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Things I Wish I Knew About Marketing

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Just before the pandemic hit, I was sitting at a table in an exhibit hall with a bunch of competitors. Sessions were going on, we had some time to kill, and we were trying to impress each other with the people we knew, the great projects we’d just landed, the conferences we’d key-noted, and the vacations we’d just taken.  

During the course of the conversation someone posed a question that caught everyone’s attention: “What do you know now that you wish you knew 20 years ago?” 

7 things we wish we knew about marketing

1. Marketing challenges are really leadership challenges in disguise.

More important than budgets and more important than large staffs, is a senior leader (and team) who are supportive of marketing and are willing to make tough, often very political decisions on marketing goals, messaging, and budgets.  

2. Integration is critical, especially when dollars are limited.

From our perspective, integration has three dimensions:  

  • Integration across the 5 As: admissions, advancement, academics, alumni, and athletics.  
  • Next, is message integration. In other words, every campus communicator is committed to the same four or five core messages. Fewer important messages repeated more often are much more likely to gain traction. 
  • Finally, there is a high level of integration between what you say and what you do. If you stress being student-centered are you, in fact, student centered? Do you ruthlessly root out areas in which you are not student centered?  

3. Marketing plans matter, and written marketing plans matter most.

When plans are not written, almost everything has an ad hoc quality to it. Written plans increase a sense of professionalism, reduce the number of miscues and missed opportunities, and heighten accountability.  

4. Too much emphasis placed on big budgets, and not enough emphasis placed on the need for big ideas. 

The flip side of this idea is that if you don’t have a big budget then you can’t do great marketing.  

A marketing idea or concept that engages the audience will always transcend the size of the marketing budget.  

5. Numerical fluency matters.

This means gathering the research, and using the data. One of the biggest challenges is helping people chart a course when they use intuition and hope as guideposts rather than data.  

6. More emphasis on mROI

When the effectiveness of the marketing strategy is divorced from the cost of those strategies, then marketing will always be viewed as a cost. However, when results are tied to those activities, then marketing is much more likely to be seen as an investment. A small investment that pays off is more likely to lead to a larger investment.  

7. Promotion (one facet of marketing) is not always the answer.

Great promotion will not salvage a tired or ill-conceived program. When you spend precious resources promoting programs that are of little interest, then you waste time, waste money, create false expectations, and undermine your credibility. 

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