Email Enrollment Marketing (Part 1)

Email Enrollment Marketing (Part 1)

There are plenty of conventional ideas about how email enrollment marketing best works. At Capture Higher Ed, we are interested in going against the established wisdom. In fact, we don’t mind breaking the rules.

In our research, we came across The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing by DJ Waldow and Jason Falls (the subtitle of which is Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win). Sure, it concerns itself with breaking the rules of email marketing, but the authors’ main advice and encouragement in breaking rules is simply to run tests and see what works. Here are some interesting and/or pertinent ideas that exemplify what we are doing here at Capture—especially in regards to emails and Capture’s Engage.

Toasters, Popovers, and Light Boxes

Consider REI, the outdoors store. REI’s products are something I am personally interested in, so I clearly fall into their demographic. As a company, one of the most important things they can do is to get my email address—this will be their main mode of correspondence with me, a potential and actual customer. How they get my email is varied. One method is through their website.

Their website header offers a link to “Register.” Clicking on that hyperlink yields a page to create an online account with a minimal amount of required information: name, email address, ZIP code. Interestingly, within a matter of a second or two, a popover, which is an additional form that hovers over the page’s content and which cannot be blocked by most browsers, appears.

The popover offers a chance to win a gift card, with that “$100” number clearly visible. What REI wants you to do—give feedback—is highlighted in a bright green, whereas the “No thanks” option is not.

Popovers (or light boxes, which are similar to popovers but which make the underlying content opaque, thus making the box dominant on the screen) are similar to what our CBE does with the“toaster popups.” The Call To Action (CTA) of these toasters—many of which do quite well in clicks, actually—can be as varied as we want: apply for admission, learn about financial aid, register for a visit day, and so on. What’s more, like REI, we can measure those clicks.

The “Welcome” Email

Waldow and Falls point out that, once someone does sign up for email marketing in the form of newsletters and so on, only four out of 10 companies send welcome emails, which is an example of a “transactional emails” (where someone has to be a member by performing an action to receive the email), and this is important because: “The welcome email tends to have a much higher open rate compared to other emails in a campaign.”

Recently I went to REI in Cincinnati and became a “member.” As part of the card I filled out (the in-store method), I gave them my email address. Within two days, I received an email that said, “Welcome to our big, happy (and slightly muddy) family.” An in-joke any hiker can appreciate.

This is a classic welcome email. Why? First, the subject line—“We’re Happy to Have You as a Member”—is straightforward and clear in its purpose. The “from line” likewise makes it clear the email is from REI Membership. Just to the right of the “from line” is the link to unsubscribe; in fact, Waldow and Falls point out that the recipient should be offered numerous opportunities to unsubscribe, which actually establishes more trust (“they’re not making it difficult for me to unsubscribe”) which, in turn, keeps customers from clicking on that link!

Another thing is that this email is not just a welcome—it also has a call to action button, “Explore the Member Benefits.” A good welcome email needs a call to action. We have created welcome emails for some of our sophomore and junior campaigns. In many cases, we congratulate the student on reaching sophomore or junior year. Then we meet them where they’re at: “Interested in college? Let me tell you more…”


The text that comes just prior to the image and the initial line of copy—in the case of marketing emails, the CTA—is the header, which includes the particular routing information of the message, including the sender, recipient, date and subject line.  The header “can set the stage for the rest of the email as well as drive some clicks and conversions,” say the authors of The Rebel’s Guide.

We decided to use a header on one of our client’s emails. The clicks from the header can, of course, be tracked, and the conversions, for Capture, can mean more applicants. In all, as the authors remind us, it is the from name, the subject line, and the header that recipients see first.

This header can also be thought of as a navigation header; in fact, the second line of an REI header allows for navigation among the company’s specific products: camping equipment, snow gear, and so on. It’s important to note that REI’s header (and the authors also use Home Depot as an example of this) makes its navigation hyperlinks consistent with those on its website.

And anyway, the purpose is, in fact, to get the customers to the website, just as it’s our purpose to get students to a school’s website.

Next week, in Part 2 of Breaking the Rules in Email Marketing, we will look at some more ideas from Jason Falls and DJ Waldrow’s The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing—specifically about button tests and subject lines.

By Sean Hill, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed