by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
When you log into your email account how do you decide what messages to open?
Unless it’s from your boss, most of us use the subject line as the deciding factor. It’s a quick and easy way to decide whether to read the email now or later (which means it probably gets deleted without ever being opened).
That same type of decision-making occurs every time one of your prospective students goes to his or her email inbox and finds messages waiting from you and your competition. Which ones do they read? Which ones do they scroll past?
Just like you, it often comes down to the subject line. The more creativity and thought you put into your email subject lines, the greater chance you have of getting your message opened and read by your recruits.
It’s something we factor into the messaging that we create for our clients as part of the Admissions Recruiting Advantage. Why? Our job is not only to improve the click-through rate but also generate a response from recruits for our clients. Great subject lines are a big key to doing both of those things.
For those of you that are wondering if today’s recruit still uses email, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” One of the questions we ask in the focus group research survey we conduct as part of an on-campus workshop is, “What was your preferred method for admissions counselors to contact you?” Email is the leading vote getter every single time.
Before I give you some ideas that we’ve seen work, there are two key questions that you need to ask yourself if you’re serious about improving this part of your recruiting campaign:
- Is your content useful to the prospective student that is reading it?
- Has your communication up to this point built anticipation of what’s coming next?
For your messaging to be effective, what you talk about has to matter to that specific recruit. For example, sending out information on student housing isn’t going to be helpful if your prospect lives in town and is strongly considering commuting from home due to finances.
Regarding anticipation, your recruit will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message. Simply put, one message should set up the next message and so on. This is something that we see a lot of counselors struggle with.
Okay…If you’re ready to improve this aspect of your recruiting in an effort to get more prospective students to open more of your emails, here are some subject line ideas that will produce results.
- Make it clear exactly what the email is about. Subject lines should clearly convey something important or timely to your recruits. In a nutshell, you want to communicate that if they don’t open and read this email, they’ll miss out on something of real value.
- Don’t make it so formal. If you’re sending out information on your student housing, don’t make the subject line “ABC College student housing information.” That’s what most of your competitors will do. You need to STAND OUT. Get creative and write something like, “Here’s where you can live next year!” See the difference?
- Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases are attention getters. In this case, because most subject lines are long and rather mundane, you need to use a few well-chosen words. Effective keywords include “New,” “You,” and “Deadline.”
- Create curiosity by asking a question. To increase the chances that your email is opened it needs to offer intrigue. Using student housing as an example again, you could say, “Is your room at home as nice as our new on-campus suites?” Keep in mind, however, that the body of your email must deliver what you promised in the subject line, or your future email messages will lose credibility.
- Cut off half the sentence. It might prompt them to wonder what the other half says. For example, “My admissions director wanted to know if…”
- Be different every single time. Do not become a repeat user no matter how effective a particular subject line was previously. We’ve found that there’s a noticeable drop in open rates when you do. Take a few minutes to be creative. Don’t be boring.
There’s one final fact that I want you to keep in mind about the way today’s recruits process email from colleges and universities: At the end of your message, they want to know what’s next.
If you’re a client of ours or a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how important it is to have a clear call-to-action. We recommend you narrow it down to just one thing. Make it simple versus complicated and time-intensive.
Remember, early in the recruitment cycle your goal is a conversation, not a conversion. Aim to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.
Getting this next class (and future classes) of recruits to open and read your emails doesn’t have to be a constant challenge. It all starts with an effective subject line.
Now is the time to schedule Jeremy Tiers to come and speak at your college this fall. Our On-Campus Workshop has trained numerous counselors and admissions professionals on more effective ways to recruit this generation of prospects (as well as their parents). Get the details by emailing Jeremy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “We want to hear more about you coming to campus!” He will respond with all the details.