How to Write Effective Emails to Schools and Universities: Podcast Episode #7
Email is an effective marketing platform, especially when you're trying to reach educators at schools and universities. It does work and they are checking their email constantly and really you need to just be really thoughtful about what you're sending so that you can get their attention when they're scanning through their inbox. It's also a cost-effective way of getting in front of people. Once you have your email platform, you could send emails through there and it's a lot less expensive than doing something like running ads or sponsoring our conference. I will say it's not something that you shouldn't rely on solely, it should be a part of your overall marketing mix, but it is something that you should learn to get good at because it could make a big difference for your education company.
I'm going to give you some tips based on some of the experiences that I've had in writing effective emails that are targeting people who are working at K-12 schools and universities. The first tip, and this goes for any type of marketing, is to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you are reaching out to. This goes back to doing the work to create buyer personas and really trying to put yourself into the role that someone is going through in their job. So whether it's a teacher, a professor or business manager, or the administrator, like a principal or Superintendent, they all have different things that are going on during their day. And the first thing for you to think about when you're writing the emails are what are they doing, what are their priorities and how do I fit in? That goes into how you are messaging and what you're writing, but also your cadence. So if the school is on break or they're on summer vacation or they just had a PD day, those might not be the best times to be reaching out to them. So you want to be thinking about that and then also thinking about what your follow-up is. They do have a lot going on and you want to try to space out your messages and maybe follow up with them every two to three weeks instead of every week or every other day. You don't want to get to the point where you're annoying them and bogging down their inbox. So just overall tip number one, think about what they're going through and how you could help and fit into them.
The next tip is thinking about what is one key insight around each of these personas. Each of these people that you're reaching out to that will help you your message to stand out. So for example, this is really high level. But if you were targeting K-12 schools, in general, those schools are not always open to being the first person to adapt something new. They have a lot of stakeholders and sometimes it's easier for them to make a decision on buying something if they know that other schools have seen success with them. So if your product has been used by other schools, then you want to be highlighting that in your emails, sharing case studies or testimonials, or even names of other schools that you've worked with. And that is something that is an insight that could appeal to K-12 that's really broad. Once you get into more specifics, you might find an even better insight to highlight within that email. On the flip side, universities, it's a really competitive market out there and they want to know that they are using something that's going to help them stand out and set them apart because they're trying to get students to enroll with them and not another university. So you want to come up with messages around the insight that universities want something that's going to help them stand out. So what can you do to highlight in your message that this is something innovative and new that can really help them?
The third tip works best if you're going after multiple people within one school or within a university because it's more specific or if you're writing emails to help your sales team. And this is around doing the extra work of researching the institution that you're reaching out to. There's a lot of public information out there around what schools are working on, what they're looking for and the more work that you could do to understand what's going on in their world, the more personalized your message can be, which will help you stand out because not a lot of people do that. For example, for K-12, it will depend on what you're selling and what kind of information you need to look up, but there's things like what's the school mission, looking at the letter from the principal to get an idea for what's going on at that school. If you're targeting teachers, some of them have class websites that are linked from the school website. If you are targeting something that's more high-level and more of a long-term solution, look up the district's strategic plan. So there's a lot of information out there that you could find on the K-12 side. And again, it's going to vary depending on what you're selling, what data you need to look at.
Similarly for universities, if you're reaching out to professors or administration on the university level, they're always sharing information out on their website. Look at their news channel, look at their department pages, faculty bios, about the university, their strategic plan, look at their social media. All of that information and that added research, and it doesn't need to take that long, that's what's going to make you be more effective in tying in what you have to sell to what is going on with them. Now that you know who you're trying to target, what's going on in their role, what's an insight that you could pull and highlight, what's some information about what's going on with their institution, you have an idea for what the message is that you want to send to them.
And now the next step is around constructing that email into email best practices, so I'll highlight some of those. One is when you're writing the email, the subject line is usually an afterthought for a lot of people or it's one of the last things that you're writing, but it's actually the most important. That's the thing that's going to get their attention first. That's what they're looking at in their inbox. So the subject line and the first line of your email, that's where you really need to get their attention.
And in the first sentence of your email, you want to try to hook them in with the insight that you had highlighted or some information that you found about their institution or their class. And you want to include any keywords that you think will get their attention. Then, when it comes to the subject line, there's been research that has shown that the subject line should be six to seven words to be most effective. So try to get it down to just a few, just between six and seven words, and trying to get their initial attention in their inbox.
The other thing to do is look at the format of your email. This is in an area where you're not writing an English essay where you need to have like three sentences per paragraph and all that. It's more around visually the format. Like how does the email look and how does it flow together? After you write your email, first of all, you want to make it brief and to the point because people are on the move. They don't have time to read through a long email. A lot of them are on their phone. So try to keep it to three different sections. And within that, you want to format it so that there's maybe one sentence, a space, two or three sentences, a space, another sentence, and a call to action. You want to be looking at the spacing between what you're writing more so than you would in any other form of communication. And this is because people are just scanning through.
The last tip that I'll share is around how you're going to get your message across. You know generally what you're going to say, what's going on with them, how to format the email. And now it's how you're going to get the message across. One format that I like to think about is a copywriting format called AIDA. That stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. So you're basically going through your email trying to tell that storyline.
You want to start off with your subject line and the beginning of your email with something that's going to get their attention. Then you want to come up with something that's going to get their interest. So maybe this is where you could share something you found that's personalized to the research that you found around that person or that school that you're reaching out to. Then desire: bringing them in with a little bit of information around how you could help, how your product could help them. Or maybe this is where you're talking about how there are other schools that have used the same thing and have been successful. And then action. And for the action, you want to leave some kind of very clear call to action that you want them to take. So something like "reply back to learn more" or "let's schedule time to talk." Something that's really straightforward and one thing that you want them to do so that they don't get overwhelmed and confused about what the next thing is, make it really easy for them.
So that's what I have to share about effective emails. It does take time to think about your emails in this way, but in the long run, it will help. And once you have a framework set up, you can tweak them as you go on so that you could use them for multiple outreach campaigns.