6 Cool New-School Ways to Leverage Email Signature Banners

March 24, 2020

Your school is cool. And you want to share the news of:

  • A massive capital drive. 
  • A big alumni weekend. 
  • The launch of a new online alumni community
  • A big award going to one of your professors.

These are just a few of the things that educational organizations and their development teams love to publicize to engage their community and alumni. There are a limited number of channels you can use to spread your news. There is public relations, which can be hit or miss. There is paid advertising, which lacks context and may not be enjoyed by your community. There is direct mail, which has traditionally been the most widely-used channel to engage educational communities. Direct mail is falling out of favor as people frown on paper usage for sustainability reasons and recipients ignore and instantly recycle printed matter. 

And there is email - which is, by far, the most scalable and cost-effective means of reaching your entire community. Your alumni and community receive gobs of email. How to cut through the noise?

Cutting Through the Email Noise With Signature Banners

One of the best ways to liven up emails is to add signature banners to the bottom of each email.  Every time someone in your organization hits send the banner goes out; this radically increases the amount of times you can touch your audience. Email signature banners also can increase engagement on traditional text-based marketing emails. That’s because graphically-rich newsletter-style emails tend to be blocked or load slowly on mobile (where most of your community gets their emails.) Banners pack a similar graphic impact but are less likely to be blocked and don’t slow down email load times. 

In reality, email signature banners are like a hidden, high-ROI marketing channel just waiting to be unlocked. In our experience, email signature banners generate:

  • 5-8% CTRs (far better engagement than traditional display or retargeting)
  • 10-15% increase in event signups
  • 50% increase in reopen and re-share rates

There is actually a scientific reason why email signature banners work well. The human eye is drawn to visually arresting imagery. But when there are too many visually arresting images - like in a newsletter format - then the paradox of choice kicks in. Readers are overwhelmed and engagement actually can go down. Additionally, the email signature banner sits right below the signature block. People tend to scan down an email before going back and reading the contents. The signature banner below the email catches them at the end of their first scan when they are freshly digesting information. 

Let’s look at some use cases for email signature banners for educational organizations and their marketing and development teams. 

Publicizing Capital Campaigns

Every school has to raise money constantly. Putting capital campaigns top of mind is a significant challenge. Email signature banners make it easy by allowing you to not only ask for money but do it with beautiful images and clear CTAs. You can even rotate the asks and the images easily and run a sequence that doesn’t feel repetitive, based on what banner the recipient has already seen. And if they click and read the page or watch the video, you can automatically flag their record in your CRM and follow up with a phone call or a personal, handwritten appeal.


Personalizing Alumni Emails

We alluded to personalization in the above example. So, yes, you can easily connect banners to CRM records to personalize email banners based on any element - geography, graduating class, major. This will allow you to speak directly to the recipient and show the community you care.


Distribute Polls to the Community

Rather than send out a dedicated email with a poll as a one-time and one-off effort, you can poll all alumni continuously with every email sent by adding a banner that has a live poll and voting widget. This can even include a counter that transforms so people can vote and immediately see the results.


Highlight Thought Leadership of Your Staff and Administration

Your Chancellor was just in the New York Times. Your rockstar physicist just won a Nobel Prize. You want to celebrate and let the world know about the excellence of your school and team. Create an email signature banner in your school colors, trumpeting the news and add it to outbound emails. The best way to stay top-of-mind for alumni and donors is to communicate the value your school brings to the world. Email banners make this immediate, visually arresting, and consistent.


Share Cool Videos from Events

Videos drive far higher engagement than other media. Putting a video in the body of an email, however, is clunky and demanding; it crowds out text and reduces engagement with other parts of the email. Adding a video player to a signature banner, however, can encourage recipients to view the videos and watch alumni reunions, football clips, or interviews with inspiring students.


Distribute Promotional Codes for Events and Services

More and more schools are offering activities and services to their alumni. UC Berkeley’s “Lair of the Bear” annual summer camp, to name one, is super popular. UC Santa Barbara has an on-campus hotel that alumni can get a discount on, as well as offers for travel insurance and even health insurance. Adding a promotional code to a banner can allow you to offer discounts and to map uptake back to specific campaigns and even to specific individual campaign reps. This can be done as a wildcard variable without requiring your graphics team to rebuild every signature banner with a different code.


Conclusion: Email Signature Banners Are Efficient and Versatile

Email signature banners are a remarkably efficient way to boost almost any metric associated with your email. Because the average employee sends out 30 to 40 emails per day, even an organization with 100 employees creates a huge number of impressions. Banners act like an owned media channel that allows you to deliver high-value impressions targeted by the best intelligence possible - a human who wants someone else to read their email. 

For universities looking to drive engagement, donations, and membership fees, signature banners can deliver a near immediate ROI if designed properly. As you can see from the six examples above, the only real limit on how you use email signature banners is your imagination. Are you ready to create that powerful new channel and reap the benefits?  

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Jass Binning
Director of Marketing
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