How to Increase Email Open Rates for Your College

May 01, 2015

Want to know how your institution’s recruitment emails stack up against others in your field? According to Silverpop’s latest email marketing metrics benchmark study, the mean unique open rate in the education space clocks in at around 25 percent. If you’re not satisfied with the number of opens you’re seeing in comparison to that average—or if you just want to do better—there are a lot of tried-and-true tactics you can implement to improve those results. Here are a few.

1. Come up with more effective subject lines. In retail, subject lines that are intriguing, mysterious, or even misleading (like “Secret sale inside” and “Oops, we’re sorry!”) can actually perform very well. But in higher education, straightforward is typically the way to go. Tell your recipients what’s inside the email, and keep it short; 50 characters or less. Best practice lists often recommend personalization, and at CCA, we also find strength in numbers: “Five reasons why…” One last tip: avoid capitalization. IT’S SPAMMY AND FEELS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING!

2. Choose the right senders. Are you more likely to open an email from a brand name or from a person? If you’re like most people, you chose the latter. Emails with a real person in the “from” field often yield higher open rates than those that come from a company name. They’re more personable and more appealing to the recipient. So if you can, send emails from a dean, a student, an Admissions counselor, faculty member—anyone who makes sense for the content within the email.

3. Time it right. This may require some testing, but knowing what days of the week and times to initiate a send can have a big impact on opens. If you’re trying to reach high-powered alumni, Monday mornings probably aren’t the best time to add another email to their busy inboxes. If you’re trying to reach high school students, later in the day or at night may be best—when they’re tinkering with their phones.

4. Make your emails responsive. According to Litmus, 68 percent of Gmail and Yahoo opens come from mobile devices—and we can’t imagine a world where that number won’t just keep increasing. To make sure your on-the-go recipients can clearly read your content, talk to your design team about how to best produce an email that adapts to different tablets. How will this increase open rates? If a recipient can expect a positive user experience, based on your previous emails, they may be more likely to open what you send them next.

5. Clean up your lists. Regularly go through the mailing list you’re working with to check for inactives and misspellings. By removing those errant email addresses and subscribers who never once open what you send them, you’ll boost your open rate and reach only qualified leads. (Most email clients have the functionality to help you do this, but it’s a good idea to manually manage lists every so often, too.)

One other way to increase email open rates for your institution? Partner up with a marketing agency that specializes in higher education. We’d love to chat with you about your efforts.


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