How One Organization Connected With Their Audience Through Email

The tale is a familiar one: an organization that has information that will be valuable and relevant to their audience, but they have trouble actually reaching that audience. Such was the problem for Jo Walters, Membership Engagement Coordinator of University of Sussex Students’ Union.

The Union wanted to start building a relationship with the new students. Jo, with some help from Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing,” pitched a plan for an email newsletter that students will want to sign up for.

We talked to her about how she planned to get students to sign up, create compelling content and build a following for the Union. The plan proved itself AWesome. Here it is:

The Sign Up Process

The Union launched their Freshers Week website right before school began. The site included a lightbox form and an inline form for students to sign up:

Allowing visitors to choose “undergraduate” or “postgraduate” at sign up makes it easy to segment into different groups.

“We decided to segment by level of study, i.e. postgraduate and undergraduate, as we’re aware from our research that postgraduates often have different needs to undergraduates and have historically been less involved in our activities. This helped us target these students by tailoring some content to the, demonstrating that we’re aware of the issues that affect them and are keen to be relevant to them,” says Jo.

The Emails

Jo created a series of autoresponder emails which subscribers receive over the summer up until Freshers Week. Each email features one of the Union’s elected officers with tips and information relating to their area of responsibility and Freshers Week.

As for content, Jo was able to use a variety of resources.”We’ve had freshers’ information on our website in the past so we looked at the site statistics to help us learn what students were most interested in. We found that the most successful emails were those that were focused on what students would want to know rather than us trying to tell them what we wanted them to hear,” says Jo.

And the key to focusing on what students want to hear? According to Jo, “Thinking about things from a student’s point of view rather than relentlessly promoting ourselves.”

Here’s one of the emails in the series:

Besides creating emails the students love, here are other things the Union is doing right:

  • Branding each email with the same logo at the top
  • Making it personal by introducing the author at the top
  • Using a template with a side bar to include more information and helpful links

All these factors contributed to the results the Union were able to achieve.

The Results

Here are the results of the email series:

(click to see in full)

The majority of subscribers are opening these emails, and even clicking through to the website.

“We think the campaign has contributed to a better relationship between new students and the Union though we don’t have any concrete evidence of this,” says Jo.

The Future

At the end of the year, a survey will be distributed to both subscribers and non-subscribers. One of the questions will ask if the student received the Freshers newsletter. Jo wants to compare these responses to questions regarding awareness of the services the Union offers. She’s anticipating better awareness and a higher opinion of the Union from subscribers.

Jo definitely wants to continue this campaign for the next group of students. “Next year we might include a few other segments to target other groups that are typically less engaged with the Union and allow us to tailor our emails to them,” says Jo.

Does Your Tale Have a Happy Ending?

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  1. John MacMenamin

    8/14/2012 8:11 pm

    I’ve been a aweber customer for 2 months and an loving it!
    I really need to learn how to use the autoresponder feature.
    I like how the students union branded their newsletters.

  2. Ayaz

    8/15/2012 1:44 am

    Hi Crystal! its been amazing how companies can be connecting through subscribing emails with their audience and it play a crucial role to getting and generating more leads to your business.