5 ways for higher education to increase cross-functional engagement

It’s been a minute since we’ve been able to think “normal” may be returning. The outlook is really great, but there’s something important to remember as you move forward - it’s not time to get complacent and return to status quo email marketing from pre-2020. In the Higher Education world, it is especially necessary to connect and engage like never before to continue towards growth. With that in mind, here's 5 ways to push your email marketing next-level and create conversations across department functions to gain synergy in your email marketing strategy.

5 Ways for higher education to increase cross-functional engagement

1. Gen Z - “The True Gen” as McKinsey has dubbed them, aren’t as difficult to figure out as you may think. They refer to them as “True Gen” because that’s the core belief system for Gen Z - TRUTH. They generally distrust brands and don’t like being “marketed” to. They also prefer conversational communication versus being “talked at”. Basically, they’re all about transparency. This transparency should weave through cross-functional communications to bring that distinctive, singular voice we mentioned. OK, sure, but how, you wonder? Keep reading on!

A key characteristic of Gen Z includes being actively environmentally aware. This is incredibly important to them and could make or break their college selection. Calling out actions being taken by your institution, such as perhaps how your recycling program is expanding or the move away from plastics in the cafeteria, will speak directly to one of their core beliefs and show transparency.

Another interesting generational characteristic is how they gather information and make decisions. Often referred to as “crowdsourcing”, Gen Z loves to converse with peers, gather opinions from influencers and research for any information to inform every decision they make. It’s important to be aware of the digital information about your institution available but also, to adjust that conversation towards your current mission, how you’ve evolved, and why you’re making the decisions you make. 

With a solid understanding of how to communicate to your audience, it’s time for the next step - segmentation!

2. Using segmentation in your email marketing is critical to evolving the conversation with prospective and current students primarily as it helps to increase personalization. As you converse in multiple departments with students, you’re collecting data. That data can then be harnessed to progressively profile audiences to increase the personal element and create a true feeling of one-to-one conversations rather than bland email marketing messages that Gen Z is likely to ignore.

We highly recommend analyzing your current database across functions to determine similarities, differences, and create baseline segments to begin launching your testing. Testing your email content and refining your targets will be vital to the success of achieving a singular voice throughout your institution. 

With your singular voice, you can really learn what students want and need and speak to them within your content. But, all this will be for nothing if you don’t have a holistic email marketing strategy.

3.  So, what’s a holistic email marketing strategy? It’s step three in creating that cohesive voice and at its most basic, considers the whole as the sum of all your parts. More specifically, it’s taking the conversations needed by each function or department and cohesively looking at them as a single strategy. Are the messages conflicting? Is the cadence off between different conversations? Can you connect conversations across teams to create stronger content that is more relevant to your audience? Chances are pretty high that there’s quite a bit that can be changed.

We’re not gonna lie - this isn’t easy. It’s difficult to pull apart everything each function is doing, figure out at what cadence students are receiving communications, and if it all makes sense. But, what we can promise is that the effort is always worth the outcome. 

Another approach may be to scrap everything as-is and create a new cross-functional holistic strategy as one unit. Create a collaborative environment and go wild! Just remember the key ingredient is that single, cohesive voice and creating email conversations rather than emails with marketing.

4. Now that you’ve created the baseline for your singular voice, it’s time to make it truly memorable - VIDEO! Gen Z loves some video and it can be a truly effective way of communicating simple to complex concepts in a fun, accessible way. Email is a fantastic method to deliver your videos but it also works great across channels and continues to encourage that “one voice” of your institution.

5. Last, but certainly not least - everything must be mobile. If your website isn’t mobile, there’s a problem. That problem will increase with emails that aren’t meant for mobile. Be 100% positive that your emails render correctly, as well as your landing pages, before sending those messages out. Gen Z will not be forgiving if they can’t consume your content.

Wrap Up

See, that wasn’t as hard as you thought! Taking the time and making the effort to improve the conversations, targeting, segmenting, delivery and content of your email messaging will take you to new heights and truly create that singular voice of your institution's brand. 

These are the types of insights and best-practice resources that we share exclusively with higher ed and academic professionals like you at our annual EmmaU event! We will be opening up registration for EmmaU 2022 soon, but until then, checkout this recap of EmmaU 2021!

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