January 17

5 Keys to Unleash Your Marketing Team

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It’s easy for your marketing team to become a group of creative project “order-takers” rather than the driving marketing force of your institute. Here’s how to turn it around.

Most likely this happens because marketing teams tend to pool together creative professionals that are needed for so many communications projects across our organizations. 

For many private colleges or universities, if a department needs a web developer, they send in an email request to marketing. 

Or if they need a flyer designed for a campus gathering, they send in a media project request. 

At first, you’re happy to help. 

You’re a team player who wants to do all they can to help everyone.

But then, the project requests stack up to the ceiling. 

Social media graphics need to be designed. Landing pages must be created. Pictures need to be taken. Videos need filmed.

The project list is literally endless! 

You’ll never finish all the requests that keep streaming into your inbox.

Again, it’s not that you don’t want to help. 

But you know that all the time that you spend working on these piecemeal projects is time that your team isn’t working on the big picture.

Messaging. Branding. Marketing strategy.

Rather than driving your institution’s brand strategy forward, you’re being driven by constant project requests. 

In the first episode of The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, Ethan Braden of Purdue University called this “short order cook” marketing management.

This is kind of a long quote, but it’s well worth the read.

[We need to] get away from being the driven “short order cook” of random acts of marketing… to being the driver of great positioning.

That idea of being the driver is not for us, it’s for our external audiences. At the end of the day, when we put our marketing out there, it’s got to have that understanding. It’s got to really be about driving affinity so that people are going to take our information, and they’re going to feel something with it. They’re going to recall, and they’re going to take some action based on that sort of idea. 

[This outlook of being the driver of affinity] brings marketing to the table as a material contribution to the realization of the organization’s ultimate goals. 

We need to materially contribute to Mitch Daniels’ realization of Purdue’s future – not be the shorter cook in the back! 

I urge all marketers in higher education to really step up and think about their contributions, how they can be the driver of really great brand proliferation versus the recipient of the orders of others.

To really drive affinity with your brand among your target audience, you have to unleash your marketing team. 

You have to find a way to get out of the vicious cycle of simply fulfilling the media project orders in your inbox.

But how do you do that? 

How do you change your team from being a short order cook to being a driver of brand affinity without breaking your relationships with the rest of the institution?

Here are five keys that can help you do it.

1. Get to know your executive team.

Good marketing starts with good relationships with your executive team. 

As the head of marketing, you might be considered a part of the executive team, but in some institutions, this may not be the case. 

No matter how your marketing leadership is structured within the larger leadership team, do what you can to develop good relationships with the executives of your school. 

These relationships go far to promote collaboration between your teams and healthy communication.

It will also help elevate marketing from being a team of creative professionals to a thinktank of marketing strategists as they come to know you and your team better. 

2. Get to know your CEO’s vision.

Of course, among the executives, you should really get to know the person who is casting the vision of the institution. 

In your case, that might be the executive director, provost, or president. 

Whatever title they have, get to know the one who’s responsible for the overall vision of your school.

This way, you’ll be able to help them create language around their vision which will go directly into your messaging. 

This relationship will also further position your marketing team as the driver of brand affinity and an essential component of realizing the CEO’s vision.

3. Set a vision for your marketing team.

It’s important for the organization to have a clear vision that you can market.

But it’s equally important for your marketing team to have a vision for its role in your school and community. 

Ethan shared his marketing team’s vision in our interview with him.

Marketing is the catalyst of exemplary customer experiences. We are the drivers of those experiences. We are the drivers of the brand and not the driven.

We have three goals on my team: to cultivate, excite, and unite a world class marketing community at Purdue University. 

I have a team of 65. There’s another 300-400 people on campus that are working in some sort of communications capacity. So how do we cultivate that group? How do we excite that group? But how do we get them on the same page, so that what they put out looks and feels compelling and consistent?

Ethan’s vision is “to cultivate, excite, and unite a world class marketing community at Purdue University.”

What’s your marketing team’s vision?

When your team has their own vision to be more than a short order cook, they’ll step up to the plate and drive amazing customer experiences. 

4. Brush up on your leadership skills.

Really what we’re talking about here is leadership.

I always talk about marketing on this blog, but this post is really about how we can help lead our schools as marketers.

Marketing has a role to play in the shaping of our institutional vision and how we communicate that vision.

We are storytellers who introduce people on the outside to our institutional vision. 

But that’s not all we do.

We are also the storytellers who remind our faculty, staff, and current students who we are, what we believe in, and what we can achieve together.

At its core, that’s leadership.

So I recommend throwing some good leadership courses, books, and authors into your personal development regimen. 

Organizations such as ABHE, CASE, NACAC, NACCAP, and others are great places to get personal development specific to higher education.

Brush up on those leadership skills so you can unleash your marketing team.

5. Stay ahead of the curve.

Following up on the idea of leadership development, I highly recommend keeping up with the latest in marketing thought, strategies, and tools.

And don’t stop there!

Go beyond education marketing and see what people are doing in B2B and consumer marketing. 

Bring those ideas back to your team and see how they can help you drive greater affinity for your school.

The time is now.

If you’ve been stuck in the cycle of only taking project orders, it’s time to make the shift.

It will take time to turn the ship around and turn your team into a driver of affinity.

So start putting these steps into practice now.

You’ll love the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction you’ll get when you unleash your marketing team to do what they’re really made to do.

For more insights into improving your enrollment marketing, contact us today!


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