10 Components of a Successful Education Marketing Plan – Part I
You’ve heard it before. Failing to plan is planning to fail. But not all education marketing plans are equal. The quality of your plan will determine the quality of your success.
Sometimes institutional leaders view marketing as if it were gambling: You pay the money. You give it a crank…
And you watch with bated breath to see what happens.
Eventually, after years of few to no results, board members and executive staff stop playing altogether. At best, they come to think marketing’s just a financial sinkhole or, at worst, a scam—resulting in ever-diminishing enrollment pipelines.
But marketing is not a game of luck.
There are proven methods, strategies, and principles that can create measurable progress towards your school’s organizational goals.
But to do this, you need an education marketing plan.
And your plan has to include all the pieces of successful, proven marketing.
Here are the ten components of a successful education marketing plan you must have.
1. Marketing and Brand Audit
To get to where you’re going, you have to know where you are. This section is where you will describe the current status—the good, the bad, and the ugly—of your school’s marketing activities and brand perceptions.
Out of your entire educating marketing plan, the audit section might take you the longest to create. You’ll need to gather data from your revenue centers, like enrollment and development, and your core programs. This might require a series of interviews with various department heads, managers, and faculty.
Key Questions to Ask
- What marketing content is currently being created and by whom?
- How well do current marketing materials visually (colors, typography, images, etc.) represent your school’s brand?
- How could the visual elements of your school’s brand be better?
- How well do current marketing materials communicate your brand?
- Are there key parts of your brand that are not being conveyed?
- Are your marketing materials answering your audience’s questions?
- Do your marketing materials contain emotional elements, or is it presented in dry, academic style?
- What is working and what is not based on your school’s Key Performance Indicators?
2. Target Audiences
Your academic institution isn’t for everyone in the marketplace. Your education marketing plan must identify who needs to receive your brand’s messaging. Your school isn’t for everyone, but you must clarify the ones whom your school can best serve.
In this section, you want to spend time sketching out the various audiences for whom you will be creating your marketing content.
Write out their physical characteristics like their age and gender. Think through their dreams, fears, concerns, and frustrations. Give them names and even pull generic photos to create target-audience avatars for each target audience.
The marketing personas you create for this section will be sources of inspiration for your marketing campaigns in the future—so don’t cheat yourself here.
Key Questions to Ask
- Who is best served by what my school has to offer?
- How do they see their world and the role education plays in it?
- What are their goals or dreams, and how’s my school best positioned to help them reach them?
- What are the questions each of my target audiences is likely to ask of us as a school?
- What fears or concerns do my target audiences have about my area of education that I can allay?
- Who are the influencers and decision makers?
3. Brand Distinctions
There’s no other college, university, or academy on the planet like yours. Your uniqueness is your greatest advantage, so you must identify the various ways that you stand out from your peers.
- Your cutting-edge research in a specific field
- Your innovative programs that combine various learning methods, disciplines, or activities in a way no one else does
- Your educational philosophy as a faith-based school, an eco-friendly school, or a working school
- Your pricing
Truthfully, the hardest part of this section is simply deciding on a set of distinctions that your education messaging will emphasize.
There are so many ways that you could set yourself apart from the rest of the pack, but your content must be laser-focused on a limited set of distinctions. This is the best way to create a space in the market only your brand can truly fill.
That’s why you’ll need to have defined your target audiences before this section. Knowing your target audience’s preferences and needs will help you choose which distinctions are the ones you should be communicating through your marketing.
4. Brand Statement
Your school’s brand statement is where you synthesize all of your brand distinctives with your corporate values and beliefs. From these, you create the promise you make to your target audiences.
Your brand statement can read like an elevator pitch. Here’s an example:
At [INSERT YOUR SCHOOL’S NAME HERE], we believe education should [INSERT YOUR BELIEFS HERE]. We help students [INSERT HOW YOU HELP STUDENTS ACCORDING TO YOUR BRAND DISTINCTIONS] by [MAKE YOUR PROMISE TO THEM HERE].
The statement can also be several paragraphs, but not longer than a page. For good measure, you can also write out nuanced brand statements for your various audiences.
But in my experience, the only necessary brand statement is the one you make to your primary audience—which, if you’re an education marketer, should be prospective students.
5. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Your Unique Selling Proposition is where you take your brand statement and distill it even further. It is your brand in its most concentrated form. It is your school in its most authentic form.
Key Questions to Ask
What problem are you uniquely positioned to solve? (Special needs education, spiritual formation, job preparation, etc.)
- For what kind of student are you solving the problem?
- What are the outcomes of graduating from your school? In other words…
- What will the student be like or be able to do when they graduate?
- What will the world/community/industry be like because they graduated from your school?
Take your time on this one and think it through.
If you had 60 seconds to tell a prospective student why they should choose your school, this is the proposition you should give them, because it is the unique quality that is most likely to “sell” your school.
Education Marketing Plans Work
Next week, I’ll share with you the final must-have components of your plan. But you don’t have to wait until then to get your marketing plan up to speed.
If you’re tired of the spotty results you’re getting from your education marketing, stop gambling! Get to work on your marketing plan today.
And if you could use an experienced hand, we’ve been creating education marketing plans for schools like yours for over thirty years—and we’re proud of the results!
So get ahold of us. We’d be happy to help!
This post was originally published at: https://www.caylor-solutions.com/10-components-education-marketing-plan-part-1/
NextGen Schools: Measuring the Success of Innovative Practices As long as there has been public education, there have been efforts to improve and reform it. With the current educational landscape being rapidly improved by technology, keeping up with the latest…
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Hiring an Effective Education Marketing Agency
Educational marketers and development teams have much to gain by outsourcing their marketing efforts. But picking the right education marketing agency means the difference between success and failure.
As my friend Liza Fisher Norman of InspirED School Marketers so aptly put it, “powerful, effective marketing and communications are more important than ever for enrollment and development.”
With the number of schools out there competing for the same students, you MUST have a strategic marketing plan in place and the capacity to produce significant volumes of quality content consistently that will break through the noise and earn the trust of your prospective students and parents.
Even the biggest educational institutions rarely have all the strategic and execution skills they need in-house to fill up their enrollment pipelines with quality candidates.
That’s why hiring outside consultants and content creators can be one of your best decisions you make as an education marketer.
But you’ve got to pick the right one for you and your school. So here’s a helpful checklist of characteristics to look for in an effective education marketing agency.
12 Characteristics of an Effective Education Marketing Agency
While there are certain principles of successful marketing that cross industry barriers, education marketing is nuanced and the competition is fierce. You need a marketing partner that works exclusively in the education field, who has intimate knowledge of how the enrollment decision/admission process works.
The stakes are too high to put your name and budget dollars on an outside consultant who’s learning on the job with you.
The educational community is all about relationships. It’s about people helping other people along in the pursuit of their dreams. Any marketing partner you work with should be known among the professional associations that represent your educational community.
Similarly to being known among the associations in your educational community, excellent marketing partners of every kind—agencies, consultants, freelancers, etc.—are always willing to provide references that you can talk to about their work.
Beware of the education marketing agency that’s unable or unwilling to provide good contact information for one of their previous or current clients.
Internet technologies have made the entry barrier into marketing much lower than ever before. Think of how smartphones have made everyone a “photographer.”
Overall, this is a good thing. New and bright minds are able to bring their creativity and passion to the table to serve you!
But a low entry barrier also means it’s easy to pack up and do something else, dropping you and all your marketing projects in the middle of an all-important campaign.
Look for education marketing agencies with years of experience under their belt. These folks have seen both good times and bad, and they’ve stayed in the game—right alongside their clients—through it all.
Beware the rockstar, flash-in-the-pan.
You should never trust a barefoot cobbler. In the same way, you shouldn’t trust a marketing partner with your school’s budget dollars who doesn’t practice what they preach.
Make sure they’ve got their act together before you trust them with yours.
Accountability comes in two forms:
- Accountability to People
- Accountability to Numbers
We’ve already covered what it looks like to be accountable to people by being a part of the educational community and providing solid references. But too many would-be marketers are scared to death of the numbers, nervous that they’re not bringing in the results their clients need.
A good education marketing agency measures their results. They know what metrics to track, and they know how to gauge real progress.
Look for marketing partners that can show you real results from their work.
Numbers don’t lie, but unfortunately, people can and do. Integrity should be a non-negotiable attribute you look for in a marketing partner.
People with integrity will show you the real results, not too-good-to-be-true numbers. People with integrity will never exaggerate their role in the success. People with integrity give credit where credit is due.
Character counts. Look for that kind of marketing partner.
Related to the previous point, you need a marketing partner that will tell you the truth… even if you don’t like it.
Even if you’ve just spent a large part of your budget on a new website, your outside marketing partner should be willing to be candid about the performance gaps (if there are any) clearly and logically.
Sometimes the truth hurts, but we need it in order to fix problems and grow. Make sure you choose a marketing partner who’ll tell you the truth as they see it and are able to explain why they see it that way.
Chemistry is important. Do you like them?
To do good work, you will be meeting with them often. Do you look forward to seeing them again? Or, do you inwardly groan about having to set aside time to talk with them?
A good marketing partner should fill you with hope and excitement for the future. If you feel drained emotionally after meeting with them, it’s probably time to break up.
Be sure that the services you need are part of their core abilities and not add-on sales or outsourced deliverables. If you need a website, do they create websites with their own team? Or is it just an afterthought? If you need research, is that a core competency?
Look for partners who will focus on what you need to focus upon.
Be sure that the deliverable you need is part of their core competency and not just an add-on.
No matter how fun they are to be around, and no matter how dedicated they are to your school, eventually money will be a part of your marketing-partner relationship. Marketing partners that are a joy to work with won’t squirm when you start talking about money, budget, and restraints.
Mature marketing partners understand the way institutional budget cycles, RFP’s, and PO’s work. They also have transparent pricing, simple billing, and flexible payment terms.
Outside consultants are here to serve you, not make your life complicated. So look for partners who are mature during negotiations and billing.
On the same note, look for an education marketing agency who is flexible with their services. Some marketers use a strict process, methodology, or service package structure.
With these guys, you’re going to get billed for services you don’t need whether you like it or not because it’s a part of their service package. Look for partners who will deliver what you need instead of trying to change your entire game plan.
Remember, you are looking for a partner to help you make your plans a success, not a boss to tell you what the plan is.
We want to work with you!
If you would like to work with an educational marketing agency with all of these qualities, why not get ahold of us? We’d love to be a part of your team and bring you the same proven results we’ve experienced with other clients like you!
This post was originally published at: https://www.caylor-solutions.com/how-to-hire-an-effective-education-marketing-agency/