Boosting Your Email Open Rate: 5 Easy and Actionable Ideas for School Marketers

As a private or independent school marketer, you face unique challenges when communicating with your school community. Your emails need to capture the attention of busy parents, staff, and students — while also conveying essential information about events, updates, and achievements. Here you'll find valuable, actionable insights tailored specifically for your role within the educational sector. By implementing these strategies quickly, you can impact your email open rates, strengthen relationships with your school community, and showcase your institution's dedication to excellence. Let's take your email marketing strategy to new heights!

Why Boosting Open Rates Matters

In order to establish connections with the audiences you're trying to reach, you need to first get them to open your email. Increasing your open rates indicates that more recipients are actively engaging with your emails, and increases the likelihood that your important messages are actually being read.

Recent studies have found that the average email open rate across all industries is 21.5%. Check your email marketing software to see what your benchmark open rate has been for each type of email you send – and then aim to improve it.

The average person receives around 100 emails per day. Breaking through that inbox clutter can be a challenge, but improving open rates is achievable through well-planned strategies. By focusing on attention-grabbing subject lines, content that’s tailored to your audiences, and optimizing your send times, you can significantly increase the chances of your emails being opened and engaged with.

5 Actionable Strategies for Improved Email Open Rates in Private K-12 Schools

1. Perfect your timing

Increase the chances of your emails being opened by finding the optimal time and day to send them. Research your audience's behavior and preferences to determine when parents, staff, and students are most likely to check their inboxes. While research has shown that Thursday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the best days to send emails, it's important to do your own testing with your audiences.

Use A/B testing features within your email platform that optimize send date and time based on past user behaviours. Experiment with sending newsletters and announcements during different days of the week and times of day to find what works best for your readers.

A recent study by MailerLite found that the top five best times to send emails are:

#1 - 10 am

#2 - 9 am

#3 - 8 am

#4 - 1 pm

#5 - 3 pm

The same study showed that the worst times are from 7pm to 2 am – but again, do your own research for your own audiences! A Sunday evening email about the upcoming week’s events might prove effective, and you’ll never know unless you try (and measure… and try again). 

2. Test your subject lines

Compelling subject lines can encourage recipients to open your emails, leading to higher engagement and better communication within your school community. Capture your audience's attention by experimenting with various subject line styles – this is another great opportunity for A/B testing.

Here are a few tips to consider (and test):

  • Try using the word "you" in your subject lines to make the reader feel like you're addressing them directly

  • Experiment with emojis 

  • Test subject lines with statements vs. questions

  • Test short vs. long subject lines 

  • Make sure your subject line accurately frames the content of the message

Once you land on a few angles that work, keep using them – but continue to test and tweak your subject lines to maintain high open rates over time. Keep scrolling for some basic A/B testing advice and strategies to consider.

Need some inspo? Here are three school subject lines that you can try:

  • Is Your Child Struggling to Focus? We're Starting A Program to Help

  • Exclusive Invitation: Join Our Parent Advisory Committee and Shape Your Child's Education

  • Considering Colleges? We're Hosting a Post-Secondary Info Night!

  • Tiger Beat [tiger face emoji] Basketball try-outs start on Monday! Be a Trinity Tiger this season.

3. Add personalization

Personalized subject lines can create a sense of connection between your school and its community members, resulting in higher open rates and increased engagement. Boost your open rates by occasionally incorporating personalization in your subject lines, such as including the subscriber's first name, their child’s name, talking about their child’s specific class, etc.

Example: {{First name}}, Have You Noticed Your Child's Grades Dropping? Here's What We Can Do…

People naturally respond well to personalized content. However, use this technique sparingly to maintain its effectiveness and prevent it from becoming repetitive or losing impact.

4. Segment your sending

Separating your list into segments means you can send more relevant content to specific audiences – resulting in higher open rates and a stronger sense of community within your school. Tailor your messages based on factors such as grade levels, extracurricular interests, or parent involvement.

For example, send event-specific emails only to parents of senior students if the event is exclusively for them. This ensures that subscribers receive information pertinent to their needs, making them more likely to open and engage with your emails.

5. Keep it clean

A “clean” email list enhances your school's reputation, reduces bounce rates, and ensures your messages reach engaged community members — leading to better communication and a stronger sense of connection.

Maintain a healthy email list by focusing on subscribers who genuinely want to hear from you. Regularly clean your list by using third-party services like ZeroBounce or NeverBounce to remove inactive or inaccurate addresses. Monitor hard bounces and remove those addresses, and keep soft bounce rates under the industry standard of 2%. This will improve your sender reputation and ensure your messages reach your subscribers' inboxes.

Also consider more hands-on ways to “clean” your list – such as shifting recently graduated families onto your alum list each June, having a process to remove families or faculty who’ve moved away (or asking them if they wish to stay on the list), etc. 

Bonus Tip: Optimize your "From Name" for Consistency and Recognition

When sending emails, customizing the "from name" can help ensure consistency and recognition within your school community. The school emails should be sent from a recognizable authority figure or the school's name itself – and these can change depending on the content of the message or the segment you are sending to.

Using a consistent and recognizable "from name" helps build trust among recipients and increases the chances of your emails being opened. It also enhances the professionalism of your school's communication and reinforces the institution's credibility and reputation.

Examples of “From Names”: the Head of School, the Director of Admissions, different Program Directors (e.g. the head of athletics or performing arts), or simply the school's name 

By implementing these actionable strategies, Marketing Directors and Heads of Schools at private K-12 schools in the US can significantly improve their email open rates, fostering stronger relationships with their school community and promoting their institution's values and achievements.

Six tips to follow when conducting A/B tests with your email platform

  1. One variable at a time: Test only one element per test to maintain scientific accuracy. If you’re testing different types of subject lines, make sure everything else about the two emails is identical.

  2. 50/50 split test: Have your platform divide your audience evenly. Send Email Variation A to one half, and Email Variation B to the other — then analyze the results 48 hours after the two variations were sent.

  3. Small segment test: An alternative to the 50/50 split is to test with 10-20% of your list. Do a split test with one segment of your entire audience, determine a winner after a set time, and send the winning version to the remaining subscribers.

  4. Manual testing: Most email marketing platforms should have A/B testing capabilities – but if your platform doesn't, you can manually split your list in half. Simply send Email Variation A to the first half, and Email Variation B to the second. Monitor which email got more opens and clicks, and you've determined your winner!

  5. Test duration: When A/B testing things like subject line variations, do split tests several times over a few weeks or months – depending on your email send volume – to gather sufficient data to make informed decisions.

  6. Continuous experimentation: After determining a successful strategy, continue experimenting and exploring to find even better performing alternatives.

By perfecting your timing, testing subject lines, adding personalization, segmenting your sending, and keeping your email list clean, you can elevate your email marketing strategy and achieve better results.

Remember, continually adapting to what's shown to work is key to staying ahead of the competition and delivering valuable content to your audience. Implementing these recommendations today will have a lasting positive impact on your institution's email marketing performance and overall engagement with your community.

Want to keep learning about email marketing for schools? Check out the rest of the series:

At Metric Marketing, we develop measurable and practical strategies to help private and independent schools like yours to make the most of your marketing efforts. We'd love to discuss your private school's marketing requirements with you. Contact us today to speak with our marketing professionals or sign up below to receive more marketing tips in your inbox.


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