July 24, 2022
Marketing and Budgeting—two essential tools that most definitely correlate. Thanks to the recent pandemic and a little something called inflation, creating (or modifying) your school’s marketing budget has become more complicated in recent years—for example, consider this budget item: the cost of paper has risen over 20% recently!
The dollars add up, and may not fit into your previous budget. This may lead to more digital marketing and fewer mailers. At the same time, however, you must consider the very real and draining digital fatigue that has affected us all after years at home on too many devices for far more hours than we would like.
What’s a Director of Marketing to do?
How do you find the balance between a realistic budget and an effective, results-driven marketing plan? The first step is to ask (and answer) this one question: How much can we spend (that is, what’s our limit?)
It’s a big question with no one-size answer. Each school has individual needs and goals, and these must be uniquely considered when determining a specific budget for marketing. While it’s tempting to jump right into the spreadsheet, it’s best to do some creative thinking and analysis with your team to create a budget that is fresh, relevant to your institution, and set-up to deliver measurable results.
Here are three ideas to get you started.
Wipe the Slate Clean
It’s easy and comfortable to fall into the habit of carrying over last year’s budget and advertising methods. It is, however, much more valuable to at times wipe the slate clean.
Dare to take a careful look at everything you are doing or have been doing and evaluate the details and results. What percent of your budget are you spending on student and family retention, for example? What is the specific return on investment for all advertising?
Addressing your marketing budget takes work, organization, and a thorough evaluation of events throughout the school year, but with an open mind and willingness to learn, you may be surprised at your spending habits.
When reviewing your spending in this way, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why are we allocating money for this marketing effort?
- What have been our measurable outcomes?
- What could happen if we stop doing this?
You may not have definitive answers right away, and that is okay. Start the conversations with your marketing team members. Start thinking more creatively and openly about your budget and advertising and look at the possibility of a clean slate with excitement. Don’t get stuck in the comfort of routine!
Tune in to ask questions related to this Source article or other topics you've encountered lately.
Consider Your Goals
Your school’s goals are prone to change from year to year. Your budget changes must change as well. One year, you may have a specific, short-term goal to fill X number of seats in the 6th grade. Or perhaps you are looking to increase diversity or focus on retention if that has been an area of concern. Your goals need to be reflected in your budget and there should be room for flexibility.
You probably have long-term goals as well, such as increasing enrollment by 15% over the next three years or maybe you are adding a preschool program in the near future. These goals must be communicated clearly to all involved and must remain at the forefront of your professional thinking. These are the considerations that will direct your advertising, marketing, and communications.
Determine Your Audience
Once your goals are clearly outlined, the next step is to intentionally consider your audience. Without detailed information about the people you are trying to influence, you can neither market effectively, nor determine a realistic budget.
For example, if you are trying to fill those 6th grade seats, where are those prospective students now? Are you looking at primarily public school students? Private school? Both? If you are a day school, perhaps you want to tap into families who have recently relocated. Your local realtors will be a good source.
Determine your audience and have a good understanding of who they are. Create family personas on those in your school’s target marketing (a family persona includes demographic information, where might they work, and their concerns, etc). Once you clearly understand your audience and their lifestyle, you can better determine which marketing strategies will reach them most effectively and, in turn, establish a specific budget.
Finally, you can get into the financial nitty-gritty work and create or modify a budget template and crunch the numbers. You might discover that you need to ask your Head for additional funding to support your goals. Keep in mind: when requesting more money, be sure to make a valid and compelling case for your request. Demonstrate the impact of your proposed spending with specific anticipated results. “If I am going to ask to spend X, we, as an institution, are going to get Y.” Make it hard for anyone to argue with your results.
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