email nurturing

{Video} A Step-by-Step Guide to Developing an Email Nurturing Strategy for Your College or University

Let’s talk email nurturing for your college or university. Because there’s still time to pull in new leads prior to the spring semester, email nurturingSeptember presents a perfect time to take a long, scrutinizing look at your current email marketing campaign. To start, ask yourself: Could my campaign be more lead focused?

In a previous post, we discussed the differences between email marketing and email nurturing. While email marketing gives off more of a “one-size-fits-all” vibe, email nurturing provides your prospects with a more personalized, focused message. That is why it’s absolutely crucial to convert your email marketing strategy into an email nurturing one.

Now comes the challenge: How do you make the shift from bland email marketing to dynamic email nurturing?

First and foremost, you need to address the three main factors holding you back:


If your university or college’s toolset consists of an EMS that does not offer personalization options or the ability to set up an email series, you need to start researching more options.


It’s easy to get caught up in the feelings of accomplishment when sending out your monthly email broadcast. However, if you’re not segmenting your email lists and submitting customized messages, your efforts may be in vain.

Lack of a Plan

Very little need for an explanation here. A plan is necessary for determining what comes next during the lead capture process.

There you have it. You know the challenge. You’ve identified your downfalls. Now where do you go from here?

Find the best solutions for your college or university in the video above. As a special bonus, we’ve included a screencast video showing you how to build a an email nurturing plan, specific to your college or university that will drive results. Have any questions/thoughts/comments about email nurturing or the videos in general? We want to hear it! Give us your feedback in the comments section below.

Let’s dive into creating your email nurturing plan for your college or university. What I want you to do is either get a piece of paper, do this on a whiteboard, or anywhere you can draw this out. Mind mapping is hands down, in my opinion, the best way for you to visualize and plan an overall strategy you can later turn into all the various tasks that are going to need to take place in order to execute that strategy.

What we’re going to do first is just draw your bubble in the center and put your college or university’s name there. We’re going to draw bubbles off of this main theme as we develop our strategy.

First, I want you to write out your priorities. This is really where you need to start. If your focus is new students, is that undergrad or graduate programs? Or do you need to service both of those audiences, because your email needs to reflect that. They’re going to have different messaging for those two.

Think about fundraising. Is that a priority and how does it tie into alumni communication? Those are certainly linked together. Once you’ve written out your top level priorities, I want you to draw a bubble for your audience groups. Then, quite simply, start drawing off of your audience groups and define each of those different groups you need to communicate with. Keep your priorities in mind over here.

If you’ve got new students, obviously you want to email the prospective students and their parents as well, if that’s part of your funnel or part of your campaign. Don’t be afraid to get a little bit more granular, too. On perspective students, we want to draw out those who may have shown interest. They’ve filled out a form or they’ve come to an info session. Messaging to those prospective students would be a little bit different than maybe a target list that you pulled from CollegeFish or some other place you’re pulling lists from.

Same thing goes with your alumni. You need to segment. Think about your alumni groups. Those who’ve donated, those who haven’t, those who are involved, those who are not. How can you segment those alumni so you can communicate with them in an extremely specific one-to-one fashion that lets them know you know something about them and gives them very clear options for what you want them to do.

Same thing will go with your donors. I’d like to break it into two groups: recent donors and those people you haven’t heard from in over a year. No contact. You’re trying to get them reengaged in order to get them to donate again.

We’ve defined our priorities and we’ve drawn out the different audience groups we’re going to need to communicate with as part of this email strategy. The next piece is really straightforward. Just start drawing out your messages. What kind of messages do you want to communicate to these different audience groups as you’re factoring in these different priorities over here? What are the types of messages that you’re going to send? “We won an award,” or “we’ve got upcoming events.” Or if you have a donor engagement series.

Some of that content you’re sending out is just going to be positioning and branding, trying to tell people about the school, what you do that’s great, and all those other messages you need to get out to them. Draw out all the different messages that need to go to these different audience groups based on your priorities.
Again don’t be afraid to get more granular. You’re going to have different kinds of events. You may have webinars or Q&A sessions. You have registration dates and deadlines. You have info sessions. You have application deadlines. You have all these different kinds of events, so get specific on that. Different messages for a webinar or for registration would go to different audience groups based on different priorities.

Next up is your calendar. Draw a bubble for your calendar, and then we are going to expand off of that for everything that happens throughout your calendar year. You may want to take it a quarter at a time. This makes the time period a little bit more of a manageable. Start drawing out all the different events that come up on your calendar. You’ve got conferences. You’ve got holidays. You’ve got info sessions. There’s definitely going to be some overlap here with your messaging, but start drawing this out. Ultimately, you’re going to have to turn this into an editorial calendar, so it helps to have an idea of how all these different calendar events are going to be time-lined or time sensitive, so you can start developing tasks around those.

We’ve got registration, the application deadlines. Maybe you’ve got new facilities that are opened. Maybe you’ve got a capital campaign that’s coming up. Each of these calendar items may turn into a whole series of emails. But the point is we want to draw all of this out, draw out your priorities, draw out your audience groups, and figure out what the various messages are that you want to get out. Get some idea of what kind of calendar you have, what timing needs to go with all these different email campaigns. Then, ultimately, we want to turn those into a series and automate.

If you may have an info session coming up, that’s a single email that’s going to go out. It’s a single message that may go to a couple of audience groups, or maybe it’s just one, or maybe the info session is a different message based on if it’s someone who’s shown interest, and then if it’s just a prospect on one of your lists. You have to create systems you can automate. As you’re creating emails for these different calendar events or some of the different messages, think about how you can go repurposing those and turning those into a series.
First and foremost, maybe you could tie a series of these emails to a lead generation piece. Maybe there’s one just for prospective students you’re trying to get in. You could put together some kind of eBook or use some way to get their lead information in. Then we want to schedule a series of emails that would go to those prospects whenever they take that course of action.

Start connecting the dots over to different emails they would send. If you have a perspective student that downloads an eBook about your college or university, then you want to schedule a series of emails they will receive, maybe about info sessions, registration, or application deadlines. Maybe you want to tie in a positioning or branding concept. Maybe you want to send that perspective student list something about awards your school has won.
The whole goal here is to think about how you can send out some of these emails once, but then repurpose them by turning them into a series so you can build some of these automated nurturing campaigns for prospects or for donor engagement. Then over the next 12 months, they receive a series of four emails showing them a new facility is opening and how their contribution made this a reality. Or maybe it’s about an upcoming capital campaign. You’re going to know about that a long time in the future, so you can plan and set up this email nurturing series so that you’re really engaging your donors.

Another idea would be creating a third series for someone who attended an info session, but never applied. I’ve actually written one out here. It’s kind of small but this may be what that series would look like. The opt-in for this series would be requesting they fill out an info session registration form on the site or maybe you get their email address when they come in person and you fill that form out for them. Two weeks after the info session, they receive a follow-up email asking for feedback. Offer to answer any questions. Make it very, very personalized. Maybe four weeks after, they get a student profile. Ideally, if you could use a video to tell a good story, that would be ideal. Maybe six weeks after they filled out the opt-in form, they get a generic message sending them to a page on your site with info session dates and a call-to-action to register.

You can go on and on. Set up another email for 12 weeks, 18 weeks. I mean, continue to market to them after they take that one action. Use all these different messages and the emails you’re going to send out to create a series that can run in the background and promote your college or university in an automated way, nurturing a perspective student, a donor, and each of these different audiences to do what you need them to do. That is the point of developing an email nurturing strategy.

I hope this has been helpful. Good luck!