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Developing a higher ed marketing strategy


Developing a marketing strategy for your institution is vital to your long-term success. There are several important things that go into developing a strategy and there is an endless number of options you could include. However, as Michael Porter, well respected Harvard business strategy professor says, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Thoroughness and documentation are important, but wherever possible, simplify. With that in mind, we’ve laid out three simple steps to include while planning a marketing strategy.

Discovery & goal setting

We recommend that you start your strategy planning session with a discovery workshop. We routinely host discovery workshops for our clients with a vision toward the strategy to start with a firm grasp of the organization’s brand, long-term goals while also allowing for the uncovering of new initiatives. As Idea Agency President Chris Tieri discusses in this podcast, brand strategy and business strategy should not be kept separate. So too, a robust marketing strategy includes new tactics and initiatives while being cognizant of the brand and long-term business goals.  

How to organize your plan

Once a discovery workshop has established or confirmed the key objectives, brand voice and uncovered any new direction, your plan can come to life. While there are many possible layouts, it is a good idea to separate the on-going activities into one section activities tied to specific dates or events into another section. By organizing this way, you have essentially laid out a calendar which will help your team prioritize work and stay on course to meet big deadlines. In addition, metrics for on-going activities should be evaluated on a regular basis. Build this into your plan.

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Don’t underestimate outside help

We’ve seen it more than once. A group of very intelligent people can sit in a meeting room and develop a truly impressive strategy. Sometimes it works great, however, there are times where it’s clear an outside perspective was necessary. It’s always advisable to work with an industry-experienced agency or consultant as you develop your strategy. They will often bring knowledge from the industry or other clients which will augment your internal capabilities.

To summarize (1) start with the big picture, (2) move forward in an organized fashion that lends itself to execution and (3) if you don’t have an outside resource helping build your strategy, you should consider getting it evaluated before implementation.

If you would like to learn about one highly successful strategy for combatting the declining enrollment trends, download our free resource “Intro to inbound for higher education.”


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