In one of those great ‘two birds, one stone’ scenarios a project I was working on fitted the brief for part of my course. It has also led to much smugness so I’ve decided to up the smug factor by sharing the project with you, the people of the internet.

Essentially, the Students’ Union wanted to launch a newsletter for new students (‘freshers’) to capture incoming students’ email addresses, get them interested in the Students’ Union and its Freshers Week events and start building a relationship between students and their Union.

This is the presentation I gave for my course outlining the project (which features some early drafts of the newsletter itself). It uses Prezi, a super cool online presentation tool which instantly makes your presentation infinitely more interesting than if you use PowerPoint (you might have to wait a mo for it to load), just use the back and forward buttons at the bottom right to move around or click and drag to move around. You can also view it full screen if you’d rather.

Permission MarketingI created a series of autoresponder emails which subscribers will receive over the summer in the run-up to the start of 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.

It builds on some of the principles of Seth Godin’s ‘Permission Marketing‘ which I recommend (though some of the examples now seem a little dated – it was written 10 years ago when Amazon looked like a promising little online bookseller…). The idea is that we get people’s permission to contact them via email by offering them something useful in return (in this case, exclusive news and content about Freshers Week). According to Godin (and common sense) they are then more likely to pay attention when we communicate with them than if we just put ads everywhere or thrust flyers into their hands.

Putting theory into practice

The newsletter is now live and is picking up between 10 and 20 new subscribers per day. We expect the subscriber rate to increase much faster once most students’ places are confirmed on 18th August. I’m using Aweber to manage subscriptions and send out emails and I thoroughly recommend it, it is really easy to use and their customer service is great. It also gives you lots of graphs and numbers to play with which makes me very happy!

So far the messages are getting very good open rates, much higher than our typical term-time emails. I attribute this principally to the niche content of the newsletter (whereas the term-time emails cover a wide range of topics) and new students’ enthusiasm for news about Freshers Week (and the well-crafted newsletter campaign obviously…). We’re hoping to transfer this high level of interaction to our term-time newsletter and other campaigns in future.

Message
Unique opens Unique clicks
per open
1 – Hi [first name], welcome to our Freshers newsletter 68% 0.60
2 – [Sussex Freshers] Our top tips for settling in from Indi, Welfare Officer 58% 0.99
3 – [Sussex Freshers] top 5 Freshers things to get excited about from James, Activities Officer 68% 0.70
4 – [Sussex Freshers] How to find out what’s going on from Ariel, Communications Officer 47% 0.36
5 – [Sussex Freshers] A guide to the Sussex campus by Becca, Operations Officer 65% 0.67
6 – [Sussex Freshers] Tips for getting the most from your studies from Poppy, Education Officer 59% 0.26
7 – [Sussex Freshers] A look at the year ahead at Sussex from David, Students’ Union President 66% 0.44

I’ll keep this updated as the newsletter progresses, if nothing else it’ll encourage some friendly rivalry between the officers over who is the most ‘popular’! The table above was last updated on 22nd August, the first emails were sent on 27th June with follow up emails every four days.

I tagged the links in the emails so I can use Google Analytics to see how people browse our site by following links from the newsletter. A quick glance the other day suggested that these are driving people deeper into our site than normal which suggests the targeted nature of the emails is working.

After Freshers Week I’ll post some examples of the emails we’re using, I can’t do them earlier as they’re ‘exclusive content’ for subscribers only! If you’re super keen you can head over to www.sussexstudent.com/freshers and sign up yourself!

Jo