July 24

3 Ways a Fractional CMO Can Help Your School

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In a competitive higher ed market that shows no signs of cooling off, a fractional CMO can be a game-changer in your school’s marketing efforts.

But how can you know if one can help your college or university with your enrollment marketing strategy?

You Might Need an Assist From a Fractional CMO If…

Let’s look at a few hypothetical scenarios I’ve seen play out at plenty of small to midsize colleges and universities:

  1. You’re a leader in your school’s admissions office, and you love what you do. But unfortunately, the administration still doesn’t have the budget for a full-time CMO. So now it falls on you to try to get your school’s enrollment marketing strategy in order. There’s just one teensy problem — you’re not a marketing expert.
  2. Your school has a marketing department, but they’re so focused on brand awareness and ad spend that they’re neglecting targeted lead generation. If you’re not sure about this one, take a stroll through your enrollment website to get the pulse of your school’s content marketing strategy.
  3. Ever ask yourself, “What the heck is our marketing department even doing?” Could it be your marketing and admissions departments are hunkered down in siloes and not openly communicating?

Any of those sound familiar, or at least in the ballpark?

If so, you’re not alone. For instance, as of early 2022, only about 2,000 CMOs worked in higher education. That’s one for barely half of all accredited schools in the U.S.

Why so few? Well, honestly, it can be an incredibly demanding job. Look no further than the cross-industry turnover rates to get a clearer picture.

The digital marketing environment is changing so fast that it’s a challenge for full-time CMOs to keep up, much less someone who’s strapped with those responsibilities on the side.

And on top of all that, higher ed marketers also need to be good stewards in frequently communicating with their colleagues in admissions.

That’s where a fractional CMO comes in.

So What Is a Fractional CMO Anyway?

A higher ed fractional CMO provides marketing expertise and guidance on a part-time basis, hence the “fractional” part.

They partner with schools for as little, or as long, as each party agrees to help navigate the college or university’s marketing facelift. So with no long-term commitment, the school avoids any long-term risk that might come with hiring a full-time CMO.

Fractional CMOs can get a lot done in a shorter amount of time because they’re experts at maximizing resources and getting everyone on the same page.

So what are the main perks your school gets out of a fractional CMO?

1. Gain Access to High-Level Marketing Expertise

One of the top benefits of partnering with a Fractional CMO is access to high-level marketing expertise without the full-time executive price tag.

And unlike a traditional in-house marketing team that might be deep in the trenches of day-to-day operations, a fractional CMO brings a fresh perspective. They don’t miss the forest for the trees, so to speak.

They bring a broad range of experience, often accumulated across various regions and schools of all sizes.

This gives them the unique advantage of understanding diverse marketing strategies and knowing what works in different contexts. They’re aware of the latest (and, more importantly, relevant!) trends and technologies and can guide your institution in adopting these advancements effectively.

This allows them to craft and adapt marketing strategies that not only resonate with your target audience but also provide a competitive edge in a dynamic education marketplace.

These can include digital marketing strategies like SEO, content marketing, social media engagement, and influencer partnerships that help elevate your school’s online presence.

And their expertise extends beyond simply creating a marketing strategy. They can help with developing a distinct and compelling brand narrative that resonates with prospective students, parents, and other stakeholders.

Fractional CMOs understand how to tailor messaging to different audiences, and how to use storytelling to build emotional connections and encourage engagement with prospective students.

2. Spend Your Marketing Budget Efficiently

A key responsibility for any CMO is to maximize their marketing dollars, and a fractional CMO excels in this regard.

Fractional CMOs have an extensive understanding of what marketing strategies yield the best ROI. They can critically evaluate your existing marketing efforts, pinpoint areas that aren’t delivering, and suggest changes to optimize outcomes.

They also have a grasp of the digital advertising landscape. I’ve seen so many schools light their marketing dollars on fire by buying well-intentioned ads with no plan on how to utilize them.

But a fractional CMO can help your school navigate the complexities of digital ad spend, ensuring that your budget is allocated in the most efficient way possible. This can include optimizing pay-per-click campaigns, social media advertising, influencer marketing, or even podcast advertising.

And, of course, data analysis plays a huge role in budget efficiency by determining what’s working and what isn’t. This “data-guided” approach allows for continuous adjustment and optimization of your marketing strategy.

3. Align Your Marketing With Your Institution’s Goals

So, in addition to all of the tactical decisions I cited above, a fractional CMO can give feedback that can be invaluable in your overall strategic budget planning.

A fractional CMO’s feedback can help your school refine a marketing budget that balances your institution’s short-term needs with long-term goals.

That’s important because if your brand messaging doesn’t line up with your school’s vision, then it’ll ultimately fail.

The first step in this process is for the fractional CMO to gain a comprehensive understanding of your institution’s mission. This could include objectives such as:

  • Increasing student enrollment
  • Boosting the school’s brand identity
  • Improving alumni engagement
  • Spreading awareness for specific programs

The fractional CMO works closely with your leadership team to understand your goals, taking the time to grasp not just the “what” but the “why” behind them.  

Then they can develop a marketing strategy that directly supports those institutional objectives. This strategy will guide all marketing activities, ensuring that every marketing dollar spent is contributing to your school’s larger goals.

After crafting a goal-aligned strategy, the fractional CMO can also facilitate better integration between marketing and other departments.

They can ensure your school coordinates marketing initiatives with admissions efforts, alumni relations, and other strategic areas. And the best part is this holistic approach can enhance the effectiveness of the entire institution, not just marketing.

Finally… a fractional CMO brings a results-oriented mindset to your institution’s marketing.

They will establish clear, measurable objectives for marketing activities so your institution can track their progress. This accountability ensures your efforts remain aligned with institutional objectives and deliver real, tangible results.

How Can a Fractional CMO Help You With Your School’s Marketing Efforts?

A fractional CMO can revolutionize your school’s marketing.

In a digital age where marketing can make or break an institution’s reputation and reach, one could be the ally your school needs to navigate its way to success. After all, that enrollment cliff is only getting closer by the day.

If you’re feeling frustrated with your marketing efforts, or you could just use an experienced set of extra hands, Caylor Solutions would love to help!

As a higher ed fractional CMO, I’ve helped dozens of schools like yours develop a winning marketing strategy.

My line is always open and obligation-free. Let’s chat!


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Featured image by Nuthawut via Adobe Stock

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