Insight Blog: Can we make marketing go faster in higher education?

While I’ve worked in higher ed marketing for 30+ years now, I’m pleased to see an influx of folks from other sectors join our party. A common refrain is, “Why is higher ed so slow to act?” If you’ve been hanging around on campus, I bet you can identify with this. When it comes to developing and delivering marketing projects on campus there are a lot of ways a project can run off the rails or die completely. From the project planning, vendor acquisition or internal team collaboration, through implementation there are speed bumps to be negotiated and delays to endure. And when it comes to implementing effective, targeted marketing campaigns to support student enrollment and retention there is not a moment to lose.

In the Higher Ed Marketing Community Chat session I just hosted on Clubhouse today a bunch of super smart folks chimed in on my “we must move faster” rant and shared some of their particular challenges AND solutions. Here’s a brief summary of some of the challenges and solutions we discussed. This is a huge problem that is complicated and needs more thoughtful discussion AND action. Share your ideas and help us continue on this path. Fast. Seriously. Do it now. We need you!

It Begins at the Beginning

We hear that just confirming agreement on project scope, timing, budget and participants can create barriers (and predict future challenges). Marketing projects are often not priorities for folks outside the marketing operation though the collegial/committee-based approach to a lot of higher education management require that a wide range of people participate in some manner.

Could a clear and simple project charter smooth the path?

One of the faculty members who joined in the conversation suggested that a clear, concise summary of the project would help decision influencers, like faculty, quickly grasp the problem, proposed solution, their potential future involvement and timeline. Project charters are a great starting point for the marketing team anyway, so why not curate a version for extended team members/grounds and socialize?

Use data to create a sense of urgency!

We also discussed the opportunity to use data and competitive reconnaissance to support the case-building aspect of the marketing project. Demonstrating how competitors are currently (or aren’t) pursuing/delivering similar resources to their student markets can be compelling. External market research resources on market trends, adoption of new creative or tech-based solutions and other examples from inside and beyond higher education can help influencers grasp the urgency for action.

Measurement and Redemption

A topic I’m going to introduce in the future is the need to improve marketing measurement to support the iteration of campaign strategies and tactics and especially to make improvements to campus web sites. For now, let’s say that and ideal state would be the ability for a marketing team to use campaign, channel and asset performance data to demonstrate both the need for change and progress against goals. Some of our friends on campus can say that they have this well in hand. Many don’t.

Going back to the idea of finding strategies to help marketing teams move faster, my idea is then to ensure that we have a strong KPI system in place to help our partners understand the value of incremental change on our websites, testing campaign performances and a constant state of tinkering. Campus partners don’t always love that tinkering bit.

But here’s the thing…there is redemption in using your website as platform for experiments and if we can get our measurement ducks in a row we can achieve a “fail fast” state that will ultimately lead to a place where we really know what works and how to capitalize on those strategies.

What say you? What has worked for you? How have you failed fast and recovered. Join our conversation here or on Clubhouse. We need and value your voice!