Marketing planning is a direct representation of your marketing strategy, and is an essential building block for your institution's success. From the smallest day school to Stanford and Harvard, the ability to distill your marketing vision and goals into an actionable plan is essential. Though plans don't have to fill binders, they do need to be thorough and thoughtful reflections of the state of your institution and communications capabilities; your goals, budget, and constituent interests; favored marketing channels; and the current market situation, including a perspective on your peer schools' campaigns. Ideally, the marketing plan is substantially derived from your institution's broader strategic plan.
Strategy and Tactics
While strategy is the foundation of your marketing plan, the latter adds a real-world element that is equally crucial, i.e. a tactical roadmap for how and where your message will be delivered, to whom, your expected results, and ideally an expected return on your marketing investment. Though the plan should not be too granular, it must define your choices, say, between print and electronic options and some specifics on the marketing channels - think of including electronic/online ads//Google AdWords but not the actual keywords, or print/magazines/full-page ads but not the theme.
What elements might you expect to see in an educational marketing plan? Here's a possible outline:
Strategic Overview, including goals, themes, projected results, and role in the marketplace. This section would also connect the marketing strategy to the institution's broader vision and may also encompass the role that marketing and communications play in supporting Admissions and Development specifically.
Audience Definition: Who is your target market? Students, families, or both? What characteristics and attributes do they share, what activities interest them, what is their primary medium for researching and shopping? All of these are crucial pre-requisites for building your marketing programs.
Marketing Campaign Overview: start with your marketing goals that support the institution's mission and tangible goals such as number of applications and donors, as well as any dynamics you wish to understand through testing.
* Outbound Programs: Print and general media, with definition of your use of newsletters, magazines,
ads, radio, press releases and community engagement strategies; and for higher ed, possibly television.
* Inbound Programs: Email, website development and content marketing, blog, social media, blog, video content, testimonials.
* Events such as supporting Admissions events and open house, booths at school and higher ed
conferences, and community or parent-driven programs.
Market Intelligence, including benchmarking the marketing content of competitors and leaders, and setting alerts to be notified when your or peer schools, colleges or universities appear in the media, traditional or social.
Market Research, covering your current and projected needs - see our Market Research page for more information.
Constituent management: Database marketing, lead nurturing, and other techniques to know your audience, segment your database, and maximize your ROI of marketing spending toward recruiting and retaining your students.
Performance Assessment: It's imperative that you analyze the success of your various campaigns - but don't wait til the end! Especially with paid advertising, and even with other programs, see what's working and not, and adapt accordingly.