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Education industry benchmark: annual marketing budget

image of piggy bank in annual marketing budget blog

Leading industry sources have documented the trend of decreasing college enrollment, as we discussed here. The Hechinger Report found that there were 2.4 million fewer students enrolling in classes during the Spring semester in 2017 than there were in 2011. The numbers are not expected to improve until 2023. This has led to a considerable increase in competition within the higher education sector. Colleges and universities that want to attract students to their institution need to carefully consider their marketing investments and how these engage with these potential students.

How marketing budgets compare to other institutions

CMO surveyed organizations across a variety of industries to see how much of their budget they allocated towards marketing. They found that an average of 11 percent of the total company budget went towards marketing. This was an increase from the 2012 budget, when 10.4 percent went towards marketing.

The education sector remains on par with this trend. About 11 percent of the budget for institutions of learning goes to marketing.

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How do educational institutions divide their budgets?

Marketing budgets continue to shift towards digital marketing. Each year, digital spending increases between 10 and 14 percent. Organizations have also increased their efforts towards brand building online. Institutions of higher learning will likely continue this trend as they work to differentiate themselves from others in the industry.

The importance of analytics in marketing

The education sector anticipates a 20.4 percent growth in marketing budgets over the next 12 months, which rises significantly above the average of 10.9 percent growth. As more colleges and universities invest in marketing, they must also understand the importance of analytics.

We stress the importance of analytics because it is only by tracking results that you can better understand the areas to improve. Through careful analysis of KPIs (key performance indicators), you will be able to tell where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

To best understand your ROI, you need to begin by documenting your precise investment. This includes asking questions such as:

  • How much am I spending?
  • Where am I spending this money?
  • Is the money I spend driving results?

You will need to look at these KPIs regularly to gain a firm understanding of which channels see the greatest success for your brand.

Once you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you will be ready to adjust your tactics as needed. You can use data to drive your future decisions. If particular channels produce few results, you can make important adjustments to improve your return. You can also allocate more funds and expand your campaigns on the channels that drive the greatest results. Using this data will help you allocate your money efficiently and effectively.

Colleges and universities will continue to face an enormous amount of pressure over the next few years as fewer students enroll in colleges. The organizations that carefully build their marketing plans by looking at how budgets are allocated and how to maximize their investments, will find paths to success.

Learn more about how to meet and beat your enrollment goals in our free resource, "Intro to inbound for higher ed marketing."


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