Marketing In Higher Ed Final


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White paper on why marketing in higher education is more important than ever.

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Marketing In Higher Ed Final

  1. 1. I Can’t Afford Marketing Right Now As the stock market continues its uncertain course, colleges and universities are looking for ways to reduce expenses. Any “non-essential” spending will quickly be seen as a candidate for budget reductions. So in this environment, why would you consider redeploying your resources to increase your marketing focus? In this market, you can’t afford not to. Frequently maligned, marketing has taken a back seat to other mission critical functions like development or admissions in most colleges and universities. At its worst, marketing is delegated to a creator of brochures, emails and cookie cutter websites; at its best, it is seen as communication crisis management. But the value of a truly integrated strategic marketing plan to a college or university can be translated in increased revenue and expense reduction. Utilizing advanced marketing techniques to sell the university will be crucial as the number of high school graduates start to plateau and acceptance ratios plummet due to student’s ability to pay for the college of their choice. In addition, competition for students is increasing and state universities are very competitive in the search for top students. The trick for savvy marketers is to make sure you obtain the appropriate return on your marketing dollars spent. There are eight goals for marketing in any organization. The depth to which marketing is utilized depends on whether you are looking to remain tactical, engage in product marketing (promoting a department or course) or become truly integrated by including a strategic marketing component. Eight Goals of Marketing Database Marketing Understand the Integrate Learnings Track Effectiveness Market & Competition Strategic Generate Leads Effective Marketing Tactical Marketing Segment the Market (students, donors, Organization alumni etc.) Marketing Build the Design Products to Communicate with Organization’s Support the Strategy the Market Strategy & Brand Product Marketing
  2. 2. If you fully engage your marketing department and utilize all eight goals, there are several key areas to ensure success: Research This is a key competency utilized throughout a university yet an integrated market research plan is seldom created to maximize this expenditure and ensure that the strategic questions and markets are being addressed. To ensure that the strategic plan is on target, it is crucial to understand the key markets and how the competition (other providers of knowledge) is addressing those needs. Brand & Sub-brand development and standardization One of the most expensive activities for a college or university is to develop their brand and inculcate that brand into the hearts and minds of their administration, faculty, student body and alumni. Brand is the collection of experiences, symbols and feelings that the audience has when thinking about your college. Frequently, universities undermine their brands by allowing sub-brands to proliferate. This does not mean that that promoting a college’s specialties is less important. A good brand strategy should be able to expand beyond the core values of the university to embrace sub-brands that reinforce the core values. Standardization of your brand allows your branding dollars to work harder for you as well as reduces the expense of promoting multiple brands. Market Identification and Segmentation There are at least nine market segments that are important in higher education including: undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, donors, local companies, business leaders, parents, college counselors and faculty. The typical college communicates to these markets with a product push instead of addressing their needs. In addition, tactics successfully utilized in one market are not utilized in the other markets. Marketing Tactic Optimization Not all markets are created equal and therefore your marketing dollars should not be spent equally. Even within a market, not all targets are created equally. By optimizing marketing tactics – using your most expensive tactics for those individuals with the highest potential for acceptance is critical to double digit returns on your marketing dollar. Campaign analysis, Data Management and Modeling (contact management) The data analysis and management separates “nice-to have” marketing from “mission critical” marketing. All marketing outreach, including branding and public relations have a tangible
  3. 3. value to your organization and as a result, can and should be tracked. New marketing tactics must be tested against your existing tactics. Can a slight modification improve your response rate? A test and learn environment in your marketing department can develop a culture of constant improvement. Data models can be created to identify those students most likely to accept your offer as well as those alumni mostly likely to donate. Response models will ensure that you continue to improve your success ratios. Communications & Thought Leadership Beyond crisis communications, grant and book announcements, an integrated public relations plan allows you to reinforce your brand, build your institution as a thought leader and manage your press coverage so your competitor is minimized. To build a plan, each key department in a university must be consulted to ensure your university receives favorable coverage throughout the year. This helps build your reputation so that when something negative does arise, your connections can work for you. Resource Consolidation As important as obtaining a return on your marketing investment is making sure that use your collective buying power to obtain all the discounts possible. Consolidating resources and vendors is key to getting the most out of your marketing expenditure. Key areas to consider are: media buying, production, creative services, research. If you purchase these services through multiple departments are you utilizing your buying power? If you decide to implement a fully integrated marketing organization, the final decision is to determine if you are looking for a centralized or decentralized organizational structure. Both structures have their pro’s and con’s. Pro’s Centralized Decentralized Easier to create economies of scale Can be more responsive to a changing environment Better budget control and accountability Less competition for budget dollars Easier to build and maintain standards Able to meet needs in a more customized fashion Facilitates strategic planning Intimate knowledge of product and audience Cost savings on equipment, software and More control over resources training Greater career path opportunities Better sense of alignment with the business Con’s Centralized Decentralized Does not respond as quickly in a More costly to operate
  4. 4. changing environment Less effective at tapping the creativity More difficult to control creating problems of coordination and knowledge of lower level employees Can be perceived as dictatorial and Competition for resources and budget threatening to departments Can become too theoretical because Can lose creativity because you only see your own way they are not tied as closely to the business There is also a hybrid approach which includes centralizing certain highly specialized or costly functions like database management or market research while allowing for decentralized execution. To ignore your marketing in a difficult economy ensures that you will miss an enormous opportunity. Universities will be forced to cut these expenses because very little tangible value can be associated with stand alone tactical marketing, but an integrated marketing approach could allow you to stand out in the market. It will also set the stage for communication excellence as competition of students and development dollars becomes more intense. Byline: Suzanne Cuccurullo is a 20 year marketing veteran focusing on high performing marketing teams and owner of Cuccurullo Consulting Services. She can be reached at .