Best Practices: How to Write a Great Email

Tawnya -

1. Keep your main call to action prominent

Your “call to action” (or CTA) is the main outcome you’re hoping to drive with your email.  Typically it’s a student clicking on a link to sign up for Handshake, register for an event, or fill out a survey.  Make sure your main call-to-action is in the top half of your email. You’ll see this referred to as keeping the CTA “above the fold”.  If the CTA appears lower in the email, students are more likely to stop reading before taking any action.

  • Handshake’s Targeted Email tool includes the ability to add buttons that redirect students to the link of your choice, plus Handshake content tiles, which feature an event, job, or job role page and include pre-built buttons students can click to learn more.
  • It’s also worth repeating your call-to-action more than once.  If you’re promoting a link to register for Handshake via a button, consider including it again as hyperlinked text in the body of your email.  This increases the likelihood of a student taking the action.

2. Personalize your email greeting lines

Students are more likely to engage with an email if they see cues to suggest it’s been personalized for them.  Handshake lets you insert variable fields into your emails so that you can include a student’s preferred name in the email greeting (“Hi Brit!” will perform better than “Hi there!”).

3. Target a unique subset of students with your content.  

When you’re defining your recipient list, Handshake will require you to select at least one filter - we’d recommend you use more than one.  Emails will always perform better if they’re targeted at a very specific audience and include content and language curated for that audience.

  • Consider creating multiple versions of the same email with different language and content for students from different majors, school years, career interests, etc.
  • DePaul segments their email content (career community newsletters, event invitations, etc) to ensure they’re reaching students with relevant information.  At a school of about 15,000 undergraduates, their recipient lists vary from a few hundred to a few thousand students maximum. This practice helps them keep their email open rates high!

4. Keep your subject lines actionable, but under 50 characters.  

If you go any longer, your subject line may get cut off in your students’ inboxes.  If you have time, consider A/B testing your subject lines - split your recipient list in half and send each group a different version of the subject line.  This is a great way to understand the language that is most compelling to your students!

5. Include relevant links in your email signature

Your email signature provides a great opportunity to promote a variety of different relevant links - to your social channels, to your website, or to your Handshake login page!

  • While including these links is fairly standard for your personal email, you can also consider including them in Targeted Emails you send through Handshake!
  • Rutgers includes both a small, linked Handshake logo, and a large, linked Handshake promotional banner in their staff email signatures.  Both of these visuals linked off to Rutger's Handshake login page.  Over the course of one semester, the banner was clicked over 570 times and the smaller logo was clicked over 450 times!

6. Keep an eye on your email analytics

Handshake allows you to review a variety of performance metrics after you’ve sent an email!  We’d recommend keeping an eye on the following...

  • As you test out different email subject lines, keep an eye on email open rates to see which language is driving the highest initial engagement with students.
  • You can review click rates on each link you include in your emails.  See which calls to action perform the best.
  • Most emailing resources will tell you that Tuesday through Thursdays are the best weekdays to send email.  Given each school’s unique student body, make sure you keep tabs on the day of the week and time of day that performs best!

7. Check out Handshake’s templates in Targeted Emails

Over the course of the fall of 2019, Handshake will be populating multiple new email templates into Targeted Emails.  When you’re prompted to select an email layout, you’ll see the option to select a Handshake Template on the right-hand side of the screen.  Examples of templates include a “Welcome Back to School” email, and one specifically aiming to drive students to download Handshake’s mobile app.

  • The content of these emails has been honed over the last year and represents what we’ve found resonates best with students.
  • You can edit the content of these emails to better suit the unique set of students you’re targeting!

8. Check in with your peers!

Handshake’s Community is full of email gurus trading tips on what marketing techniques have worked best on their respective campuses.  The Marketing & Communication page is a particularly great forum to check out for email tips.  We highly recommend asking questions and getting advice from your peers!

Handshake also recently co-hosted webinars with presenters from Rutgers University - New Brunswick, and DePaul University that focused on marketing to students.  Their presentations, which you can watch below, highlight some of their own best practices around emailing. You’ll even recognize some of them from earlier in this article!

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