Education Direct Mail for Schools, Colleges & Universities
Education has become one of the biggest businesses in the world, so much that some even consider it as big a business as healthcare. It is also a well-known fact that the competition for students in the twenty-first century is more fierce than ever before. This competition is not just limited to universities either. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a four-year college or a community college or a vocational school or even a corporate training program. The competition remains fierce everywhere.
It is evident we live in a changing educational landscape, and only the best can make it in today’s highly competitive world. Seeing as education has, in fact, turned into a big business, it only makes sense to monetize this situation. The student recruitment process starts early and often requires numerous communication channels to bring in more students through the admissions process. As with any other business, you need an effective marketing strategy to be successful and generate revenue.
Marketing communication, especially an effective one, makes use of more than just one or two channels. An effective marketing strategy would include using multiple channels to reach out to the target audience. When it comes to education, digital, TV, mail, and direct mails are the most effective marketing channels to reach out to the target audience and also offer a higher rate of conversions.
You are probably wondering how direct mail makes it on the list when we practically live in the digital world today. Well, the truth is that direct mail still remains one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience, and it is especially effective when it comes to the business of education. Still not convinced why you should use direct mail for promoting your educational institute? This article discusses the importance of direct mail for educational institutes and their role in promoting your institution.
Why Use Direct Mail as a Recruitment Tool
There are numerous reasons why you should use direct mail as one of your recruitment tools, such as it lets you target the students that meet your specific criteria meaning that you get to target them in a precise manner and thereby avoid wasting your time and resources. Digital efforts such as email campaigns often get ignored or drowned in the flood of emails the students receive. Unlike the digital efforts, direct mails get noticed and have a proven record of response generation.
Additionally, as the target audience is indeed looking for admission, it is more than likely to create a response as they will at least feel the need to check your institution out. Another aspect that works in favor of direct mails when it comes to the promotion of educational institutions is that they are tangible and have a higher shelf-life than other marketing channels. Furthermore, direct mails can set you apart from the competition who have opted for a strictly digital approach.
How Can You Use Direct Mails For Admissions
Admission officers make use of direct mail campaigns for more than just one purpose, and the campaign is optimized based on the result expected from the campaign. Direct mails can be effectively used to introduce the institute to your prospective students but, that is not all it can do. With the right strategy, you can use direct mails to generate inquiries from prospects for more information. However, to make such a conversion, you will also need to use quality and enticing content as well.
Apart from this, you use different tactics to lure the students, such as inviting them for a campus tour. Using an attractive little brochure of the institute can greatly help you to get the desired result. Some admission also uses direct mails to engage the students with a presentation of the institute. Similarly, direct mail can also be employed to respond to inquiries from other channels such as your website or even telephone lines.
Direct mails can play a pivotal role in building a brand name for your educational institution and in becoming the first name that comes to a student’s mind when they think about their education. Perhaps one of the most appreciated applications of direct mail is that it’s the perfect tool for reactivating lapsed candidates or students. Finally, many admission officers also make use of direct mails for effective communication between guidance counselors and student advisors.
Popular Mail Formats
Before you dive into a direct mail campaign, you need to be aware of the popular mail formats that are used by educational institutions, including schools, colleges, and universities. Below we list some of the most popular direct mail formats used by schools and colleges in the US and their dimensions as well.
Half Fold Mailer
The half-fold mailers are one of the most popular and also the simplest. It is a simple two-sided mailer that is folded in half printed in color. The dimensions of a typical half-fold mailer are 8.5”x11,” but this may vary depending on the unique needs and printing capabilities.
Newsletter brochures are often used by universities, and they are printed in full color. The full-color brochure typically comes at a size of 11”x17” when opened, and hence it can contain a lot of information. Furthermore, when closed or folded, the newsletters dimension comes down to 8.5″x 11″ which is ideal for direct mails.
Postcard mailers are best for short content, and it is especially useful for sending out seasonal greetings such as Christmas. The postcards allow you to add pictures, and this not only allows you to make it look aesthetic but also makes room for personalization. The typical dimension of a postcard is 8.5″ x 5.5″ for a two-sided postcard.
Full-Color Letter & Envelope Package
A full-color letter and envelope package is another commonly used mailer sent out by schools, colleges, and universities. The full-color letter is two-sided and typically comes at a size of 8.5″ x 14″. These offer some more privacy and have a professional touch as they come with an envelope..
Advanced Direct Mail Campaign Ideas for Schools & Colleges
Below we discuss some of the advanced strategies that you can use to effectively market your institution, gain more reach, and entice prospective students into joining your school or college.
1. Make Use of a Video Mailer
Direct mail campaigns are no longer limited to printed papers, and we have reached that point in time where we are sending out video mailers. Video mailers are without question a step into the future, and although not yet mainstream it is bound to gain traction in the near future. The University of Notre Dame has already successfully tried this strategy.
Although the target audience of the campaign was donors and not prospective students, the logic is sound for both groups. Here the university used a video mailer to present the donors with everything the university has to offer and their future potential, which can work just as well with their prospective students. It is only a matter of time video mailers go mainstream.
Using a video mailer allows you to give a comprehensive idea of what your institution has to offer and also highlight its facilities to entice the students and convince them to take the desired action. However, at this point in time, it is still an expensive marketing strategy, and we do not have enough data to assure the success of this strategy.
2. Coupling Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality or VR has always intrigued us, and coupling it with your direct mail for colleges and schools could be sure to have the same effect on your target audience. Asbury University has already successfully incorporated VR technology into its direct mail campaign. All you have to do is include a Paper VR-box in the mail that the receiver can self-assemble easily and include a link (or QR code) to the VR-supported content. Such a method is much cheaper than using video mailers and also just as intriguing to the receivers that they are bound to check it out at least once.
3. Using Webkey
A Webkey is a USB device, and it can be programmed to direct the prospective student to a school/college’s website landing page and even record necessary information after you plug it into a computer. A Webkey is very similar to a USB flash drive, but it is much cheaper and hence ideal for direct mail campaigns. The intrigue factor also helps you to boost the number of people responding to your direct mails, although probably not as much as aVR box or a video mailer. Furthermore, using a Webkey enhances the user’s convenience and provides easy access to your landing page/website.
4. Use of Exploding Pages
One of the effective methods for getting the desired result for a direct mail campaign is to use exploding pages. The exploding pages may look like a regular piece of mail, but as the name suggests, these pieces can explode or expand to reveal more information crammed up inside them. They are ideal for direct mail campaigns because they stand out from regular mails and fold up to flat mail but doubles down in size once it is opened. This makes them very cost-effective. Furthermore, the unique nature of its design seldom fails to capture the attention of prospective students and hence is ideal for direct mails for colleges and schools.
5. Combining Print and Digital Mediums
Combining the print and digital mediums for your direct mail campaign is one of the easiest yet effective ways to run your campaign. You can start by creating a minimalistic brochure with a QR code that takes the user to a landing page with a detailed description or video content that conveys everything you want to the prospective students. The advantage of using a combination of print and digital mediums is that you effectively get the best of both worlds.
You can be sure that the mailpiece reaches the target audience thanks to postal mail, and then you can also get the flexibility of digital efforts and use digital content like videos and presentations. Furthermore, it can also greatly reduce the use of materials used for sending the postal mails as all you really need to print is the QR code.
6. The Pop-Up Cube
The pop-up cubes are a fun way to reach out to your prospective students, and despite what age they are, they will still have fun watching that cube pop-up as they open your direct mail. The fact that people enjoy opening pop-up cubes is enough to convince anyone to use this as a means for their direct mail efforts. They are unique and stand out from the usual flat cards. The pop-up cubes, however, may look a tad bit unprofessional to some. Hence it is safer if you use it seasonally during the holidays, which also happens to be the perfect time to run campaigns for educational institutions.
7. The Pop-Up House
Pop-up cards have a way of making us feel better by bringing out our child-like wonder. Much like pop-up cubes mentioned above, pop-up houses are also a sure-shot way of grabbing the attention of the people who receive them. The University of Georgia is one of the institutions that has used pop-up house cards and found them to be very effective in grabbing the attention of the receiver. The pop-up house card is something fun, and hence it should be used that way so, it will probably not be a good idea to use them out of context simply because they are attention grabbers.
8. Extended Hidden Panels
Hidden panels are another way you can make your direct mail pieces more interesting. The basic principle behind the use of hidden panels is the same as pop-up cubes and pop-up houses, and that is to make them less bland. The hidden panel moving in opposite directions can be revealed by pulling one tab. This not only reveals more information but also makes it fun to access, thus creating a sense of excitation inside the receiver. Additionally, they also have the advantage of not being too fun that it may seem unprofessional, and this makes it a safe and effective alternative to pop-up type cards.
What do You Need For an Effective Direct Mail Campaign?
Direct mails have been around for decades now, and the core process has remained the same throughout the years. It is relatively easy to implement a direct mail campaign for your business but, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be successful or easy to implement. Most of the time, we get so busy with the mechanics of direct mail, such as printing, postal regulations, etc, that we often end up missing the small yet important details.
But, like most things involved in marketing, the devil is in the details for direct mails as well. For formulating an effective direct mail campaign, you need first completely to understand your objectives. Define what it is that you wish to accomplish through the direct mail campaign. Define your goals clearly, whether it is to generate more student inquiries or to have more prospects take a campus tour or application submission, or simply to build brand awareness for your institution.
Regardless of what your objective is for your direct mail campaign, there are certain aspects you need to take into consideration for its successful implementation. Perhaps the most important of the aspects that could affect the success of your campaign is the mailing list. The mailing list needs to be accurate, meaning not only do you have to make sure that the list contains the relevant audience but also verify the addresses are deliverable. You can use an advanced address verification tool like PostGrid to ensure maximum deliverability.
Do not make the mistake of underestimating the importance of making a valid offer to your target audience. Most of the time, what really drives the user to make the desired action is an attractive offer, and hence it is the number one way to improve your response rate. The next thing you need to consider is the format of your direct mail, and you have the freedom to choose from a variety of options ranging from postcards to letter packages. Keep in mind that a different format is ideal for different situations and also remember that this would be subjected to different costs as well.
It goes without saying that the creative aspect of your direct mail campaign is pivotal in conveying your idea or message to your target audience. Ensure that you make use of attractive creative concepts, graphic design, and well-finished art to make your direct mails more effective. Next in line is the production aspect of your direct mails. This includes printing, addressing, and personalizing the direct mail and also consists of the postage process of your direct mails. Finally, you also need to consider the response channels for the direct mails and it can include everything from reply mail, fax, landing page, and PURLs.
The Importance of Follow-Up Plan in Direct Mails
Direct mail for schools and colleges is an effective marketing channel to reach out to the target audience and even offers a higher rate of conversion. But, that does not guarantee that the target audience will receive and open your mail because there are plenty of reasons why they may not notice your direct mail or read its contents. Maybe the prospective student simply missed or misplaced the mail they received from you, or maybe they just did not get the time. The possibilities are practically limitless.
Regardless of what their reason is for not replying, the onus is on the admission officer or institutes to follow up on their direct mail campaigns. It is only a matter of deciding on what method is best for following up with your target audience. You can make use of a phone call or send another mail piece or maybe even mix it up and use their emails to reach them. The advantage of using an email as a follow-up makes perfect sense because they are cheap and can be easily automated, and it is perfect as a follow-up method in case the prospective students have missed their direct mail by some chance.
All educational institutions, including schools, colleges, and universities, make use of various methods to reach out to their prospective students. Direct mail still reminds one of the most popular marketing methods used by educational institutions. Despite the tremendous growth of the digital marketing platform, direct mail still holds a significant role for educational institutions and is one of the effective recruitment tools at our disposal.
Perhaps the most intriguing factor that greatly benefits direct mail and the reason for it surviving even in this digital age is that they are a sure-shot way of reaching the target audience as long as you have the right address. Therefore, it becomes increasingly important that you have a set of data or addresses that are accurate and deliverable for the success of your direct mail campaign. Furthermore, marketing now involves mixing both direct and digital marketing efforts for getting the best results.
At this point, it is crucial that you have an address database that has been standardized and verified as a real and deliverable address. Thankfully this is easily doable with the help of an advanced address verification tool like PostGrid. Tools like PostGrid have advanced capabilities, and they offer convenient features like bulk verification of addresses. Since services like PostGrid comes with CASS certification, they are completely reliable and help you streamline your marketing processes.