How Siena College Gets up to 90% Open Rates on their Prospective Email Communications

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Allison Turcio, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing at Siena College joins the podcast to talk about the difference between merge field “personalization” and actually making your prospective student communications “personal”.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect eedu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Alison Tercio, assistant vice president for enrollment and marketing at Sienna College. Alison, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me, Eric. So excited to have you and talk with you today about how you're getting up to ninety percent open rates on your perspective email communications. But before we dig into that, can you get the listeners a little background on both Sienna College and your role? They're sure sounds great. So Sienna College as a small Catholic Franciscan Liberal Arts College of about...

...three thousand students. We call them saints, and we're located just a couple miles outside of Albany, New York, which is the state capital. My role the college is overseeing the marketing strategy, which includes media buying, brand messaging, the social media team, enrollment communications flow and I also serve on some high level committees at the college, such as this strategic planning can and right now I'm on the Middle States reaccreditation committee, which is a new experience for me. Love it and I love how the diversive of your background is going to come in so handy in this conversation, as we talked about the broader student experience, Alison, with our perspective student communications, talk about talking about your college versus talking about the student. Yeah, so if you picture you're on a first date with someone, if all that person does is talk...

...about themselves and how great they are and how different they are from every other person, you're probably not going to go on date number two. And so that's really what our strategy is with our enrollment communications, with our perspective students, is to not just talk about Siena and and to them it's really just blah, Blah Blah. There's no way for them to retain the differences between all the colleges that are emailing them and texting them and sending advertising to them. There's just no way right so try to do is ask them about them. How are you feeling about your college search? What dreams do you have for your college experience? What matters most to you in your decision of where you will go to college? So we ask them questions about themselves, just like you would hope would be the kind of back and forth of a really great first date. I love the conversational prompting of approach. Let's talk specifically...

...about email nurtures. What do these prospective nurtures look like? How are you getting up to ninety percent open rates on them? The main reason is building trust, because we're not just sort of shouting stuff about Sienna at them. I think they're more likely to open our emails they get to know the counselors and the director of emissions from whom these communications are going to, in a trusted way. These are people that, because of our conversational approach, they are building relationships with, so they know it's not just another visit now, apply now kind of message. So I think the trust and building an expectation of what they're going to see when they open an email. And then the second thing is it's relevant to them. Every subject line, every topic we talk about, we try to think about what does the student need to hear, what do they want, rather than what do we want to say, and I would say it helps that our emails are generally short to the point...

...you know they're not they're not opening it and knowing they're good of the scroll, Schill Scroll to get the message that we're trying to send to them. So I think it all kind of goes back to trust, though. Right it's they know it's not going to be an overwhelming message. They know it's going to be something that's important from a trusted individual. I love that. philosophically, I wonder if some of our listeners are saying themselves, I mean, we're doing that, we're not getting ninety percent. Let's start digging into some of these details here. Talk a little bit more about personalism station making these communications as relevant as possible based upon that individual student data that you're getting through these conversational prompts. What does that data feedback loop look like and how is it informing and populating your messaging? Well, first of all, we're talking about open rates. You have to be analyzing every single email and that subject line and what gets it them to open. Not all of our emails are up around ninety, but they're mostly especially with admitted students. Sixty five percent plus the ninety ones have to do with financially, because that is what...

...they're worried about. So if we think about what they're worried about, what their fears are, and you work that into the subject line, that's automatically going to improve the rates. When it comes to personalization, I would say our approach, I would call it personal, not personalized. So if you want to think about personalized is when you incorporate, you know, the students name and an email and the major that they're going to have at the college. That's just a mail merge. We've been doing mail mergeres forever. We've been doing that for I don't know, thirty plus years right. That's something that word gave to US Microsoft years and years and years ago. That's all that is. That's not impressive. If then, if you go to segmentation, that's if you, you know, tailor and emails, let's call it, to psychology students and you're sending content about the psychology program students interested in psychology. So you have the layer of you've said their name, you've mentioned psychology and the contents tailor to that group of students. When I say personal, what I'm saying is I'm going to send an email to this student and...

I'm going to say, because I just read their essay, I'm going to say to them what inspires you to want to be a mental health counselor I just read that this is your dream in your essay. That is personal. Now can you do that for every single student? No, you can't, but you can use your data to figure out which students to target and spend that political capital and that time and that effort on right so they're you don't have to do it for every single applicant, but you can use your data to figure out who the prime people are to do that with and then in the general approach for all the other students you can't personally, one on one touch, you use the other strategy of just asking them about themselves and then they surface the personal responses that can be responded to. I love that concept here. Let's say folks here are thinking about let's just steal that, let's ask the question, and that student writes back, they thoughtful reply and no one responds. How are you making sure those wonderful, beautiful answers get responded...

...to. Lots of training within admissions team and it's also something that everyone's got to buy in. They have to see that the effort of this will pay off in the end. So the admissions team that we are lucky we have a very senior admissions team. They have a deep institutional knowledge generally about the college, which is very helpful because then they know the exact thing to say back to the student when they respond about it's important to them and their college experience, or they know the exact student professor they need to now connect them with as the next outreach to the next point. And also we do a lot of training on continuing the conversation. So the worst thing that Kepp can happen, in my opinion, is not just that the email would be ignored, but all that gets sent back to the student as a response as here's a link you should look at. That would be horrible to what you want to do lead the conversation and continue the conversation to build a relationship. So...

...perhaps you send a video about the psychology program say check out this project that students are doing in this psychology course, and then right back and let me know if this is the kind of classroom experience you have in your mind for yourself. You've got to continue it. So it's a lot of training and the marketing team serves a really, really critical role in that we are constantly feeding content to the missions team, stories and ideas, and we have team meetings where this stuff gets shared with each other so that it's easy for them to kind of go in their role adex of Seeena content and respond to the student with something really relevant. Don't just personalize, make it personal as such a great takeaway from this conversation already, Alison. I love it. For those of us where personalization today on our teams is mail merging and maybe uploading a Docu sign signature from our president to show he signed every one of these emails, as if that is a thing. I'm glad that you are blowing...

...our minds about what personalization and making it personal can be. Let's talk about automation. How are you using triggers events to make these communications as timely as possible to match both the motivation and the sequence throughout the customer journey? The idea of personal and making it about them continues through on the automation side as well. I'll give you a quick example. If a student or a parent fills out the net price calculator with all of their financial information because they want to see what their net cost at Siena college is going to be, we then trigger an email that asks them, what are your biggest worries about financing college or about the cost of college? So we again we ask that question about them. We don't assume what their worry is or what their fear is. One family it might be I don't want my kit taking any loans.

Another family might be I don't know if it's in reach. Another one might be I want to make sure I get as much merit as possible because I've earned that in high school by being a really great student. Everyone has different layers of worries. You can't treat everybody as one homogeneous group right. So by asking those questions, you then surface back what matters most of that family and build a relationship upon it. Such amazing, amazing next APS for us. Allison leave us with some final advice for institutions listening to this, knowing that their current state isn't quite what yours is. A Sienna. They want to increase both their communications relevancy as well as their open rates. Where should they start? How should they think about that challenge? It's admittedly, not easy. It's really different. So you have to own that you're doing something different be openminded to trying it out. You don't have to go in and...

...audit your entire communications plan. All right, that makes it too overwhelming. That's almost it's too big of a chunk, too big of a strategy to taggle right now, right and so and then. I think that stops people from trying this out. What are the couple fit places where you think you could try something like this out? START TESTING IT? We then code all of the student responses in slate, and so we're able to then measure what happens with students who do respond in this one on way, personalized manner. So we want the information in slate so that anyone is looking at a student record knows what the student has told us, but also we code it in a way that lets us measure it. So pick a few things. You don't have to go dive into the entire communications and that's my advice. Start in a small place and then grow from there. Alison, thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions? Well, you can definitely find me...

...on twitter. I'm pretty active. I love getting involved in the higher ed enrollment and Higher Ed Marketing Communities on twitter and I'm at Alison Tersio on twitter also, and to you are Cioh and you can email me any time, just like any dot you to email address. I am a Tou Rcio at Siena D Edo and please feel free to reach out. I love making connections with my colleagues across the industry. Awesome, Alison. Thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks Eric. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded...

...today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook you've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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