A Short Letter from your Chief Marketing Officer

Becky Morehouse

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Dear President…

…I’m writing this letter to offer some ideas how we can improve our marketing efforts. After you’ve had a chance to read these few pages, I welcome an opportunity to meet and discuss any questions or observations you might have.

You are the Sponsor

First, while I am the marketing champion, you are the sponsor. As president, the signals you send to others, particularly to the senior staff, will have a significant impact on how marketing is perceived. If our marketing efforts receive only lip service from you, our efforts will only receive lip service from others.

Your Vision

Second, I need to understand your vision for marketing. As you know, the term “marketing” is subject to multiple interpretations. For some it is only promotion. For others, it also involves product, price, and place. Before I can begin to develop our marketing strategy, I need to know what you have in mind when you say “marketing.”

Compelling

Third, marketing is not about being different, but compelling, from your competitors in ways that our target audience’s value. In other words, it is not about doing things better. It is definitely not about doing more. It is about doing things in ways that our most important audiences find compelling.

Adequate Budget

Fourth, we need an adequate marketing budget. I know we talked dollars when I took this position, but we never came to a conclusion on the dollars that were available to fund our marketing efforts. In most cases, my budget will come from two sources. First, new dollars and second, reallocated (and/or centralized) existing dollars. Because these reallocated dollars are, well, reallocated, this conversation will likely involve the CFO and the senior team. Again, I will need your political support to make this happen, because tough decisions will need to be made.

Freedom to Function

Fifth, please don’t saddle me with an overly large, politically fraught marketing committee sprinkled with people who don’t like marketing, don’t think we need marketing, and have as their goal the derailing of the marketing process. Our efforts will fail if I am forced to work with a committee that second guesses or even undermines our marketing strategy.

Instead of a marketing committee, I need the authority to assemble my marketing team. Team members, by definition, understand their roles, support one another, and are willing to work toward a common goal.

I realize you may already have a large marketing committee in place. If so, we can transition that body to a marketing advisory group that offers input but does not have a decision-making or oversight role.

Gathering Data

Sixth, let me gather the data I need to do the job. Data will help provide a solid, defendable foundation for decision making. And remember, more important than a single, comprehensive study is a set of small studies repeated more often. This kind of research cycle will help us keep a finger on the pulse of the marketplace, and help us determine whether or not we are making progress.

Integration at all Levels

Next, we need to strive for integration at all levels. At the very least, there needs to be integration between the strategic plan and our marketing efforts. There also needs to be shared marketing goals and accountability among the members of the senior team, especially those team members who oversee the five As:

  • Admissions
  • Academics
  • Athletics
  • Alumni
  • Advancement

The senior team member and the middle managers in each of these areas need to be absolutely committed to our marketing goals. If they do not understand the marketing goals, and have not identified their role in achieving those goals, then integration and, ultimately, effectiveness will be compromised.

Written Integration Plan

Next, we need a written integrated marketing plan. A written plan not only helps legitimize the activity to the campus community but provides structure and accountability. It stands to reason that if we are not willing to take the time to write a plan, then we are likely not that serious about marketing.

Authority

Finally, give me the authority to do my job. Let me say “no” when someone wants to do something that is contrary to our overall strategy. Let me make decisions on tactics after the strategy has been approved. Furthermore, let me prioritize activities when dollars get tight. Let me use research to evaluate our progress and refine tactics. And perhaps most importantly, let me discontinue activities that simply have no value. In other words, let me do the job you hired me for.

Well, that’s it. Thank you for reading this. I look forward to your responses to my requests, observations, and suggestions.

NOTE: Next week’s blog: The president responds.

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