email marketing for universities

5 Steps to a Perfect Applicant Funnel for Your College

email marketing for universitiesEmail marketing for universities through inbound marketing is an excellent option for capturing targeted, potential applicants into your email list. To capture students seeking information about colleges and universities, you will need to create and optimize your applicant funnel.

A successful applicant funnel will efficiently and effectively convert targeted leads into applicants. Ultimately, maximizing your applicant funnel’s potential will take some experimenting. Where should you start? Check these five tips for a perfect applicant funnel.

1. Align Your Marketing Efforts

In order to attract potential students to your applicant funnel, you’ll need to focus on generating awareness through SEO, social media, blogging, SEM and public relations. Each of these tactics must work together effectively and efficiently to maximize the potential for capturing applicants into your funnel.

When you begin an inbound campaign, only promoting it through one of these channels will not generate the attention needed to capture targeted applicants. Make sure your blogging and SEO campaigns are working alongside PR and social media efforts. Ultimately all of these tactics should focus applicants’ in one direction: to your email list.

email marketing for universities

Cover your bases: Don’t focus on one online marketing tactic to generate awareness.

2. Structure Your Funnel

Now that you have your promotional tactics in order, you’ll need to optimize your applicant funnel to ensure captured leads are easily channeled into your email list. First, define each step of your applicant funnel. Where does it start and where does it end? Ideally, each step of the funnel should clearly lead to the next.

3. Use Premium Content as an Incentive

Let’s face it. In today’s spam-filled world, most people are reluctant to hand over their email address to just anyone. That’s why it’s important to offer an incentive to give your subscribers a small token of appreciation for joining your list. Colleges and universities have several options for premium content

  • Ebooks – Ebooks are one of the most-effective ways for capturing potential applicants. Colleges and Universities can offer guides on selecting a degree program or provide helpful tips to incoming freshman.
  • Podcasts – In 2012, 1 in 5 US adults listened to a podcast at least once a month. Use this growing medium to offer audio guides for students researching colleges and universities.
  • Study Guides – For graduate programs, offer study materials for the GMAT, GRE or other graduate-entrance exams.


Offering premium content can benefit your marketing campaign in more ways than one. By offering blogs, ebooks, or podcasts, you’re capturing targeted potential applications while positioning your college or university as an authority in your particular niche.

4. Automate

Think about your recruitment funnel as machine. Once it is built, an effective funnel will run on its own with regular care and maintenance. Fortunately, once you build the framework for your funnel, you’ll only have to make minor adjustments.

For your email campaign, make sure you have auto responders set up through your email marketing platform. Some services (like Constant Contact) restrict users to one auto responder which will restrict your ability to segment your lists.

5. Measure the Results

Lord Kelvin once said, “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” Although an efficient funnel should be automated, it’s important to track your signups and experiment with different landing pages, calls to action and premium.

Start by setting up tracking for your funnel under Goals in Google Analytics. This will allow you to analyze the efficiency of each step of your funnel to see which areas need improvement. If you’re using PPC ads on Google, Facebook or LinkedIn, make sure the traffic coming from paid advertising is worth the investment. Finally, evaluate which media are bringing the most traffic to your funnel. If you’re getting a large number of visits from Google and not many from social, you may want to ramp up efforts on social.