Email marketing is an essential part of a Branch's publicity activity. Aside from your time, it is essentially a free way to reach the students on your contact list - and has the ability to travel further if you encourage recipients to forward emails on to their friends and networks.
Most Branches hold a 'database' of current and past students. This may exist in several forms: an Excel spreadsheet; a Word document; or a contact list within whichever email programme the branch uses, e.g. Gmail or Outlook.
What to Email:
- Branch brochures. Many Branches spend a lot of money on posting brochures to students when they could email a pdf instead - and that should be the default for anyone in the database with an email address. If your members would prefer to have a printed version, provide a list of places they can collect one themselves - or suggest those with a printer at home simply print one off, which is easily done with a pdf. Receiving the annual brochure in the post may be something your students look forward to, so explain in advance why you are changing your procedure: so the money saved can better support the WEA's charitable aims!
- Newsletters. A termly newsletter is a good way to circulate a mix of course news and other interesting info to your members. Share some success stories: a new course which was wildly successful, for example; or a record-breaking day school.
- Ad hoc updates. You might have a course which is in danger of not recruiting enough students to run. Create a mailshot specifically for it, making it as interesting as possible. Or perhaps one of your tutors is in the running for a prize and you want to encourage your students to vote for them.
Using third-party software:
Most email 'clients' such as Outlook, Gmail or Hotmail were never designed to do 'bulk' email marketing. So whilst you can create group emails and include images and links, there are better solutions available which are also a great way to manage your database of contacts.
The best option for branches or small groups is MailChimp. Up to 2,000 'subscribers' (contacts) it is completely free to use. It lets you create good-looking emails easily, gives you the option to create lists for specific groups - e.g. just committee members, or just students from a particular course - and gives subscribers the option to opt out of receiving further emails with the click of a button, so is self-cleaning.
Best of all, it has inbuilt 'analytics' which enable you to see how effective your communications are. It shows you when subscribers opened it, what they clicked, and when they came back for more. You can even generate a list of people who didn't open, find out why, and modify future emails to engage more people.
If you would like to try it, read the guidance on getting started with MailChimp and set up your own account. Make sure you follow the WEA's brand guidelines when constructing communications; the latest logos and copyright-free images ar available on the intranet.