December 20

How to Build a Drip Campaign to Convert Enrollment Leads

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Need to get more prospective students to start an application, submit materials to complete the process, put down a deposit, and enroll? Time to build your automated drip campaign.

To be more specific, it’s time to get a little more sophisticated with your email marketing.

These days, the backbone of your school’s digital communication flows is email.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Still highly effective (when done well).
  • You can execute a basic strategy pretty quickly.

About that last point: if your “basic” approach consists of periodic email blasts to everyone on your list, you’ll want to read on. A drip campaign is just what the doctor ordered.

What’s a Drip Campaign?

In the enrollment world, we tend to use the phrase communication flow to mean pretty much the same thing.

Each piece in a steady flow of communication to prospects—anchored by email and supported by direct mail, text messaging, phone calls, etc.—is a “drip,” or touch.

You might be thinking, Okay … So, we’re already doing that with email blasts and mailers, right?

To an extent, sure.

But modern drip campaigns don’t touch everyone the same way, with the same message, at the same frequency. The touches are personalized to the recipient.

It’s like how the conversation a recruiter has with one prospect differs from another, depending on their interests and where they are on their journey toward an enrollment decision.

A responsive, automated drip campaign will touch prospects in different ways depending on where they are on that journey.

And it works. Well-crafted automated emails:

  • Get 86% higher open rates, and
  • Produce a 196% increase in click-thru rates.

The reason for this is simple. Automated emails respond to the actions prospects take, making prospects feel like the email is specifically for them. 

Think of it from the perspective of the email user. Getting a message based on something you do feels like an interaction, not just another impersonal blast that goes out to everyone.

Strategies to Build Your Drip Campaign

There are basically two kinds of automated messages to include in your drip campaign: date-based and behavior-based.

Date-Based Personalization

I’m not just talking about a single message that goes out to everyone about an upcoming event or important date, though those are important.

Some messages do go to everyone at the same time, but you can add a touch of automated personalization. Even just adding the person’s name automatically at the top is a nice touch.

You could start with something like: Hey, <Prospect Name>! for messages about:

  • FAFSA dates.
  • Upcoming events.
  • Holiday greetings.

But other date-based messages are even more personalized. They go out to everyone, but at different times, based on the info in your database.

  • Birthday wishes (based on date of birth).
  • End-of-school year congratulations (based on class year).
  • Graduation congratulations (to seniors only).

The more prospects you have, the harder it would be to do all this manually. With tools like Mailchimp or Slate, you can easily set up these personal messages to go out automatically.

Behavior-Based Personalization

Consider setting up a single automated email or series of emails based on the following:

  1. They haven’t done anything yet. If you purchase lists as part of a traditional search campaign, try automating a soft touch email series inviting the prospect to engage with you.
  2. Response to a soft touch email. Once they click on a button, email you back, anything like that, it’s time to switch to a new drip series that engages this prospect more assertively.
  3. Met with a recruiter. The sender should be the recruiter (but still automated), and the content should be phrased just like follow-up phone calls. Basically: “It was great meeting you! Here’s more info. Do this next.”
  4. Attended an event. Email content should explicitly state why the prospect is receiving this email. “It was great having you here for (event)! Here’s more info. Do this next.”
  5. Filled out an RFI form. In addition to sending the info packet, anybody who fills out a request for info form should get an email immediately thanking them, followed by a series.
  6. Started any form. This is just like “abandoned cart” emails in retail. “Hey, you started this … can we help you finish it?” Engage starters of RFI, visit, and definitely app forms!
  7. Completed an application. Larger schools may need the help of automated messages to prompt applicants to put down their deposit and enroll. Smaller schools might handle this part manually.
  8. Unsubscribed. Think of your prospects as “subscribers.” Make it easy for them to opt out of future emails with a click. If they do, automate follow-ups. Ask for feedback. Reach out again in 3-6 months to see if they’ve changed their mind.

It might feel daunting to get started with your drip campaign. Let’s take those first baby steps together.

If you’re just getting started with email automation, don’t try to do all of the above all at once.

Start small. Dip your toe into personalized email automation by investing in an higher ed CRM service (like LeadSquared, Element 451, or Slate) and do one thing. Try:

  • Setting up a few personalized, date-based drips around birthdays and holidays.
  • Creating a single, short series of drips (a comm flow) triggered by one action, e.g. RFI form.
  • Setting up a single automated email for those who unsubscribe, asking why.

I promise you won’t regret it.

We love getting schools large and small up and running with email automation and personalization. So if you need help getting started, don’t hesitate to ask!


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