Key points:
  • Many school marketing professionals struggle with developing a marketing plan
  • Traditional marketing plans are too arduous to write
  • Optimise your approach to save time and boost efficiency

Three school marketing professionals walk into a bar. 

The first has an annual marketing plan. The second doesn’t. The third has spent the last three years trying to write one but it’s still not finished…

Sound familiar?

Having a comprehensive marketing plan can be a life saver – a good plan will help you be more focused, find clarity, and ultimately save you time, money, and perhaps a few grey hairs. 

What’s involved?

The traditional marketing plan is time-consuming and laborious. For many busy school-advancement professionals, sitting down and writing one is a luxury they just can’t afford.

Let’s take a look at the components of a typical marketing plan:

  • Executive Summary
  • Situational Analysis
  • Market Research
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Brand Awareness, Attitude and Action
  • Objectives
  • Umbrella Strategies
  • Tactics
  • Marketing Mix
  • Budget
  • Evaluation
  • Appendix

This isn’t something you pull together on a Tuesday afternoon. Definitely not in a busy school environment where you’re dealing with several competing deadlines, requests, and responsibilities on any given day. 

The reality is that school life can be hectic, and the importance of time management and efficiency can’t be overstated. We, as school marketers, have to be marketing generalists, and wear many hats on any given day.

From goal setting to relationship management, our responsibilities can be so wide-ranging, which practically forces us to come up with a plan to cope. However, more and more we’re coming to realise that the old ways just aren’t cutting it.

The problem with traditional plans

I’ve worked in three independent schools and none of them had an existing marketing plan when I commenced. So, if your school doesn’t have a marketing plan, know that you’re not alone.

Aside from the time required to write a plan, there are a few other reasons why traditional marketing plans aren’t a high-priority for many schools:

  1. They often aren’t actionable, and end up collecting digital (or actual) dust (i.e. total waste of time and effort).
  2. They can be pretty dry – nobody wants to write a 50-page marketing plan, and guess what? Nobody wants to read one either.
  3. They aren’t fun to write – it’s easy to find better things to do when you have 154 things on your to-do list.
  4. They aren’t designed for schools. Finding a marketing plan template and adapting it for a school is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. None of us have the time to mess about with this in schools.
  5. Starting from scratch can be overwhelming if there isn’t one already in place or you haven’t written one before.

So, what’s the solution?

Here’s the thing – if you don’t have a documented plan, you can easily fall into a pattern of executing marketing tactics without a sound strategy to underpin them. This often results in wasted time, effort, and budget.

The great news is we no longer have to write a traditional marketing plan to develop a strong strategy for our schools.

Here are some tips to create a marketing plan that you’ll actually use and will help you achieve your goals in 2022:

  1. Forget about long, detailed explanations – get to the point and make it snappy. Everyone’s attention span is shorter these days.
  2. Display it in a visually appealing way that maps out your plan clearly and can be marked off when you complete your tasks.
  3. Think about the bigger picture – if you’re used to playing with tactics, it’s time to think more strategically so that your tactics form part of the bigger picture.
  4. Schedule time in your calendar for building your marketing strategy and developing your plan. This is the only way that you’ll find time to do it.

By taking the time to create one, you:

  • Can be more strategic in what you do each day
  • No longer have to carry the mental load of what needs to be done
  • Can easily share your vision and direction with relevant team members and colleagues
  • Will align your marketing with the strategic direction of the school
  • Can demonstrate to the Principal and School Council the important work you’re doing

A modern approach

After writing traditional 50-page marketing plans for each school I’ve worked for, I decided there had to be a better way. 

You see, if we return to the school marketing professionals in the bar; I’ve been all three. I know the chaos of not having a plan. I’ve taken years to write one while managing all my conflicting priorities, and I’ve also been the smug one with the documented plan in place.

But after more than a decade working in this space, I didn’t want to write another one of those plans. The mere idea of updating my previous one filled me with dread.

Now, my Strategic School Marketing Framework has made it easier to create a plan quickly and easily, and saves time, money, and stress in the long term.

It’s dynamic. It’s interesting. It’s actionable.

Where to from here?

Let me leave you with this final piece of advice:

Marketing plan or not – what you do day-in and day-out as a school advancement professional is truly mind-boggling. Managing the intense workload of schools, often in a small or one-person department, is incredibly challenging. We may not be in the classroom, but we’re changing lives by connecting the right families with our schools.

I wish you all the very best moving forward as you set goals and develop your school marketing plan.  

If you’d like to learn more about what the Strategic School Marketing Framework can do for your school, get in touch and I’ll be able to walk you through everything you need to know.

Published 23 February 2022