January 9, 2017
Three Things You Can Do to Send Better Emails to Your Alumni
The connection you have with your alumni should not end once they walk across the stage at graduation and receive their hard-earned degrees. Your alumni are one of your institution’s most important attributes and are vital to whether or not your college or university can continue to thrive, can continue to increase its enrollment, and can continue to provide the education it does to current and future students.
Your alumni are not only your donors. They are the ones prospective students look to when they decide whether your institution can provide them with the education they need to be successful. If you want your most outstanding students to maintain this connection with your institution, it is important that you sustain your own connection with them. One way to do this is through your communications.
As the digital age progresses, colleges and universities are moving past traditional mailing campaigns and towards more “social” means of communication like Twitter and Facebook. However, the email is still a method of connection that should not be lost. In fact, it is a method that, when done correctly, alumni wish to see more of. The 2014 Millennial Impact Report found that 73% of alumni wished their alma mater would send them more emails. But, as the American Council on Education explains, they want the message within those emails to be clear and direct.
There are several things you can do when it comes to maintaining engagement with your alumni through emails. The higher education marketing consultants at KDG have outlined three of them. Discover the ways you can start sending better, more engaging emails that will build stronger bonds with alumni.
Show Some Pride
The most important thing you can include in your emails to alumni is what are sometimes called “pride points.” Make alumni proud that they can call your school their alma mater.
Perhaps the most common ways schools do this is by sending out emails filled with alumni success stories. Maybe one alum went on to discover a new plant or animal species. Perhaps another alum has written a New York Times bestseller. While these are successes a college should be proud of, they don’t necessarily add to the pride of the entire body of alumni.
Instead, focus on broad successes of the school as a whole, an achievement that all alumni can share in together. It should be something that encourages alumni to tell people “This is the college I went to” or “This is my university.”
Has a giant brand partnered with your school to support a research endeavor? Has a major publication, like Forbes, listed your school as one of the best in terms of financial aid or scholarship opportunities? Has your campus been chosen as the host for an upcoming national conference or gathering? These are all major pride points that alumni would be excited to read about and share. They are things that reflect positively upon the entire campus community, not just a single student or two.
For example, the colleges and universities used during the more recent presidential debates have something to brag about in their emails to alumni. They can tell alumni that they were the center of international attention, even if it was only for one night. Some schools form partnerships with major hospitals in an effort to train nursing and medical students, while other schools may partner with government agencies for increased access to volunteering and internship programs. Stevens Institute of Technology, for example, has a research partnership with the U.S. State Department.
Find a story to share, one to be proud of. But make sure that it is one all alumni can be proud of, not just a few. Additionally, when alumni are proud of their school, they are more likely to make monetary donations towards it in an effort to maintain the school’s national and newsworthy prestige.
Too many colleges and universities are using one email to communicate with thousands of alumni. For the sake of time and money, this is understandable. However, a college would improve alumni engagement if it sent out emails that actually interested those alumni. Not all alumni are the same. They studied different majors in college. Some may have played sports, while others may have worked in the library. They’ve gone on to follow different career paths and have moved to different parts of the country. Your alumni are a diverse group of people, shouldn’t your email campaigns reflect this?
As colleges and universities have come to realize this, they are turning towards segmented email campaigns. These emails are customized and more personal. They are based off where an alumni lives, what year they graduated, and what major they had.
Alumni will be more willing to open an email that pertains to them and their personal interests. For example, a former science major may be more interested in reading an email about the recognition the science department received. Maybe its students have an internship program with NASA or the EPA. A former football player, on the other hand, may care more about the success of the team. Perhaps the team and its coaches were recognized by a major sports channel or publication.
But how do you figure out the interests of your many, sometimes thousands, of alumni? There are databases in which you can record your contacts. However, these databases are very limited in regards the data they actually store and use. There are other marketing automation tools which may be able to tell you more, but they can cost your institution tens of thousands of dollars, a price that is not easy to pay for a nonprofit institution, especially one that is struggling to engage alumni and is seeking ways in which more alumni donations can be obtained.
However, ReachBright from KDG is an affordable tool that has been proven to engage more alumni thanks to its tagging automation logic and its ability to track web and email activity. The higher education marketing tool is the first and only such application available to colleges and universities. It can help your school segment your vast lists of alumni into more manageable, more categorized groups.
ReachBright is able to track which pages on your website alumni visit. If they spend most of their time on your institution’s soccer webpage or library webpage, they will be assigned specific tags that you can create. ReachBright will send them communications that closely match those unique interests. This ability to use complex data gathered from web activity in order to send automated email chains is not something that any other inbound marketing for higher education tool can do.
Once you know what your alumni are interested in, you can use this to garner more monetary support. Show them that you have their interests in mind by centering giving campaigns and fundraising events around these popular concerns.
Merge the power of social media into your emails. Social media is a rapidly expanding the way that colleges and universities are engaging their alumni. However, when partnered with email campaigns that utilize one or both of the steps above, you have a near unbeatable alumni marketing and engagement campaign.
When you send an email to your alumni about something of pride within your campus community, find a way to work that into your social media campaign. Tweet about the achievement or post about it on Facebook. If possible, link back to your email content somewhere on your site in the form of a blog post or press release. Direct your social media followers, who may not be contacts, to your email list. In addition, make sure your email has links back to your social media so that subscribers can follow you on your different profiles.
Social media has personalized communication now more than ever. Use your social media profiles as a place where alumni can come and have a conversation. Give them a place where they can all rejoice in the latest achievement your institution has accomplished or talk about their unique interests. Forge a community that will be excited about the next email you send.
Plan and develop a social media campaign that follows your email blasts. Make sure that the stream of content is steady and cohesive and that your alumni can access it from various channels. Social media will attract an entirely different group of alumni than strictly emails will. By merging your email campaign with your social media content, you are also finding a way to merge what are perhaps two very different generations of alumni.
The connection you have with your alumni is important to the continued growth of your school and campus community. Make sure that you are doing all you can to maintain this connection through engaging communications. Send emails that make your alumni proud, that appeal them, and that give them a way to easily share their pride and interests with their fellow alums.
Filed Under: Alumni Development