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Resolution Number One: Create a One-Year Integration Plan

Let this be the year that you better connect with prospective students, donors, and everyone else in your target audience.
University Business, Feb 2007

Strategic planning and integrated marketing planning need to enjoy a hand-in-glove relationship. In fact, I advocate the melding of strategic plans and marketing plans into a single, comprehensive-yet-concise, integrated institutional plan.

In 2007, building an institutional strategic plan without the benefit of understanding what your primary markets (a.k.a. your primary revenue streams) think of--and expect from--your school is just foolhardy. You only can connect with targeted audiences like prospective students and donors, enrolled students, employees, legislators, alumni, and residents of the communities you serve if you fully understand three things about them:

1. The language(s) they speak;

2. The significant issues of interest to them; and

3. Their perceived needs that your programs can address.

Absent this fundamental market intelligence, an institutional strategic plan runs the risk of being little more than an exercise in navel-gazing.

Let me suggest that, this month, you begin working toward creating a culture on your campus...

1. That more fully understands the broad definition of marketing. It's not just communication or promotion; marketing is also about constituents and programs, distribution and delivery, pricing and cost.

2. That recognizes your current institutional strategic plan can probably be strengthened by simplifying, clarifying, and most importantly, quantifying institutional goals. Why? So those charged with addressing those goals can be more easily and effectively held accountable, and so the effectiveness of the marketing initiatives designed to support those goals can be measured.

3. That enables everyone on campus to be able to articulate a concise vision statement which serves as the "beacon" as you work together to develop, promote, and deliver your genuinely distinctive educational experience.

4. That supports the integration of strategic planning with marketing planning.

That's a tall order, no doubt about it. But frankly, it's essential if your school is interested in pulling itself out of the competitive blur that is the higher education marketplace today. It's a fresh new year! Here's what I'd suggest you do to make 2007 a banner year for your campus community:

I recommend taking a critical look at the current mission statement and strategic plan through the lens of survey findings.

Spend the first quarter (January-March) laying the foundation for a marketing planning initiative by building support for the program and conducting requisite research to put your leaders and planners in better touch with the world beyond the campus. On the heels of the research, I would recommend taking a critical look at the current mission statement and strategic plan through the lens of survey findings. Finally, ensure that a vision statement is clearly articulated in your strategic plan. Marketing planning without a vision statement is like target practice without a bull's-eye: a little dangerous and likely a waste of perfectly good time, talent, and treasure.

During the second quarter of 2007, begin marketing planning in earnest by (1) identifying and prioritizing targeted audiences based on institutional goals and objectives, (2) setting measurable marketing goals for those audiences, (3) clarifying your institutional brand promise and attributes to provide a framework for making consistently on-brand decisions and crafting consistently on-brand communications, and (4) integrating a marketing planning dimension into your current strategic plan.

The third quarter of the year can be spent developing a set of tightly defined tactical initiatives that will breathe life into your now-more strategically focused integrated marketing plan. Also, spend this time formulating a compelling, courageous, emotional, and memorable creative concept that can effectively carry your school's brand forward.

And finally, the last quarter of the year can be spent in production so you can roll out a new (or modified) brand marketing campaign in the first quarter of 2008.

Will this template work for every school? Perhaps not, because there are plenty of variables to consider before launching such a significant cultural shift initiative. But many of our most successful clients have followed this fundamental approach and are now enjoying the many rewards that accompany greater institutional marketing integration.

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