Purple Papers

Back to School: Marketing Planning

“Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight. Ohhhh, back to school. Back to school. Back to school. Well, here goes nothing.” — Billy Madison

Another new school year has started. Elementary students receive their teacher’s name and supplies list, while college students receive their syllabus and assignments for the first semester of classes.

Like Billy, each of us goes about preparing our children or ourselves for another school year. Whether that means hitting Target for supplies or prepping with some required reading for day one, in either scenario, both involve preparing and planning for the upcoming year—not all that different from the marketing department creating their marketing plan for the upcoming year. Not setting objectives to help guide your year is like going to school with no supplies. Without a plan, you’re only stabbing in the dark with marketing tactics. Marketing planning should be seen less as a formality, and more as an essential component for marketing success.


The first step is to review last years plan. What were you trying to accomplish? Did you hit your mark with each tactic? Take the answers to these questions and hone your objectives for the upcoming year. Without clear objectives you cannot accurately determine the best marketing tactics to accomplish your objectives. Strategic marketing is just that, developing clear objectives based on firm-wide goals, and following those objectives up with measurable marketing tactics.

Here are a few examples of objectives:

  • Integrate social media 
  • Create new initiatives to boost winter enrollment
  • Revisit your brand and determine how your higher educational institution is currently perceived internally & externally


Each objective must be accompanied by a realistic and obtainable marketing tactic. Align each objective with how you will accomplish it and report on the results. Below are some marketing tactics related to the above objectives:


Throughout the year, your marketing plan should be considered a living, breathing document that needs to be reviewed periodically. Do not let it collect dust on your shelf or wait until next year to discover that you’re reporting to management that these objectives will not be met. Many times there are good reasons objectives are not met, or situations that require you revise them. For instance, there may be new initiatives or market conditions that require re-allocating dollars and marketing focus to give the marketing plan appropriate bandwidth or resources.

When developing marketing tactics for each objective, also determine how it will be measured. Determining those measurement tools upfront will save time, dollars and headaches on the backend.

Going back to school for a new year takes planning; so does marketing. Marketing plans may seem elementary but they are important to the overall success of the firm or association. You might be surprised at the number of higher educational institutions that either do not have a plan or have a plan that is never revisited throughout the year. Can you imagine not helping your child plan for the first day of 6th grade, checking their homework or allowing your son or daughter to head to college without some planning? Think about your marketing plan in this manner and you’ll graduate with high grades!

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