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August 26

Where’s the Problem? Your Budget or Your Marketing Plan? [4 Questions]


Your campaigns are humming along, and you need more from your budget. Before asking for more money, ask yourself if the problem might be in your marketing plan.

Education marketing takes money. Everyone agrees on the need for a sufficient budget.

So why is going to the dentist a more pleasant experience than a budgeting meeting?

Marketing budgets can be a headache for both marketers and executives. 

Executives wonder where all the money’s going – and marketers wonder where all the money’s going to come from for the next campaign.

There’s always a new tool, piece of equipment, or new marketing platform to buy. And there are a hundred different services promising unrealistic returns… if you just sign their long-term contract

And while it’s true that if you put more money into some services – like Google Ads or social media advertising – you can boost some of your results, there is a point of diminishing returns.

A bigger marketing budget doesn’t fix everything.

Over and over, I’ve seen institutions dump more money into their PPC campaigns, print marketing, video marketing, or whatever, and they have little to nothing to show for it.

Almost every time there’s a gigantic marketing budget with paltry results, you can bet that the problem lies in the strategy and execution.

So before you go into that meeting to ask for a bigger marketing budget, ask yourself these questions.

Do I have a robust marketing plan in effect?

Every independent school, college, or university should have a robust marketing plan

This plan should include an analysis of where you are in regards to marketing personas, brand awareness, brand loyalty, and brand authority. It should also have a breakdown of the various challenges to improving these critical marketing objectives. 

The most common culprits of bad marketing results are poor planning and unclear strategic direction.

Yet these are quite often the most neglected components of education marketing.

When you’re in the planning stage, nothing concrete is happening, yet

Planning can be one of the most frustrating parts of the marketing process. Being in your head for days or weeks constantly reviewing data and mulling over possibilities can be overwhelming.

Lots of marketers just don’t like the hard work of strategy – and too many executives don’t have the patience to wait for their marketing department to come up with well-devised strategies.  

This is completely understandable. 

By its very nature, the time you spend strategizing is time you’re not executing. 

But like Abraham Lincoln said, it’s better to spend time sharpening your ax before chopping down the tree.

Working on your marketing plan is like sharpening an axe before you start chopping down the tree.

Is My Marketing Plan Written Down?

The plan in your head won’t help anyone on your team. You need to write it down.

More than that, the plan in your head won’t help you, either.

If I’m honest, the “plans” I have in my head aren’t plans at all. They’re half-baked ideas that my subconscious is still working on. 

Nothing wrong with that, but you’ve got to recognize that the ideas in your head aren’t a plan until they appear in a digital file or on paper.

The process of writing out your marketing plan forces you to get specific, to clarify, to spell out where you want your team to go and how you’re going to get there.

In the process of clarification, all of your self-doubt will rear its ugly head. 

But you’ve got to tell your inner critic to give it a rest until you’ve got it all out, and then you can refine it.

Plans help no one until they’re written.

Is My Marketing Plan Adopted by the Team?

Once your plan is written down and you’ve refined it to your liking, it’s time to pitch it to your superiors and the main leaders on your team.

Your written plan now needs to be adopted. 

Consensus is the key element that you’ve got to generate around your plan. People have to buy into it. 

You’ll need money for your marketing budget – and you need consensus around your written plan to achieve that.

In some organizations, this adoption process is baked in to the system. You can’t get a marketing budget approved without an adopted plan.

But in the world of private educational institutions, some organizations just don’t insist on these formalities. In this particular case, that’s not a good thing.

You need consensus to fund your marketing budget. You need consensus to get your team to execute well on your plan.

Pitching your plan and tweaking it to get as many people onboard with you as possible is crucial to getting your plan adopted and ready to execute.

Is My Marketing Plan Visible?

This one continues right from the last point. Once your plan is adopted by your superiors and team leaders, it’s time to distribute the plan to everyone who needs it.

I recommend sharing a Google Doc or Microsoft Word doc (using Microsoft’s OneDrive service) with everyone on your marketing team who needs to know where the ship is going. 

This way, they can leave comments and discuss the implications of the plan all in one document.

Also, take certain sections of your plan and create helpful guides to post on the walls of your office spaces. 

Make sure your goals and priority projects are highly visible on whiteboards, corkboards, or wherever you can post them.

Another helpful tip is to keep your progress on the plan visible. 

Use a KanBan board to keep your marketing plan projects up and running efficiently.

Whether it’s through a fundraising thermometer, a KanBan Board, or some other indicator of progress, find a tool that will keep your team accountable and excited about their progress.

Visible plans are more likely to be executed.

Strategic Problems vs. Budgeting Problems

With all that said, lack of money can hinder your results. 

There are times when the lack of funding truly cripples the efforts of a good marketing team.

However, more often than not money isn’t the problem! The problem is often in the strategy. 

And most of the time, it’s not that your strategy is wrong. 

It’s much more likely that your marketing plan isn’t clearly written out, or your team hasn’t adopted it, or it’s just not visible.

Need any help diagnosing a puzzling marketing issue in your private school, college, or university? We’d be happy to help. 

Contact us today!

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Feature Image by denisismagilov on Adobe Stock.
Lincoln quote background image by leonidkos on Adobe Stock.
Notes image credit to danijelala on Adobe Stock.

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