How to Improve Alumni Email Open Rates and Engagement

How to Improve Alumni Email Open Rates and Engagement




June 19, 2020

Last modified: 

January 19, 2022

The journey from being a student to an alumni is a memorable one. Alumni leave their definitive footprints that fuel the growth of their institution or university. And all the alumni who spend a considerable amount of time and money at their institutions would definitely want to feel valued by it.

Let’s be honest? Universities and schools attain an impressive social ranking with the help of alumni to attract students from all around the world. Therefore, it becomes essential for institutions to honor their contribution.

And, it all boils down to one thing: communication.

Choosing a mode of communication is a critical standpoint. And sending out genuinely crafted emails can definitely make you the winner. Email marketing is one of the best ways to engage all your alumni. But blasting them with bulk emails is not the road you want to take, for you will just end up annoying them altogether. Moreover, all your emails might just end up in the spam box.

To give you an insight, a well crafted personalized email makes alumni feel valued than sending the same email with a general template to your entire alumni base.

Samueli Academy's Email Success with Almabase

So, the question is, how can ensure top-notch alumni email open rates and boost your overall email engagement metrics? Here’s your answer:

Segment! Segment! Segment!

You might want to segment your alumni base according to the different target persons. Meaning, segregate your alumni base into different groups and send out the emails accordingly.

For instance, would you put a 1990 grad who listens to Guns N' Roses and a 2016 grad who listens to Billie Eilish in the same category?

Probably not!

Why is it important to segment your alumni population to serve their needs more effectively?

Segmenting your alumni base helps in curating personalized messages according to the target group. It doesn’t matter if you have a small email base, what matters is segmenting it into different groups. It might take some effort in the beginning to sort out the contacts and create separate email lists but the end result will be worth it. And this one-time effort can help you achieve more engagement and open rates.

There are ample email marketing tools that can make this segmentation process a breeze. While many choose to go in for a popular tool like Mailchimp (learn about their new pricing) you can consider other alternatives that provide many refined features at affordable prices.

After picking up the best-in-class email marketing tool, you may make your target lists according to the year, course, subjects, seniority, career/job field, time zone, or more. And when you successfully segment your alumni email base, you can work on your key messaging and tone of the content according to the interest level of the target groups.

Pro Tip - Keep updating your alumni email lists at regular intervals

Now let’s hop on to the format of your emails.

Stop Sending All Your Emails in a Newsletter Format

I know. It’s super easy to pick a standard newsletter template, change the content, throw in some pictures, and voila! Email is ready to send.

Please don’t do this. There are high chances for your email to remain unopened or even landing up in the spam box.

With a definitive hike in the number of email marketing software, almost all your alumni must be aware of the “standard newsletter template” you are using on a daily basis. Even if you spend a good amount of time writing the content of your email, it might get ignored due to the format you used.

A decent email marketing tool comes with a variety of options and pre-made templates to suit your needs. But don’t go for just any tool, rather, do your research, take free trials, consider your budget, and then carefully take a decision.

Speaking from experience, don’t believe the first thing that shows up in your search results. Choosing a newsletter tool that is tailor made for niches like school and universities will go a long way.

Change the format and see the wonders!

Gann Academy's email engagement success with Almabase

Pro tip - Keep a clean design with minimal graphics and a uniform font style to make your email look mature.

Understand the Meaning of Personalized Emails

Crafting personalized emails is an art. And marketers are trying their best to master it. So personalized emails entail three touch-points:

1. Including the name of the recipient as well as the sender

It is recognized as an engaging practice to include the name of the recipient in the subject line. It has a positive effect on the open rate of the email as “Personalized subject lines can increase open rates by 50%” (Source).

While people are accepting this practice, including the sender's name also makes your email more personalized. For instance, include the name, designation, and a picture of the sender to make the email look more authentic. Consider it like an author’s bio.

2. Key messaging and content

You have included the name of the recipient in the subject line and sprinkled it here and there. Now what? How could you make it more personalized?

While sending out weekly updates or monthly newsletter is necessary, you may also consider sending birthday wishes, specialized holiday messages, virtual postcards, calendar invitations for alumni events, etc. to add more value and personalization to your email campaigns.

3. Timing of your email

This is a key strategy to follow if you want a significant boost in your email open rate. Your alumni might be all over the world. Then why do you send emails to your entire alumni base at one particular time? Before you say anything, I have come backed by a fact.

To determine top open and click-through rates, research was carried out by sending 21 million messages from US email accounts. The results? If you send messages between 6 am and 12 pm, it would lead to inbox clutter, thereby decreasing the open rates. Following the same, if you want the best results, try sending out in the early afternoon. (Source)

Email Marketing
Read how Charlotte Christian School used targeted email campaigns to drive young alumni to attend a pizza party

Pro Tip- Keep a tab on the analytics and messaging style of all your email marketing campaigns and compare them to find the roadblocks.

You have chosen an email marketing tool, segmented your alumni base into target groups, optimized your subject line, content, and timing. Now it’s time to work upon your CTA.

The Art of ‘Call to Action’

The first insight to master this art is to decide the purpose of the email campaign. If you have that purpose clear, you will easily nail the ‘call to action’ phase. Including a lot of options, buttons, and unnecessary links might lead to a lower engagement rate.

Use this mantra: “One purpose, one action”.

For instance, if your purpose is to get maximum contacts for your alumni base or creating an exclusive alumni community, don’t include multiple CTAs like joining in for an event or a donation drive. Keep it for a separate email campaign.

Moreover, don’t keep a complex CTA format. You don’t want your alumni base to jump from one form to another. Rather, keep it a one-step process.‍ This practice would surely pull up your dipping engagement metric.

Pro Tip - You may include a special “What’s ahead” section with one-line information as to what your next email shall entail improving your engagement metric. (P.s.- This needs a lot of planning)

Final Thoughts

The goal was to paint a clear picture of what maintaining relationships with alumni through email communication entails. And if you follow these touch-points religiously, then you can definitely see a boost in your open rates and engagement metrics.

About the author

Shivani Srivastava

This blog is written by Shivani Srivastava. A content marketer by heart, Shivani is passionate about writing anything in the field of the technological landscape. She's written this guest blog for SendX: Email Marketing Software.

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