Email Personalization: A Key Driver of Alumni Engagement


February 25, 2024

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

If your goal is to increase alumni participation, there is one thing that consistently delivers results: email marketing. Higher education alumni groups often send on average two emails a week, and smaller organizations send even fewer. Many organizations typically send out messages that are generic and impersonal.

Not seeing results from your email campaign? It might be because you’ve been sending one-size-fits-all emails. This is where email personalization or the process of tailoring email content to individual recipients comes in. 

Below we’ll be showing you why email personalization is crucial for alumni engagement and why it might just be the makeover that your outreach needs.  

The Numbers Behind Email Personalization 

Before we dive into why personalized emails are crucial for engaging alumni, let’s look at the statistics backing this growing strategy. 

A survey by Campaign Monitor found that 72% of people engage more with personalized messages. No wonder 66% of marketers are working on personalized marketing plans.

Email marketers saw a massive 760% increase in revenue by using personalization, making up 58% of all revenue – pretty impressive!

Here's another statistic: Personalized emails are 50% more likely to be opened and have a fantastic click-through rate of 41%. And when it comes to calls to action, personalized ones have a whopping 202% better conversion rate than standard CTAs.

Despite all these fantastic results, a 2020 study from VAESE study reports that only 30% of alumni emails are personalized. That means many organizations still send one-size-fits-all emails, resulting in lackluster engagement rates. Just imagine all those missed opportunities. 

If you're in the 70% not using personalized emails yet, let these stats and this article encourage you to start tailoring your emails today!

Alumni Engagement Strategy in Personalized Emails

Personalized emails are the cornerstone of effective alumni engagement strategies. By leveraging personalization, you ensure your emails stand out and your organization stays relevant in your alumni’s fast-paced lives.

Below are plenty more reasons why email personalization is the key to staying ahead in alumni engagement:

Stand Out in Alumni’s Inboxes

In a sea of newsletters inundating your readers' inboxes, personalization is the lifeboat that keeps your emails afloat. By tailoring content to their interests and preferences, you cut through the noise and ensure your message resonates. 

Forge Stronger Connections with Alumni

It's all about making your readers feel seen and valued. Incorporating personal touches like addressing them by name or localizing email updates to their region fosters a deeper sense of connection. 

Contextualizing content to align with their interests and experiences strengthens this bond, showing that your organization understands and cares about them on an individual level.

Crafting Copy that Engages your Alumni

Personalization extends beyond just addressing recipients by name; it's about speaking their language. Tailoring your messaging to align with their interests and concerns ensures your emails resonate and capture their attention. 

Engaging copy that speaks directly to your alumni’s needs and aspirations is the key to keeping them invested in your content.

Bring Value to Your Alumni Audience

Nobody likes feeling like just another target for solicitation emails. When emails lack genuine value or relevance, unsubscribe rates soar. 

By steering clear of overly promotional or self-centered content, you maintain your readers' interest and trust. Personalization ensures that each email provides meaningful value, giving them many reasons to keep you in their inbox. 

Drive Desired Actions

Ultimately, the goal of personalized emails is to prompt action. Whether it's RSVP-ing to an event, signing up for a webinar, or making a donation—every email should inspire your alumni to take that next step. 

As you deliver relevant, valuable, and compelling content, you keep them coming back for more and even increase the likelihood of them taking the desired action you've set out for them.

How to Start Personalizing Your Emails

Having discussed the many benefits of email personalization, let's now go into the practical steps to effectively implement this strategy. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to start personalizing your emails. 

Step 1: Extract Basic Information From Your Alumni Directory

Leverage the wealth of information in your alumni database, starting with the basics: name, age, and location. These three parameters are the building blocks for creating emails with a significant impact on engagement. 

You don’t want to get anyone’s name wrong, so ensure accurate extraction and input of this data into your email marketing platform. 

Step 2: Master the Art of Click-Worthy Subject Lines

Beyond the basics of including alumni names in subject lines, the key is crafting subject lines that captivate and entice clicks. A compelling subject line is your ticket to higher open rates. 

To achieve this, immerse yourself in your audience's perspective. Dive into statistics to discern what content resonates most with them. By understanding their preferences, you can transform a casual inbox scroller into an actively engaged reader.

Step 3: Age-Driven Recommendations & Language

You also want to experiment with other personalization elements, such as location and age.

If you can determine the age of your alumni, tailor your recommendations accordingly. For example, you can suggest they follow you on different engagement platforms based on age and demographics. Try recommending LinkedIn groups for those over 30 and Instagram for the younger crowd.

You can also try using more casual language or even emojis for emails you will be sending out to a younger crowd. Whereas you want to maintain a formal and straightforward approach for older alumni. 

Step 4: Geographical Segmentation / Alumni Mapping

If your alumni management software has an alumni map feature, this step would be pretty easy. Otherwise, you can go ahead and use the addresses from your alumni database to divide your alumni lists into 'local,' 'national,' and 'international' segments. 

Once segmented, you can then customize your messages to cater specifically to each geographical category. 

For instance, you can try being more persistent in event follow-ups for alumni who live nearby. On the other hand, you can show those far away that distance doesn't diminish their connection. Share content like campus videos or updates, ensuring they feel part of the network despite geographical constraints.

Step 5: Behavioral Segmentation

Take personalization a step further by analyzing how alumni interact with your emails and website. Set up tags within your email marketing platform to identify alumni status, track newsletter reads website visits, and more. 

Revamp your approach for those showing less email engagement, or try asking for their feedback on the emails they’ve been receiving. Meanwhile, consistently provide content that resonates with those who are already engaging regularly.

This segmentation method ensures that your audience receives content tailored to their preferences and behaviors.

Step 6: Regular Market Research and Perseverance

Keep going the extra mile to know your audience, and your efforts will pay off. Personalization isn't just about addressing alumni by name; it's about making them feel understood and valued. Consistent market research is your tool for achieving just that.

By regularly looking into the dynamics of your alumni community, you not only stay abreast of their changing interests but also anticipate their needs.

Implement these steps and you'll eventually deliver content that resonates, showcasing that you genuinely know and care about each individual. Keep personalizing your emails and watch as your engagement rates soar!

Looking to take your alumni engagement to new heights?  Check out 360Alumni's alumni community platform which comes with a fully integrated email marketing solution to help you track and drive engagement. 

Editor/Contributor: Joy Therese Gomez

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