Improving Open Rates on a Campaign Already Deemed Successful

Being ever-persistent with an email nurturing campaign

Gallery Case Study

Williams Randall worked with Indiana State University Admissions on its email recruitment campaign for nearly 10 years. Each year, the campaign was tweaked to improve results with an ever-changing target population of mostly high school students. Keeping track of open rates showed each year that the first email of a series always had the best open rate. This past academic year, Williams Randall instituted a new nurturing campaign – a set of marketing emails sent out automatically on a schedule – to make sure all subscribers received that first email. And the open rates? They saw big increases.

Case Study

No one wants to go into a movie halfway through, right? Same for marketing messages. Our hypothesis is that people connect better when they get an entire campaign rather than entering when the plot is well underway. That is what we wanted to test with this new automated nurturing email campaign.


Giving everyone the full story

Before the 2015-16 academic year, students who received emails from Indiana State University Admissions might or might not get the first email in the series. Why? Because the email distribution list continually grows throughout the year as new students ask for information or apply for admission. In other words, students who were on the list in October would receive all the emails in a series, beginning with the first one. Students who became part of the list later in the school year would receive only the emails sent from that point forward. As a result, they could possibly miss important information. Williams Randall instituted the automated nurturing campaign for three different target audiences.


We hypothesized correctly!

As we suspected (and hoped), both the open rates and click-to-open rates improved when everyone received the entire campaign. Following are the percent increases for the three subscriber audiences:


Audience                                                                                           Open Rate Change                Click-to-Open Rate Change

Students who have inquired about Indiana State                                      +17%                                                    +23%

Students who have been admitted to Indiana State                                 +21%                                                    +40%

Transfer students who have been admitted to Indiana State                  +30%                                                  +57%


Sending the entire series starting from the very first email to everyone on the list, regardless of when they joined the list, dramatically increased open rates, with the first in the series continuing to be the one that was opened at the greatest rate. 


Our Responsibilities: Analytics, Copywriting, Email Design, Email HTML, Email Marketing Strategy, Strategy

Client: Indiana State University

Industry: Education