Key points
  • Email marketing remains one of the most important tools for school marketers everywhere.
  • Understanding the difference between marketing and transactional emails is important to improve both content forms. 
  • Segmenting, time targeting and A/B testing are all best practices schools can use to improve marketing emails.
  • Being clear in your message, and staying on top of a few technical tips can help school marketers improve engagement with their transactional emails. 

When learning moves online, it gets harder for schools to distinguish themselves from competitors, share updates on important policies, and set up a communication channel between all members of the institution

To ensure that distance education in the time of pandemic can stay efficient and appealing to learners, you need to pay closer attention to marketing tools. Email marketing, for one, is a powerful way to both attract prospective families and stay in touch with them. There are two types of emails that education professionals benefit a great deal from – marketing and transactional emails. In this post, we will take a look at the difference between them and suggest some useful tips for leveraging both forms of content to their fullest.

Marketing and Transactional Emails: Definitions

Most posts on email marketing focus on marketing emails, messages that promote the brand and introduce people to the company’s products and services. 

Here are some examples of marketing emails schools that enhance your digital marketing strategy:

  • Newsletters with a weekly/monthly roundup of new website posts, events, and announcements. 
  • How-to emails that share productivity tips with students and wellness tips with parents and establish a stronger connection between the members of the community. 
  • The description of new services an institution offers: a new program, an improved cafeteria menu, a new dorm building, reviewed online course platform that a school launched, etc. 


Screenshot from ReallyGoodEmails

Source: ReallyGoodEmails


A transactional email, on the other hand, is a message a user gets after completing an action on a website. Here are the most common examples of transactional emails in the education industry:

  • An automated notice email a student gets after filling a request form on the school’s website. 
  • A confirmation message students and parents get after paying tuition fees. 
  • A status update that helps future students monitor the progress of their applications. 
  • Password reset messages school website users get after clicking on the “Forgot Password” on the school’s website. 


Screenshot from ReallyGoodEmails

Source: ReallyGoodEmails


Transactional emails are vital for dealing with organizational concerns students and parents have during enrolment, tuition fee payment, and other interactions with the school. Other than that, confirming such actions as a password reset with a transactional email improves the security image of the organization and protects the establishment from third-party attacks.  

Differences Between Marketing vs Transactional Emails

Let’s take a look at the fundamental differences between marketing and transactional emails.



Marketing email

Transactional email

Sender-recipient relationship

One to many


Unsubscribe link

Necessary requirement

Not a requirement


Depends mainly on the sender’s editorial calendar

A user’s on-site or in-app action. 

Legal regulations


Not heavily regulated





Brand awareness, conversion, engagement, virality

Notification, status update, action confirmation, user authentication. 



Not required


Relatively low, a high risk of being marked as spam

Relatively high


A lot of recipients at once

One recipient at a time


3 Best Marketing Email Practices For Schools

To make sure your school’s communication team is making the most out of marketing emails, introduce content creators and marketing to these easy-to-implement yet powerful practices. 

Segment your email list 

Sharing the same email with all the people involved in the activity of an educational institution is not the most efficient strategy. Instead, you should choose a better way of connecting to everyone involved in the process – segmentation. 

Feel free to rely on psychographics and knowledge on personas when making targeted email lists. This is a great way to sound more appealing to prospects. Insights from personas will also help you to communicate on an individual level to boost engagement.

Here are the examples of some audience groups you can dissect: 


Prospective students

  • Future students who haven’t applied yet
  • Current applicants
  • International applicants
  • Students who want to transfer 

Current students:

  • Domestic students
  • International students 
  • First-year students
  • Final-year students
  • Adult learners
  • Students who share the same major
  • Students who are a part of the same club
  • Students who stay at dorms


  • Alumni who want to continue education at school
  • Alumni in the workplace
  • Military enrollees


  • Parents of prospective students
  • Parents of applicants
  • Parents of enrolled students
  • Parents of alumni 


  • Professors who teach the same major
  • Educators who work in the same field of study (a broader segment that the major-based ones)
  • Teaching assistants. 
  • People who want to become teachers/professors

This is not a full list of audiences a school marketer can come up with. However, crafting custom messages for each segment is hard work for the communications department, make sure to keep the list of segments manageable (up to 10-12 audiences). 

Choose the right timing

One of the reasons why the emails you send might not be getting as much engagement as you had hoped can be connected to the fact that you are sending messages at a time when no one reads them. Knowing when the audience you are reaching has a habit of checking the mailbox is crucial for the success of the marketing campaign. To improve the chances of replies, you should carefully choose the day of the week and the time of sending it.

Preferred day of the week: Tuesday. Email campaigns have the highest open rates when launched on Tuesdays. We recommend Wednesdays and Thursdays as the next best options and warn you against sending emails on Mondays or Fridays. This has to do with the fact that both recipients are too overwhelmed to pay attention to newsletters at the beginning and the end of the week. 

Preferred timing: when it comes to marketing emails in education, around 3 PM seems to be the best window to share the news with your school community. At this time, both are typically done with classes and don’t mind catching a break to check their mailbox. However, there’s no defined timing that’s perfect for sharing marketing emails. Thus, testing different sending options is the best strategy to try.

A/B test emails

While following general marketing email best practices makes sense, email marketers need to take the tips they see online with the grain of salt. For example, there’s an ongoing debate about whether or not you should add emojis and special characters to the subject line. 

Image of A/B testing

Source: Litmus


The best way to build a marketing email strategy is to find out what works for your audiences. That’s why you should have the habit of email testing. To improve this process, we recommend using one of the advanced email template builders that allow you to experiment with content easily and make a visually appealing message.

7 Best Transactional Email Practices For Schools

To make sure the transactional emails you send are doing a decent job of informing students, parents, and educators about important changes, follow these simple tips. 

  1. Make sure the content of your transactional emails is 100% non-promotional. Otherwise, your school will be risking to receive email spam complaints
  2. Create a custom “From” address. Using a no-reply email drastically lowers the deliverability of emails. 
  3. Create transactional email templates that match the colors of the website or app’s interfaces. 
  4. Avoid vague subject lines. Be as precise and to-the-point as possible. 
  5. Set up email authentication protocols to ensure high deliverability rates of transactional emails. 
  6. Create a plain-text version of a message. Students should be able to read the email even under the low network quality. 
  7. Include all the necessary contact information to make sure email recipients can reach you effortlessly. 

To wrap up

Both marketing and transactional emails are crucial to promote your education services. By understanding the differences between the two types and following best sending practices, you will be able to increase brand awareness and build strong connections with students, educators, and parents. 

Published November 12 2020