Email is an effective way to communicate with today’s educators. Not surprisingly, 51 percent of Curriculum Directors told Agile that they like learning about edtech through emails. However, email as a preferred method of communication extends beyond those more tech-savvy educators. In Agile and SheerId’s 2016 Teacher Spending and Loyalty Survey, 66 percent of teachers said they trust email for learning about products, programs and services available for their students and classrooms.
Education vendors have caught on to the power of email for marketing to educators, and that means that teachers and administrators start their school days with inboxes that are fuller than ever. Make sure your messages get delivered and stand out from your competitors by overcoming five hurdles every email marketing campaign faces after you hit send.
Hurdle #1: Getting into Educators’ Inboxes
If you’re going to send an email, it must comply with CAN-SPAM. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 established the nation’s first standards for sending commercial emails. Violating these standards has consequences; you can be blacklisted by your email service provider and even receive hefty fines from the Federal Trade Commission. Avoid these penalties by making sure your messages are CAN-SPAM compliant. Before sending, ask yourself:
- Does my “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information accurately identify the sender?
- Does my subject line reflect the content of my message, or is it misleading?
- Does my message include a physical postal address such as a street, post office box or private mailbox?
- Can educators easily identify my message as an ad?
- Does my email give educators the option to opt-out of receiving future messages from me or my business?
- If so, can I honor their requests within 10 business days?
Here’s the rub: CAN-SPAM-compliance is just the first step. After that, you need to make sure your message can make it through districts’ strict SPAM filters. These filters assign scores to emails that determine whether or not your messages will be delivered. Making it past a SPAM filter requires a low SPAM score and a positive sender reputation (which any reputable email service provider will monitor for you). Here are some things you can do to get your SPAM score as low as it can possibly go:
- Avoid using excessive punctuation or all capital letters.
- Avoid too large or too small font sizes.
- Never send an email that’s one large image; there should always be text.
- Make sure your HTML is clean and polished.
Hurdle #2: Getting Your Emails Opened
Think of your subject line like a handshake and an introduction. It’s the first impression an educator will get of your email and your brand, and a poorly constructed subject line can send your message directly to the trash folder — and quick. On the other hand, a thoughtfully written subject line can get your message opened.
A good subject line starts by connecting it to the “From” line. In the “From” line, state who (person) and/or what (business) your message is from. If you can avoid sending your message from a generic info@ address, then do it. Educators typically respond better to messages from real people. The “From” line explains who is sending the message, and the subject line explains why you’re sending it in the first place. Try out these tips for writing effective subject lines:
- Use specific and relevant keywords. Avoid SPAM triggers such as FREE (in all caps) or the percent symbol.
- Be honest and straightforward. Think: Clear is the new clever. Try to keep your subject line to no more than 50 characters, including spaces. If your analytics indicate that educators open your messages on mobile, consider going even shorter.
- Clearly state the benefit of opening the email, whether it references a specific pain point the educator is facing or offers a great deal.
- Ask a question that piques interest, or use odd numbers. Example: 5 Ways to reduce classroom Internet distractions.
- A/B test subject line options to determine which wording your audience responds to best. An A/B test will send out the most popular option to your list, and it also can inform how you structure your subject lines moving forward.
Hurdle #3: Making Sure Your Messages Get Read
Educators will spend a matter of seconds with your email before deciding to take the next step or move on. Strategically structure your email to play to their short attention spans, giving recipients just enough information to engage and entice them to learn more.
Above the Fold
This is the first content educators see when they open your email — about the top one-third of the message. Make sure educators can tell at a glance what your offer is, why they should care and how they need to respond. That’s a lot of information to put in a small space, so use it wisely. Minimize your use of logos, large images and other graphic elements that take up space without communicating important information.
Reward educators willing to spend more time with your messages with short, one- to two-sentence paragraphs with supporting information and bullet points to make content skimmable. The use of bolding, capitalization, color, spacing, and headlines can create content hierarchy that also can help with readability. It doesn’t hurt to reiterate your CTA in this section, either.
Fill the bottom of your email with information you want to share but that doesn’t align with your general goal. This could be information educators find valuable such as social links, a link to your website and an option for forwarding. It also needs to contain the information you’re required to share under CAN-SPAM, including a mailing address and opt-out option.
Hurdle #4: Encouraging Educators to Click on Your Offer
Your call to action may only be a simple sentence or button, but it’s the most important element of your email. After all, it’s the reason you’re sending the message in the first place. Make your CTAs compelling, focusing on one specific action you want educators to take and the value they’ll receive if they do. Be specific, and avoid generic “Click here” kinds of language. Not only is this uninteresting and gives readers no incentive to click, it’s also salesy and can trigger SPAM filters. Repeat this CTA at least three times in your message, once above the fold and twice in the main body copy. If one of your CTAs is a button, create it as HTML rather than an image so it won’t disappear if images are blocked.
Hurdle #5: Inspiring Action and Conversion
Conversion is when you achieve the goal you set out with. This doesn’t always have to be a sale. It could be to request a demo, download a white paper or watch a video. To drive higher conversions, make sure you focus on one action you want educators to take. Including too many links or asking them to do too many things can take the focus off of your main goal. And once educators click, the landing page they’re directed to should be a natural continuation of the email. It should be similar in style, and it should provide even more details about your offer and clearly explain the next steps necessary to convert.
This post is adapted from our popular guide, Email Marketing Best Practices. Download the guide or watch our webinar for an even more in-depth look at the challenges of executing a successful email marketing campaign and strategies for overcoming them.