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Marketing Automation For Education: A Step-By-Step Guide

13 min

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Marketing automation may sound more like a fancy tech buzzword than something an educator should care about. But this could not be further from the truth.

After all, attracting new students is not that different from generating leads. You need to carefully nurture prospects from the first time they stop by your website or social media until long after they’ve graduated from your program. 

Corporations oftentimes have entire marketing departments dedicated just to that. We believe that all you and your organization need is the right marketing automation tools

In this article, we’ll show you how you could:

  • get started with digital marketing for education
  • market your programs to different types of students
  • implement marketing automation across multiple channels

But first, let’s look at why automating marketing activities is crucial for the educational industry in the first place.

Benefits of marketing automation

Marketing automation platforms and technology allow you to take care of repetitive marketing activities, such as email communication with prospects and existing students or new course promotions. 

And it comes with huge benefits. In the corporate world, 80% of companies increased lead generation through marketing automation, and 40% of marketers believe that automation has a positive impact on productivity.

Here are a few examples of how a good marketing automation strategy can be applied to the education sector.

  • It saves time. For 30% of marketers, saving time is the most crucial factor. Automation can take care of ongoing student inquiries and repetitive tasks, giving you an opportunity to focus on more creative and engaging activities.
  • It helps you generate qualified leads. Effective lead nurturing is a critical aspect of online marketing. The right marketing automation tools will allow you to run effective lead nurturing campaigns to attract more prospects.
  • It helps you provide a personalized experience. 80% of customers are more likely to do business with an organization that offers them a tailored experience. It helps you deliver personalized offerings and content to your contacts, keeping them engaged and nudging them closer to conversion. 

Learn more about the benefits of marketing automation for online education 

Check how GetResponse has already helped various companies from the education industry leverage marketing automation

Check our latest testimonial ebook with 5 unique case studies! 

testimonial ebook by GetResponse

Check our latest testimonial ebook with 5 unique case studies 

Check how various businesses from the education industry leverage marketing automation with GetResponse

Get your free copy now

10 steps to get started with marketing automation for education

Now that you know why you should use marketing automation in your strategy, let’s take a look at how to do it right. We’ve outlined ten steps to help you effectively market your services across multiple marketing channels and boost conversion rates.

1. Identify your customer segments

Even if you only offer a single course or a program, it’s important that you identify unique student segments and create a dedicated experience for them.

For example, universities may offer undergraduate and graduate courses to domestic and international students — that’s at least four distinct customer segments! 

According to a 2018 Adobe Consumer Survey, 42% of prospects will abandon a purchase if the content you provide is not relevant to them or their situation. The good news is that companies that use segmentation are 60% more likely to understand their customers’ challenges and concerns, and 130% more likely to provide truly helpful content.

Once you’ve identified your customer segments, you can use this information to create better automation workflows for each segment instead of using a catch-all approach.

2. Identify your acquisition channels

There are many different ways that prospective learners can find you. Some examples include: 

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Web search
  • Events
  • Referrals
  • Word of mouth 

Identifying which acquisition channels will be the most effective for attracting new students is the first part of this step. Next, you need to make sure you understand how those channels work and how your students use them. This will help you organize a smooth transition between your school’s signup page and other channels. 

For example, links do not work on Instagram posts, so sharing links in your content would be a waste of time. Instead, you’ll want to make maximum use of Instagram stories that now allow you to include direct links regardless of the number of subscribers.

3. Determine your automation entry points

Most automation workflows start when a prospect performs a specific action, such as filling out a contact form or interacting with a certain site element. You can also trigger automation workflows based on specific events, such as birthdays or anniversaries. 

Pro tip: The same entry points can help you implement segmentation more efficiently as well. For example, you can include questions on your sign-up form that allow leads to specify whether they are interested in graduate or undergraduate programs and if they are domestic or international students. Prospects can then be sent an automated email series based on their selections. 

The form below, created by the University of Stirling, is a good example of this approach. It offers students the option to select their desired subject areas, study levels, and more so they receive only relevant information. 

Personalized prospectus form example from University of Stirling

4. Map your workflow

Once you’ve decided on your entry points, the next step is to define your workflow. This means planning the specific things that will happen based on the prospect’s choices, actions, or inactivity. 

Here, you can also decide whether you want to tag and/or score your contacts based on their behavior. In marketing, lead scoring and tagging can become a turning point for your strategy. 

Assign tags

Assigning tags helps you manage the contact list with ease and personalize their communications even further. In the example below, prospects who open the welcome email are tagged as “active” while those that don’t are tagged as “inactive.”

Score your audience

Scoring helps you rate customer actions, which then allows you to rank prospects based on how likely they are to convert to students. You can then target your highest-ranking leads with additional efforts to convert them. In the example below, 50 scoring points are added or subtracted based on whether the prospect opens the newsletter or not. 

The maximum score you can assign depends on the automation tool you choose. GetResponse, for example, allows up to 99,999,999 points.

Marketing automation for educational institution workflow example

Here’s how you could approach your workflow:

  1. When a prospective student fills the “Prospectus Download” form, assign them to an email list called “Students Who Requested Prospectus” and automatically send the relevant document to their email address. 
  2. If the prospect clicks on the download link in the email, add 50 points to their score because it shows they are actively interested in the offer. 
  3. A day after they download the prospectus, send an automatic check-in email and offer them access to an exclusive webinar where they can learn more about the course. 
  4. If they attend the webinar, add more points to their score and tag them as “active”. 

And on it goes. Diversify your automation workflow based on your contacts’ activity status, score rate, etc. 

Carefully think through the steps that your prospective students might take and find the areas you can automate as part of your workflow. 

5. Create relevant content and resources to support your workflow

Content is at the heart of marketing automation. So, once you’ve defined the workflow for your various customer segments, you need to deliver highly personalized content that shows prospective students that you care about their interests. 

Using our university example, you’ll need to tailor each prospectus to the different customer segments you’ve created before. That means that the resources you send to an intending international undergraduate student should be different from those you send to an intending domestic doctoral student. 

Need more ideas? Read How to Attract, Engage, and Retain Students with Marketing Automation.

6. Choose your marketing automation software

To see your workflow come to life you’ll need a powerful platform capable of everything you have envisioned. Here are a few things to look for when choosing your education marketing automation software:

  • Features: Does the tool have all the features you need to implement your workflow? In our example, we’ll need a tool that can send automated emails using an autoresponder and scoring prospects based on actions they take. But your organization could require something completely different, such as a website builder and a chatbot. 
  • Ease of use: Automation is hard enough, so the last thing you want is a tool that makes it harder. Tools such as the GetResponse Marketing Automation Builder make it easy by helping you create visual workflows using a simple drag-and-drop interface.
  • Pricing and scalability: Most automation tools are priced based on the number of contacts you have, so be sure that the price fits your budget — especially as your subscriber list grows. 
  • Integrations: Make sure the tool supports the integrations you already use. This could be your customer relationship management (CRM) software, website, or customer support software.
  • Support: What kind of support will you get — email, live chat, or phone calls? For example, with a GetResponse MAX plan, you get a dedicated team of experts personally invested in your success.  

7. Set up your automation workflow

Now it’s time to do the actual job of setting up your workflow and making sure it works. This process will vary for different automation tools, but most will have actions, triggers, and conditions. 

Pro tip: You’ll want to set up a workflow for each different entry point. And make sure to keep them all under one campaign!

8. Test and launch your workflow

Testing is a crucial part of the automation process because it allows you to catch errors before your students do. This ensures a smooth experience overall. 

Test that your triggers work correctly and that the right information is delivered to the target audience. Also, check the personalization tags and ensure they render correctly. Once you’re confident that your workflow works as intended, then it’s time to go live.

9. Connect all your acquisition channels to the workflow

Now that you have your workflow in place, you need to direct prospective students to your entry points. Below are specific examples of how to connect your acquisition channels to your workflow.

  • If you use Instagram, the link in your bio or story could lead to the landing page with your signup form. 
  • If you’re hosting offline events such as campus tours, you can give handouts that include the URL for your landing page. Alternatively, you can have participants fill out a physical form that mirrors the one on your website. 
  • Your paid searches or social media ads should send leads directly to your entry point forms. It’s better to create a dedicated landing for each specific campaign. 

This paid search ad by Full Sail University Online leads to a landing page with a strategically placed form:

Source: Full Sail University Online

10. Review and optimize

Automation is not a set-it-and-forget-it affair. As you get more leads, you may notice a few areas where things could be improved. Nothing beats real customer data, and you should leverage that feedback to improve your workflow. 

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Underperforming entry points. This may indicate that you need to reevaluate your form questions or landing page design.
  • Drop-off points. These are specific points in your workflow where customers drop off; it’s a good idea to evaluate why.
  • Best performing workflows. Compare these to your underperforming workflows to see what works and what doesn’t. 
  • Customer complaints/feedback. Pay special attention to any direct emails or messages where customers complain about specific areas of your process — this feedback is invaluable.

How to choose the right software for your education marketing automation efforts?

Depending on the number of contacts you currently have, the marketing objectives you pursue, and the general scope of your organization, there are many possible ways you could approach marketing automation. 

We wanted to make sure you are familiar with the ones that have proven to be effective. 

If you only need to send emails… 

… that’s might be more than enough!

Of course, to gather new contacts that will receive your email you would need to be able to set up a couple of signup forms, those forms would have to be placed on dedicated landing pages, and you would probably want those to match the general style of your main website. 

As you can see, eventually email marketing expands to other inbound strategies. That’s why your next goal could be a marketing automation platform

If you want to take care of everything in one place…

A marketing automation software supports your entire process, from automated email marketing campaigns to sales funnels and even paid ads. With such a platform, you get a 360-degree view of your students across all of your channels.

Here’s an example of a flow for automated emails created with GetResponse:

Thanks to the right marketing automation software you can design websites, manage your email marketing efforts, keep track of all your prospective students and existing contacts, and more — all from the same platform! 

This seems like a pretty good deal on its own, but you can take it even further and get even better results. 

If you are after the highest quality…

Choose the individually tailored plan dedicated to making your life easier. Such as GetResponse MAX! With its comprehensive approach to omnichannel marketing, you will be able to:

  • Engage prospective students from all over the world with international automated SMS campaigns and boost your enrollment rates
  • Send highly personalized messages thanks to customized dynamic content
  • Run live webinars for up to 1,000 attendants with up to 20 hours of recording storage
  • Communicate the latest course updates to the most active participants with web push notifications
  • Get personalized support from a dedicated team of experts that will help you with all your marketing efforts from day 1 
  • And so much more

We worked with many different types of businesses operating within the education sector, from higher education institutions to private online coaches, so we know how to create a marketing strategy that will make all the difference to you and your students. 

Marketing automation FAQs

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular questions on this topic.

What is an example of marketing automation?

A good example of marketing automation for education is a welcome email series sent to prospective students who subscribe to an email newsletter for the first time. The series is sent over several days and is usually personalized to the subscriber. 

The first email is usually a “thank you” email that explains what the subscriber should expect from the newsletter. Subsequent emails often include relevant information about the product or service, while the last emails in the series include an offer or deal.

What are marketing automation platforms?

Automation platforms are software solutions that manage marketing processes across various channels. These activities include sending emails, delivering webinars, and publishing scheduled social media posts and ads.

What do you need for a successful marketing automation process?

In order for your automated marketing processes to be successful, you’ll need an understanding of your audience segments and acquisition channels, a well-planned workflow, content to support your workflow, and a good automation tool. 


Marketing automation can help you save time so you can focus on the part of your job you enjoy the most — education. And GetResponse makes automation easy.

You can use marketing automation for various education purposes: from prospective students’ enrollment and conversion to post-event automated email workflows! 

Choose the best pricing plan for you or rely on our expertise and join hundreds of marketers from various industries who decided to go with GetResponseMAX! Promise, you will be impressed by the results we’ll achieve together. 

Anna Kvasnevska
Anna Kvasnevska
Anna is a content marketing specialist and a proud member of the GetResponse team. With more than 5 years of experience in content creation, as well as her intercultural background and cross-industry perspective, Anna is happy to share her insights into the latest updates from the world of online marketing, eCommerce, and technology. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.