In a Q1 2017 survey of administrators and teachers conducted by Agile Education Marketing, 51 percent of administrators said they value webinars for learning about education products and services. How do you promote your webinars? Email. Also, 69 percent of teachers said they trust word of mouth. What’s easily sharable? Email. Sixty-four percent of administrators and 65 percent of teachers, respectively, said they find conferences valuable for learning about education products and services. What’s key to promoting these events? Email.
A majority of educators also agreed that email is a good way for companies to provide important information and create awareness about new products and services that are available for their districts, schools and classrooms.
Why Use an ESP?Before you start sending “batch-and-blast” emails to educators from your personal email address, ask yourself a few questions:
- How many emails are you sending?
- Where did the email addresses come from?
- Is the message CAN-SPAM compliant?
- How are you going to know if the emails were received and opened, and if recipients clicked on the offer inside?
An Email Service Provider (ESP) is an important partner for any education vendor participating in email marketing campaigns. Not only are reputable ESPs an efficient way to deploy consistent emails to a large list of educators without penalty, they’ll make sure those emails abide by email laws, get delivered and offer the data you need to drive greater outcomes with each and every campaign.
How to Choose an ESPThere are several important factors to consider when seeking out an ESP that will serve your specific education marketing needs:
1. Review the features and functionality. At a minimum, the ESP should offer these basic features:
- Pre-designed email templates that allow you to easily drag and drop text and images when you need quick turnaround, and the option to create your own custom HTML designs for more eye-catching emails.
- Responsive programming that adapts your emails to computer, tablet and phone screens. Agile Q1 2017 survey data showed that an overwhelming majority of educators still prefer to read email on desktops or laptops; however, more educators open messages on their phones than tablet devices.
- In-depth email metrics that provide insight into educators’ email preferences. Your ESP should provide data on opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and more that you can access via at-a-glance dashboards and in-depth reports.
- Helpful support staff that can chat online or over the phone to resolve issues in a timely manner and keep your email campaigns on schedule.
3. Check for preloaded data. If data is preloaded into your email system you won’t have to deal with the time-consuming hassle of importing and exporting your contacts. Plus, if you’re moving an existing list into a new ESP, some may require you to have everyone on that list opt-in to your messages all over again. If this happens, you could risk losing valuable contacts that you’ve spent months monitoring and guiding through your sales funnel.
4. Ask about integrations. ESPs that are compatible with your CRM can help you create tighter marketing and sales connections and break down the silos between these two departments. When your ESP and CRM are connected, the same contacts that are available to your marketing team also are available to your sales representatives. This can result in a more seamless transition when it’s time to pass marketing-qualified leads along to sales.
5. Search for an ESP with marketing automation capabilities. This can be cost-effective for companies that aren’t ready to invest in marketing automation software, but can benefit from the efficiencies automation creates when developing and deploying email campaigns. These features might include:
- Email workflow and scheduling
- Autoresponders and simple trigger messages
- Simple personalization and segmentation
- Basic forms
6. Verify its reputation. Your ESP should work diligently to maintain its reputation with Internet Service Providers (ISP) to ensure your messages make it to your target audience. ESPs should conduct deliverability and SPAM checks for every message sent and help you comply with CAN-SPAM rules. When vetting ESPs, ask for the average deliverability rate — this should hover around 98 percent — as well as inbox placement statistics. After all, a high deliverability rate is impressive, but not if those messages are getting delivered straight to the Trash bin.
7. Carefully consider the contract. ESP plans vary provider-to-provider. Some offer annual contracts with one convenient payment; others offer month-to-month contracts that allow you to test the system to see how it works for you. Other ESPs offer both options. Many ESPs have email message, contact and user limits. Only a certain number of team members might have access to the system, and you’ll be capped at sending a specific number of emails per period to a limited number of educator addresses.
Bigger isn’t always better. You may not need unlimited, enterprise-level services if you’re a smaller company or just getting your email campaigns off the ground. The most important thing to consider is how the ESP will grow with your growing business. Look for an ESP that allows you to easily upgrade your plan as your needs scale up.