An automated or trigger email is a message sent following a specific online action, the most common being a thank you or confirmation email.

But how can you use automated emails to increase student recruitment?

For most universities the time between first enquiry and enrolment takes several months (or even years!) During that time there are many instances when the right message at the right time to the right prospective student can significantly improve their experience and increase their chances of enrolling.

Typical trigger emails:

  • Webpage visit – an example of a trigger campaign based on a webpage visit could be emailing an invitation to an event after a person has visited your events page. Make sure you target the invitation to local events based on the visitor’s country (or inferred country using reverse IP lookup) to ensure relevance.
  • Time spent on site or number of pages visited – if a user visits a large number of pages or spends several minutes on your website, then it’s likely that they’re either very interested in your university or struggling to find the information they need. Sending a trigger email to these visitors with links to FAQs and a contact number they can call, will not only improve their experience but also positively influence their perception of your university.
  • Repeat visits or clicks – similar to time spent on site, repeat visits or clicks can be a positive sign of engagement. Emailing these contacts with your phone number and links to your application form and social media can be an effective way to increase engagement and their likelihood to enrol.
  • Inactivity – if a person has enquired through your website but not visited again or clicked links in any of your emails for several months, then continuing to email them can damage your sender reputation and increase the chances of your future emails being filtered as SPAM. This email reactivation blog post offers some useful insights that can also apply to the student market.  
  • Thank you/confirmation – thank you and confirmation emails are the most common type of automated email and have the highest open rate compared to most emails. Use these messages to provide essential information and encourage recipients to engage with your university via social media channels to build long term relationships.

Requirements for successful trigger email campaigns:

Successful automated emails based on user behaviour require a few things to make them work:

  • Marketing automation software such as Silverpop, Marketo, HubSpot or similar.
  • Tracking code on your website for your marketing automation software.
  • Data (email addresses, names etc) of the people visiting your website, typically acquired from them having previously registered or completed a form on your website.
  • Logic to protect against errors such as emailing the same contact too frequently.


For more information download the free guide Student Recruitment: Automated Success - Using Marketing Automation to Engage and Convert Students.

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