Email marketing best practices in higher education


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Email marketing best practices in higher education

  1. 1. Email Marketing Best Practicesin Higher EducationStephanie HatchSocial Media and Email Marketing SpecialistMIT Communication Production Services4 December 2012Twitter @hatchstephEmail Communication Production Services
  2. 2. Today’s takeawaysMake your email• Deliverable• Accessible• Clear• Actionable• Consistent• Appropriate for your audience Communication Production Services
  3. 3. Permissions• Opt-in. Individuals should subscribe to your list, not be involuntarily included.• Unsubscribe. It should be easy to unsubscribe - include a link or a button.• Do not mail to lists. Otherwise, unsubscribing is difficult/impossible. Communication Production Services
  4. 4. Grow your list• Include a subscribe link in your email signature. Your recipients may be interested in learning more on a regular basis.• Put a subscribe form or button on your website. Visitors to your website sought you out. They came to you. Therefore, this is a great audience for your offer of regular e-newsletters.• When you choose opt-in methods rather than involuntarily adding people to your list, your emails seem more like a service than a nuisance. Your recipients will be individuals who have proven interest. Communication Production Services
  5. 5. Formatting• Plain text (.txt) This type of email is most plain. It is completely stripped of all formatting and links are spelled out completely. A plain text email should always piggy back on an HTML email. If you choose to send a plain text email by itself, shorten your links with• Rich text (RTF) Do not compose your email in word and copy into your email.• Hyper text markup language (HTML) Unsubscribe/subscribe is usually built into most email marketing web- based programs like Constant Contact. Analytics are also available. Communication Production Services
  6. 6. Formatting: HTML• Write in-line CSS to optimize for browser-based clients. Gmail, Yahoo, and other browswer-based clients can strip out body and head tags. - No: <font: italic 10px Arial> - Yes: <font-style: italic; font-size: 10px; font-family: Arial>• For images, jpg and gif are best.• Don’t just use the preview mode (split mode in Dreamweaver or previewing in a browser). Send a test email to yourself. Communication Production Services
  7. 7. Do not rely on HTML alone• Provide a link to view via web above the header.• Send a text version with the HTML version through an email marketing program.• Good example: the plain text version of the HTML email sent by Yung Ho Chang. Communication Production Services
  8. 8. Do not rely on HTML: link to a browser view• To view this email as a web page, go here.• Having trouble viewing this email? Click here.• Reading this on a mobile device? Click here.• Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.• View this email in your browser. Communication Production Services
  9. 9. Test your design• Send a test email to yourself first.• Sign up for accounts on popular email clients and send to yourself to make sure it can be read on those types of accounts: Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Apple Mail, other email clients, and mobile devices. How does your email look on a mobile phone?• “If an email does not display correctly, 69.7% will delete it immediately.” - BlueHornet, “Consumer Views of Email Marketing” (2012) Communication Production Services
  10. 10. “From” nameIn many ways more important than the subject line; the decision to open anemail can be based on who it is from.• Keep it consistent. Do not change “From” names repeatedly on the same publication. Pick one and stick with it. Many people sort their inboxes or filter based on name.• Specify a “From” name. Otherwise, the email appears to come from the email address, e.g., “” and looks like spam. Communication Production Services
  11. 11. “From” name• Do not send department e-news from an individual name unless the body of the email is actually a letter from that person. If you develop trust with the recipient (or with their Gmail priority inbox, for example), you have to start over when a new staff member comes on board. Exception: department emails from someone who is very recognizable by their audience, whom the audience associates with the department. Include title (“John Smith, Dean”) where applicable. Communication Production Services
  12. 12. Subject line• If your email is not opened, you have 0% chance of the recipient reading the content.• “Secrets” is the most clicked lead-nurturing subject line word (source: Hubspot).• 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based on the subject line alone (source: Jay Baer, Convince & Convert News).• 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line (source: Jay Baer, Convince & Convert News). Communication Production Services
  13. 13. Subject line• Avoid generic subject lines: e.g., “newsletter”. Be unique and specific.• Always choose clarity over creativity. The subject should make clear what to expect from the body of the email. - No: “A Humming Summer of Innovation” - Yes: “Internship Opportunities this Summer”• Keep it short (35-50 characters), where the first 10 characters make sense (if viewed on a mobile device).• Don’t use several multisyllabic words. If your subject line looks like a dissertation title, rewrite. Communication Production Services
  14. 14. Size:bad example• Keep the width of your email to 500-650 pixels. Communication Production Services
  15. 15. Size:good example Communication Production Services
  16. 16. MobileProvide a mobileversion as yourweb version.Instead of “clickhere to view onweb,” say “clickhere to view onmobile.” It provesvaluable toreassure therecipient that thebrowser version ismobile-friendly. Communication Production Services
  17. 17. MobileMake it easy for bigfingers to selectchoices or links.Large areas are seenas background vianormal email, but onmobile devices theyare seen as buttons. Communication Production Services
  18. 18. Mobile Communication Production Services
  19. 19. Mobile Communication Production Services
  20. 20. Mobile Communication Production Services
  21. 21. Alt text good example:School of Architecture + Planning• Alt text is not just for screen readers. It is also helpful for users with image display turned off. Communication Production Services
  22. 22. Alt text good example: JetBlue Communication Production Services
  23. 23. Alt text• Header image: Include a description, but also consider adding the subject line or name of the department to the alt text.• Posters and ads: completely describe it. Instead of “eventposter.jpg” consider including text from the poster in the alt text.• Charts and graphs: include more information about the chart in the alt text. This might be a very short sentence about the data seen. Communication Production Services
  24. 24. Clarity• Does your email make sense to an outsider?• Will the recipient know what this email contains by reading the subject line?• What is the call to action in your email? Communication Production Services
  25. 25. Clarity: headings• Do not organize your email within a hierarchy that might not make sense to your audience. - Bad example: headers from a monthly e-newsletter “Growth and Development” (events, articles) “Community Building” (service opportunities, events) “Employee Benefits” (links, articles, events) - Good example: sections in an email Events, service opportunities, job postings, recent articles, tips Communication Production Services
  26. 26. Prose: be wise• Certain types of content are less effective in prose format. Events, awards, publications, tasks/requirements, action items.• Instead of paragraphs, try lists. For example, events by date.• Divide longer emails into sections. Use headers.• If it gets long, take out explanations and descriptions. If you have a lot to say, link to a landing page. Communication Production Services
  27. 27. From prose to segments: bad exampleA"end  the  Leadership  Summit  on  April  27Are  you  interested  in  learning  about  and  discussing  how  leadership  and  excellence  go  hand-­‐in-­‐hand?  Join  us  for  the  Ins;tute  Leadership  Summit  on  Friday,  April  27,  co-­‐sponsored  by  the  CommiDee  on  Good  Management  and  the  Council  on  Staff  Leadership  and  HR.The  Summit  -­‐  a  collabora;on  among  faculty  and  staff  -­‐  will  be  an  opportunity  to  hear  perspec;ves  from  various  members  of  the  community.  We  hope  you  can  come  to  one  or  many  of  the  sessions  and  par;cipate  in  the  dialogue.  Interested  in  volunteering?  Summit  planners  are  looking  for  members  of  the  community  to  help  out  on  the  day  of  the  event  in  a  variety  of  capaci;es.  Please  contact  Mary  Smith,  123-­‐456-­‐7890,  if  you  have  any  ques;ons  about  the  Summit  or  would  like  to  volunteer.Hodges  Memorial  BreakfastAll  employees  are  invited  and  encouraged  to  aDend  the  12th  Hodges  celebratory  breakfast  on  Thursday,  Feb.  9  at  7:30  am  in  the  Smith  Building.  The  breakfast  will  be  hosted  by  John  Smith.  Please  also  join  us  for  the  faculty  luncheon  on  April  14.  It  will  be  held  in  10-­‐250  for  all  parents  and  prospec;ve  students  and  will  start  at  12:30.   Communication Production Services
  28. 28. From prose to segments: good exampleEventsFor  a  complete  list  of  events  and  informa;on,  click  here.February  9Hodges  Memorial  Breakfast7:00–9:00  p.m.,  10-­‐250April  14Faculty  Luncheon12:30-­‐2  p.m.,  10-­‐250All  prospec;ve  students  and  their  parents  are  invited.April  27Ins;tute  Leadership  Summit9:00  a.m.–2:00  p.m.,  4-­‐110  Co-­‐sponsored  by  the  CommiDee  on  Good  Management  and  the  Council  on  Staff  Leadership.  Contact  Mary  Smith  to  volunteer.   Communication Production Services
  29. 29. From prose to segments: another bad exampleWe are very excited to announce the open house for the MIT Generic Programon January 12-17. The program will present a roundtable discussion on thefuture of learning at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium from 3-4pm on Thursday,January 12. The discussion will focus on how to be successful at MITregarding different aspects of the learning: attention, studying, and test-taking.Joining Professor Generic in the discussion will be John Doe, a senior inGeneric House, who will moderate a panel of three seniors on their secrets tosuccess at MIT: Joey Doe (mechanical engineering), Mary Dough (physics),and Miles Dow (architecture). To RSVP, go to honor of the new director of the learning program, the evening of January 16will include a live performance of “Punt, Tool, Whoa” in the Silverman Room ofthe Media Lab (6th floor). We hope you can join us for what promises to be afun event. A reception will follow the performance. Communication Production Services
  30. 30. From prose to segments: another good exampleOpen House for the MIT Generic Program, January 12-17Generic House, MIT Campus, open to the public.January 12Roundtable Discussion: The Future of LearningHow to be successful: attention, studying, and test-taking3–4 p.m., Kresge Auditorium. To RSVP, click hereJanuary 16Live Performance: “Punt, Tool, Whoa”A reception will follow the performance8 p.m., Silverman Skyline Room, Media Lab Communication Production Services
  31. 31. Prose: a good example Alumni later expressed that they missed Yung Ho’s messages because they were insightful, personal, and fun. Also, notice that actionable information is separate from the prose and in list format. Communication Production Services
  32. 32. Make it actionable• Include at least one action item (e.g., link) above the fold.• Don’t let the prose detract from the call to action.• Provide all information needed for your recipient to follow through with the action you want them to take. Communication Production Services
  33. 33. Make itactionable• It should be easy for the recipient to act. Reduce the number of steps for your audience. Example: Rebecca’s Café. The desired action is ordering food, so the the “ordering” part is made very easy and clear. Communication Production Services
  34. 34. Contact information• Include administrative contact information in the footer (email, mailing address, phone number, office hours, etc.).• If your service is location-based (most people need to come to your office), possibly move contact information above the fold and improve clarity by including the name of the location or “visit us” as well as the hours of operation.• Place social media links/buttons near the top.• Hyperlink all contact information within the body of the email: - OK: Email Stephanie Hatch for more information ( - Better: Email Stephanie Hatch for more information ( (hyperlink = Communication Production Services
  35. 35. Consistency• Font. No more than two fonts or sizes.• Frequency. Every 15th, every Tuesday, every first Friday, at 8 a.m., two weeks before any event, etc. - find your method of frequency.• Look and feel. Color, layout, tone, placement.• One-time emails should be consistent with your brand. Your email is part of your communications materials. It should match your website and print materials. Communication Production Services
  36. 36. Know what your audience is looking for• Organize the content of your email around your audience needs. Why is your email useful to them? What information are they looking for?• Example: MITAC. They know people are looking for what new items were added to the list, so they list recent additions separately. Communication Production Services
  37. 37. Reaching out to undergraduates• Undergraduates are very pragmatic. They want what is relevant and useful.• They do not like badly-formatted emails.• They do not appreciate getting too many emails. This means do not abuse your power to send email communications to undergraduate students. Try putting more information into fewer emails and then word it more succinctly. You can get a lot of useful information into a smaller word count than you think. Communication Production Services
  38. 38. What undergraduates are saying• “I would say that in general, I get *way* too many emails every day. The fewer, the better.”• “I probably get 35-50 emails a day from my department. I dont read any of them (unless the subject is super enticing).”• “I think my #1 pet peeve with administrator emails is getting them on weekends.” Communication Production Services
  39. 39. Reaching out to undergraduates• “I appreciate the emails that are directly relevant to me (like having to do with graduation requirements, etc).”• “Important / fun course emails are mixed in with the job emails. These should be separate lists. I only read the job emails when I am looking for a job.”• “I wish the infrequent communication from the top administrators weren’t so wordy.” Communication Production Services
  40. 40. Emails undergraduates read• Succinct all-campus emails from top administrators• Campus news digests• Job list emails when they are interested in job opportunities (although students are frustrated with the formatting and frequency)• Department or program emails that are relevant to their needs or interests (they skim subject lines to know what to read) Communication Production Services
  41. 41. Analytics• Track. Observe open rates and click rates. Use an email marketing program, which can show you these numbers. If you send out your own emails, shorten your links with or a similar service so you can tell how many people actually clicked on each link in your email.• Test. Send your emails on different days or times. Experimentation (with controls) will give you some insight into your audience behaviors.• Tease. Don’t put all information in the email. Shorten to one line, prompting the recipient to click on a link for more information. This will help you track what sections of your email are most interesting to your audience. Communication Production Services
  42. 42. A/B testing• Experimentation. If you’re not sure which subject line will bring you the most opens, send the email with subject line A to half your audience and the same email with subject line B to the other half. Track what happens.• Beyond subject line: for testing click-throughs (and for those who have already been sending to their lists for a while), determine who has already been opening your emails. Divide that group in half and test your email with layouts A and B. Which generates more conversions? Communication Production Services
  43. 43. Contact• Twitter: @hatchsteph• Email:•• Instagram: MITpics• Linkedin:• Read MIT Connect Blog: Communication Production Services