Do you take a look at your team's marketing strategy every year? Creating an annual marketing plan can keep you on track to making your student recruitment goals a reality. A high-level plan can help to provide direction for your marketing campaigns, goals and growth.
A marketing plan helps with budget and project planning, as well as managing your team's workload.
How to create a marketing plan
Analyse your current situation
Consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with a basic SWOT analysis - this is a great place to start. Make sure that you understand your current market, how do you compare to competitors? Think about how your school or college's offering fits into the local, regional and national landscape, what are you best at? What gives your competitors the edge? What do you offer that gives you a competitive advantage?
Understand your market
Define your target audience by working on your marketing personas.
If you haven't done persona development before, it is worth spending some time with your team refining who your target audience is.
Your persona should include demographics such as age, gender and income. It should also contain psychographic content such as paint points and goals. Try to understand exactly what matters to your target audience and how you solve their problems.
Establish your SMART goals
You can't improve your student recruitment and ROI on your marketing efforts without knowing your goals.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. One example could be: 'We want to increase our summer school applications by 10% in the next three months'
You will most likely have a number of goals for different aspects of your marketing efforts, it may be to increase Instagram followers, to drive more traffic to your website or to convert more website visitors into leads.
Consider the tactics you will use
Now you need to figure out what you can do to reach your goals, think about which channels and actions you need to focus on.
Once you know your goals, it should be easy to brainstorm ideas to reach those goals. This is a great activity for the whole team to get involved with but remember to keep your budget in mind.
Set your budget
Before you can get stuck in to implementation, you need to know how much you can afford to spend to reach your goals.
From social advertising to promotional literature, a new website to a new digital CRM to manage your prospect data better - you may need to prioritise some goals over others in order to make an impact and achieve your goals within budget.
For every tactic you have planned, note an estimated budget, as well as the time it will take to complete each action.
What to include in your marketing plan
Here are six elements that your marketing plan should include:
Summary of your school or college
As simple as it sounds, this should be a summary of your organisation. Include name, mission statement and core values, it is helpful to include your SWOT analysis here too for you to keep referring back to.
This section allows you to segment the various goals of your department. Avoid big-picture organisation initiatives, this section is specifically for you to outline the projects that are specific to marketing and student recruitment - don't forget to include how these goals will be measured and what metrics will need to be taken into account.
If you have done a clear market research study, and have worked on your marketing persona development, this section should be easy to write. In this section, describe your target audience, the broader education landscape and your place within it, and your key marketing personas.
This section should use information from your Target Market section to describe how your school or college should reach your market. What will you offer that they cannot get elsewhere?
If you want to go into lots of detail, this is a good place to include the '7 Ps of marketing' (product, price, place, promotion, people, process and physical evidence).
This section allows you to explain how much budget has been allocated to your marketing team in order to pursue the initiatives and goals you have outlined. You can outline specifically what you will spend your budget on with an itemised plan, or allocate budget for specific projects or goals.
The final element of your marketing plan should include a list of your marketing channels. Note where you will publish the content that educates your prospects, generates enquiries and spreads brand awareness for your school or college.
If you use social media, this is a good place to mention what you intend to use the channels for and why - use this as a place to explain your decisions to your wider management team.
If social media is a big part of your marketing strategy, consider creating a separate dedicated social media plan that can complement your marketing plan.
Ready to plan your marketing content?
Download our free resources:
Get some feedback from an inbound marketing and education specialist with a free initial consultation with Gemma - our Founder and Education Growth Consultant.