’t engaging might receive an email asking if they are still interested. If they answer “yes,” keep them in the general workflow until it ends and then add them to admissions tips.

For more advice on marketing your school, check out the free eBook, How to Create a Winning School Marketing Plan.

About the Author

Stacy Jagodowski

Inspired by her own private school experiences, Stacy Jagodowski has devoted her career as a faculty member and administrator to introducing others to the private school world. Her career has focused on institutional advancement, with five years of admission experience, and more than a decade in marketing and communications. Stacy has led strategic marketing and communications teams at Cheshire Academy and Milken Community Schools; at Cheshire, her team earned award-winning recognition for their annual fund marketing programs and overall team development. She blogs for several private school organizations and has given several webinars and podcasts about private school marketing best practices. Stacy has also presented at national conferences including the NAIS Annual Conference, TABS Annual Conference, NAIS TABS Global Symposium, and Blackbaud K-12’s User Conference.

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