The UX of Email Campaigns
Designed and developed Backyard Brain's best email campaign that resulted in a 270% improved open rate and 554% improved click rate compared to industry standards.
UX Designer, Web Developer
Internship season is an important time for Backyard Brains. The goal was to gather the brightest and most enthused minds to work with our collaborative collection of breakthrough neuroscience research.
Our main channel to reach students were through email which are then shared to other educational institutions. Many of whom were professors who provided the strongest influence of all-- recommendation through word of mouth.
So here, we have two users: the teachers of these students and the students themselves. What can we do to entice both?
How do we get students to apply (more)?
Conversion: increase student applicants
Methods & Techniques
Other than using the usual readability improvements, there are a few usability techniques I utilized for this email campaign:
User Surveys. At the end of 2016's interns, in addition to feedback, I had them fill a survey that asked for their thoughts on the internship experience, current interests, and future needs.
Using this data, I was able to identify user needs and created the user personas of students and educators with the special circumstance of the problem at hand: how students approach and apply to internships, and how their educators are positioned at this time. Their needs are properly met with the following design decisions and display-of-content optimization:
Get users to view the email with enticing, short but relevant headline.
Action items are available above the fold as soon as the student opens the email, the CTA to the application is prominent, as is the blog post to the internship details.
Solidify credibility by utilizing a review from a past intern describing their experience with the internship and how it prepared them for graduate studies and research positions.
What's in it for me? Certainly, students are always looking to see how it benefits them. After a short research, I focused on three aspects that upcoming graduate and research students care about the most: mentoring, published/peer reviewed, and of course, compensation. Email campaigns before demanded cognitive effort to find these benefits. I made a simple table that lets the student users realize the immediate benefit:
Ever the fast paced nature of a startup, I had a very limited amount of time to deliver this project, from concept, to implementation in MailChimp, to delivery and launch to our mailing lists.
Hence, I did a quick research on internships, and most specifically the students who partake in this activity. More research was done in terms of the specialization of this internship, which was in the realm of research. Lastly, I asked colleagues and past interns about what they cared for the most in their internships.
Thus, I came to the conclusion to communicate mentoring, pay, and being peer reviewed and then published as the main focus in attracting students to eventually apply.
The email campaign was a great success. I managed to garner over 300 applicants, 100 more than previous year. Pretty great for a small startup!
To back these numbers, the email had unheard of numbers in terms of KPI's:
49.0% open rate (compared to 18.1% industry average)
12.2% click rate (compared to 2.2% industry average)
I am proud to say that this email campaign turned out to be the most successful email campaign Backyard Brains has had to date.
I've always been aware of our users (students, educators and DIYers), but sometimes the specificity needs special attention, such as students and internships. I learned a lot about their user needs, spoken and unspoken, and was able to quickly iterate a campaign that benefited the students and Backyard Brains.