Posted by Louise ● 29 January 2020
7 Tips to Fire Up Your Communications Strategy
The 2019 ISE Annual Survey reported a 7% increase in apprenticeship hires, with 14% of vacancies going unfilled.
In other words, businesses are looking to recruit more apprentices, but are unable to find the right candidates to fill their roles.
How do we solve this problem?
Well, it begins with your communications strategy.
If you want to engage with Generation Z, you need to build their trust. This means keeping potential candidates ‘warm’ throughout the consideration and application process - nurturing them into a place where they feel confident in applying to work for you.
So, here are SEVEN tips on how to implement and manage a successful communication strategy...
Creating your early talent pipeline
First thing’s first, you need to build a database of students who are interested in hearing from you.
This starts with capturing data - which can be done in a number of ways. Using a data capture tool like RMP Connect, you can sign students up at events, run online competitions, or simply add a ‘Register Your Interest’ form to your careers page.
Your recruitment objectives should inform which data fields you include on the forms. For instance, if your target is to increase diversity, ask students to specify their ethnicity.
Once you’ve collected all this data, you can start warming potential candidates up to your brand, company culture and opportunities.
These students are interested in your company and want to find out more. You have their attention and their contact details. Now you can start a conversation with them...
1. Welcome emails
Not only is a welcome email the very first email someone receives when they sign up to your mailing list, it’s also one of the most effective.
In fact, we reported an average open rate of 66% on welcome emails we set up for our clients.
Why are welcome emails so successful? Simply because your subscribers will expect to receive one almost immediately after entering their details.
Setting your welcome emails up in advance (using a platform like RMP Connect) will ensure that they are sent out automatically and instantly. The new subscriber is reassured that their sign up has worked, and you can start engaging with them from the get-go. Win win.
What to include
A welcome email is your chance to make a good first impression, so the content needs to be relevant, helpful and transparent. As well as giving a warm introduction that reflects your company’s personality, it should be blindingly obvious what the reader’s next step is.
Steer them in the right direction by including social media buttons and a clear call-to-action. The welcome emails we send on behalf of employers see an average click-through rate of 17%, and adding these will push more engagement in other channels.
This example is from ASOS. It’s warm, friendly and personal. And it features a big ‘EXPLORE ASOS’ button that sends the reader straight to their website. Hats off to ASOS, they’ve smashed it.
2. Segment your lists
According to eConsultancy, a whopping 74% of marketeers say targeted personalisation increases customer engagement.
And we wholeheartedly agree. The more relevant and targeted your emails are, the more engaged your subscribers will be.
If they didn’t sign up to hear about your office sausage dog, don’t send them emails about your office sausage dog. Likewise, if they signed up to hear about engineering apprenticeships, don’t send them emails about finance apprenticeships.
How to begin personalising your comms
Identify which demographic you want to target, then segment your database accordingly. This will ensure that your subscribers only receive relevant emails, and will allow you to start building a talent pipeline of engaged, well-informed candidates.
Here’s a bespoke email that we sent on behalf of Sky. It was sent to 10,000 students finishing A Levels with an interest in finance. 26% of those who opened it clicked ‘Apply now’.
3. Automated communications & workflows
Email automation will save you a lot of time creating mailing lists and sending ad-hoc emails.
But it’s also great for nurturing potential candidates. After all, the better informed and engaged they are, the more likely they are to apply to your roles.
So, how does it work?
Setting up an automated workflow isn’t as scary as it sounds. A ‘workflow’ is just a series of emails that are triggered when a particular demographic of student enters your database.
Take a look at this email from EY. They wanted to continue the conversation with female students they had met at events, and to tailor their messaging so that it resonated with them.
Using RMP Connect, EY sent female students a series of automated emails to guide them through the process; from a welcome email to opportunities, female case studies and application tips.
4. Send your emails at the right times
People tend to open the emails they see first, whilst others get buried in the darkest depths of their inboxes. So you want YOUR emails to land in their inbox at the right time.
We analysed every email we’ve sent out on behalf of employers, to determine how time-sent effects open and click-through rates. And we can reveal that the best time of day to send an email to young people is... 6pm - 7pm.
This makes sense. Any law-abiding kid is likely to be in school or college between 8am - 4pm. After that they might have an extracurricular activity or plans to hang out with friends. But by 6pm, they should be tucked up at home, scrolling through their inboxes.
How often should you communicate with your talent pool?
ONCE a week is perfect. More, and you risk information overload. Less, and your competitors are probably contacting them more than you.
5. Compelling subject lines
74% of our users engage with our emails whilst using a mobile device - so it’s crucial that your emails are mobile friendly.
How to optimise subject lines for mobile
Keep subject lines to 30-50 characters (including spaces). Any longer and the text may be cut off, reducing its impact or changing the meaning altogether. The shorter and snappier the better.
Jordan, our Business Development Manager, sent himself a bunch of emails with subject lines of different lengths to make himself look popular. And to show what it looks like when key content gets cut off.
How to write subject lines that convert
Play on students’ FOMO by crafting subject lines that make them want to open the email straight away, rather than one they pick up later or forget about altogether.
The easiest way to do this is to create a sense of urgency, either through intrigue or adding a time limitation - such as ‘Your exclusive invite’, or ‘Last chance to apply!’.
Remember that students can ‘unsubscribe’ at the click of a button - so transparency is key.
Your subject lines should always indicate the content of the email, so avoid using misleading titles like ‘Apply now and win a unicorn!’. This will only make your subscribers trust you less when they open the email and find no mention of unicorns.
Find your best performing subject line
Developing a communications strategy is all about figuring out what works best for your target audience. Which is where split testing (or A/B testing) comes in.
You may think a subject line is the wittiest, most compelling thing you’ve ever written. But you can’t always predict how your audience will respond. Tweaking the wording or length could make your subject line even more effective.
With split testing, you can send out two or more different subject lines for the same email - and your email platform will tell you which has performed better.
Here’s an email we sent from Deloitte to 12,000 young people. We used RMP Connect to run a split test on their behalf, sending two different subject lines to a sample of their target audience.
Subject line A performed significantly better, so we sent that one to the remaining recipients.
6. Make it personal
Personalisation goes beyond using a subscriber’s name. It’s about giving your audience what they really want, so that they both open and click through your email.
Collecting data and tracking user behaviour will give you a unique insight into what they want, and should inform the content you send them. The trick is to sound less like a robot and more like a friend.
Take Spotify. Spotify tracks their users’ listening habits, then uses that data to craft bespoke emails. That way they only send out content that their users want to hear about.
This email from Spotify is particularly smart. Not only does it promote the artist’s upcoming show, it is positioned in a way that feels personal to the user. Two birds, one stone.
How to sign off emails
Emails that include a signature from a specific person tend to have higher engagement rates. This is because young people like to know that an email has come from a real person, rather than a generic company inbox.
We tried this out when inviting our partner employers along to our ‘How to Fire Up Your Communications Strategy’ event. The invite below came from our Business Development Manager Rory, who many of our partners speak to on a regular basis.
Now that your subscribers have opened and read your email, the next challenge is to get them to convert.
A call-to-action (CTA) is the signpost that tells your users what to do next, and inspires them to act. They usually come in the form of a button or hyperlink, and feature action-driven copy such as ‘Apply now!’ or ‘Download brochure’.
But it’s not enough to stick a button in an email, cross your fingers and hope it will drive conversion. The CTA is the star of your email campaign, and the more it shines, the better chance it has of converting...
How to create a clickable call-to-action
“If your main call-to-action falls below the fold, as many as 70% of recipients won't see it. Also, any Call To Action should be repeated at least three times throughout the email in various places and formats.” Jeanne Hopkins, former VP of Marketing at HubSpot.
HubSpot recommends positioning CTAs near the top of an email, and adding multiple CTAS with the same goal to increase the chances of your reader clicking.
You can also play around with bright colours, central alignment and enticing language to draw the reader’s eye.
As an example, here’s an email we sent from BDO using RMP Connect. The on-brand, red button in the middle clearly encourages students to ‘Register to attend’ the event promoted in the email.