When I was a kid, I often mused over funny metaphorical expressions from adults. One of my favorites was: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I liked the mental image this conjured – these days, who carries their eggs in a basket anyway, other than the Easter Bunny?
Now, as a grown-up marketer, I have more appreciation for the idea that you can find more success by pursuing multiple avenues to accomplish your objective. I was reminded of that adage recently as we analyzed millions of student records to assess the value of contacting students via multiple email addresses in enrollment marketing campaigns. Here’s what we learned.
The Data Clean-Up Question That Initiated an Experiment
The question we wanted to answer was this: if a college has more than one email address for a student, is it better to try to figure out what the “correct” address is, or just to email the students at all their addresses on file?
What is Cultivate?
Cultivate, part of Enroll360, is an audience identification and inquiry generation solution designed to transform partners’ recruitment pipelines. It includes behaviorally responsive marketing campaigns for sophomores, juniors, and their parents that build brand awareness, generates inquiries, and nurtures interest.
For the analysis, we examined a diverse set of partners’ Cultivate and Apply campaigns, and we assessed the likelihood of students to engage in the campaign and the likelihood of those same students to apply, as a function of how many email addresses we contacted for each student.
First, we found that having multiple email addresses is not the norm for most students in the enrollment funnel. In Cultivate campaigns, 98–99% of students had only one email address. In Apply campaigns, 80–90% of students had one email address.
When students did have more than one email address, it was for multiple reasons:
What is Apply?
Apply, part of Enroll360, is an audience identification and application generation solution that builds immediate demand and drives submission activity. Apply campaigns use a proven call-to-action approach to engage academically qualified seniors and their parents.
When multiple email addresses were accessible for students, we found that contacting those students at all available addresses increased engagement dramatically compared to students with a single email address.
Multiple Email Addresses Signal Higher Intent to Apply
In Cultivate campaigns, the overall response rate increased by 75% when we contacted students with two or more email addresses compared to those with a single email address. In Apply campaigns, the results were even more dramatic: application rates increased by two to three times when we contacted students via multiple email addresses.
These results held true across every partner we studied, and the pattern also persisted for specific audiences, including previously purchased student names, existing inquiries included in Apply marketing, and new senior search student names.
Skeptical observers might argue that the superior performance of students who provide multiple email addresses could reflect the characteristics of that group of students, rather than showing that the multiple email contacts themselves are making students respond more. Without doing a controlled A/B test, it’s impossible to know for sure whether the effect is really causation or just correlation with other attributes, so we are further testing and experimenting with “multiple address” students in our upcoming marketing test agenda.
As a longtime marketer, I would place my bets on the actual email contacts themselves being what drives engagement. The overall finding from this multiple-emails investigation, that more ways to reach students results in greater campaign effectiveness, is consistent with what we’ve seen across the past 25 years of enrollment marketing: the more opportunities you have to reach students, the more likely it is that you’ll capture their attention and that they’ll respond.
We are carrying this insight forward to not just our marketing campaign architecture, but also to how we select the audiences we include in campaigns. There are benefits to having multiple sources of student information, such as Cappex and Intersect (Naviance), to supplement test-based list sources. It’s more likely that you will capture additional information about students, such as alternative email addresses, so we will consider that impact as we design audience strategies for upcoming campaigns.
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