I know why you’re here. You want to maximize the impact of your education organization by building your audience and broadcasting your message so you can benefit as many students as possible. To make this happen, you know you have to take the plunge and develop or redevelop your education marketing plan. It’s no small undertaking, but we’ve made it simple for you with our education marketing plan template.
We’ve made sure the template is easy to use for education organizations (whether nonprofit or for-profit) with marketing teams of any size, but here’s a little more detail on how to make the most of the resource:
Determine your goals and objectives
Unless you’re very adventurous, you probably wouldn’t get in your car and drive if you didn’t have somewhere you actually wanted to go. Think of your marketing goals and objectives as your destination, and your marketing plan as the journey.Think of your marketing goals as your destination, and your marketing plan as the journey. Click To Tweet
Let’s break down the difference between marketing goals and objectives:
- Goals are qualitative. These are general things you hope to accomplish that further inform your objectives. Take for instance a (fictional) edtech app––Mindsharp––featuring games that challenge and strengthen memory, critical thinking, grammar and other skills for learners of all ages. Examples of Mindsharp’s marketing goals may be to grow their social media following and build their customer base.
- Objectives are quantitative. These are the hard numbers you want to hit and can measure. Looking again at Mindsharp, their marketing objectives may be to to gain 800 new social media followers in the next quarter or gain 50 more new customers than this quarter last year.
We’ve discussed before how education companies can set SMART marketing objectives. It all comes down to having clear benchmarks to objectively track your progress.
As you use our education marketing plan template, you’ll set your organization’s top three goals and top three objectives––just make sure they’re actually realistic and attainable.
Define your target audience
As you develop your education marketing plan and its tactics, you have to understand who you’re actually communicating to and why they’d care about what you do to impact student success. That’s why identifying your stakeholders is so important.
Start by brainstorming the people who you think matter most to your education organization’s success. Then, narrow that list down to the three most crucial. Depending on your educational product or service offering, your target may be parents of younger students, high school or college students themselves, teachers, administrators, system-wide decision makers or others. You can use our ranking tool in the education marketing plan template to help you identify the most important audience to target based on their potential to impact the success of your organization and how receptive they are to marketing.
Once you’ve determined who’s most important to address with marketing, develop profiles to help you effectively talk to them. Profiles are personified versions of each stakeholder with distinct wants, needs, goals and traits. As you develop the profiles, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s most important to this person?
- If they’re not a student themselves, what’s this person’s relationship to the student actually using the product?
- Why would they choose to use or recommend my educational product or service?
- Why might they choose not to use or recommend my product or service?
These profiles will help guide your efforts through the rest of the education marketing plan template.
Articulate your brand values
This is maybe the most fun section, because you get to focus on thinking about what makes you awesome. How is your education organization unique? How do you make a difference in student outcomes? Why do your customers and stakeholders use your product or services, or even just tell their colleagues and friends about you? What makes you different from other companies offering similar products or services? These are your brand values, and you’ll nail these down in our education marketing plan template.
Develop your messaging
Now, you put those stakeholder profiles and brand values together to develop your key messages. Key messages are little nuggets of copy that concisely combine what you do well and why your education stakeholders should care. They’ll fit into a simple matrix like the one below.
These are the not-so-secret secret components of perfect key messages:
- Original, or unique and specific to your organization in a way that differentiates from others
- Short, because long-winded and complicated messages are harder to remember and adapt to various platforms
- Limited, at only three or four per audience
- Audience-centric, or focused on the specific needs, interests and preferences of each stakeholder group
- Linked to your brand’s values or benefits, because you don’t want to highlight things you don’t do well or call attention to what others do better
- Jargon-free, or simple and easy for your average stakeholder to understand
You can reference your key message matrix every time you create a new page on your website, social media post, flyer, postcard, blog post, email or anything else with copy.
Outline your tactics
Think about the journey your stakeholders go through when making a decision about an education product or service. For most transactions, the process goes something like this:
Educate → Engage → Activate
In the educate phase, your stakeholders are just starting to look at potential solutions and teach themselves about the options. For this phase, you’ll want to broadcast messages and create content that will first and foremost inform your audience about who you are and what you do. To educate stakeholders, the edtech app we mentioned earlier, Mindsharp, might work to build their social media presence and use targeted ads in educational publication newsletters.
Next, after your stakeholders are aware of your education organization, your marketing tactics should work to keep them interested and engaged. To market Mindshare in this stage, they might leverage their social media following in an interactive hashtag campaign encouraging their audience to share how they personally make learning fun.
And finally, to ultimately convert your audience to customers, your education marketing should activate them and convince them to buy your product or use your service. Mindshare’s tactics might include free trials of games or encouraging existing customers to share why they love the app.
Next, plan exactly when you’ll do what.
Build your calendar
Timing is everything for education organizations because what you actually offer will determine when people are most likely to be seeking a product or service like yours.
- If you offer a test prep tool or service, your customers will likely be making their decision in the three months before the test.
- If you provide teachers with a valuable classroom tool, they’ll typically be looking at solutions for the coming school year at the end of the summer before the new school year begins.
- If you sell technology to large education systems, your customers will be planning for the next year in September and will make their buying decisions through early November.
You can use our education marketing plan template to clearly map out your tactics based on the ebbs and flows of your typical sales cycle.
Below is a sample marketing calendar your organization can recreate including your key goal and objective for each month, the stakeholder or stakeholders your tactics will target, the key call-to-action of the month, your monthly messaging theme, the actual tactics you’ll pursue, your monthly budget and how you’ll measure success.
Obviously, your sales cycle will likely be on the same calendar as the August or September to May or June school calendar instead of a more typical January to December marketing calendar for non-education companies.
As you map out the timing, goals, budget and more of your tactics, you’ll also delegate responsibilities across your team. We’ve previously discussed the challenges of building the perfect marketing team for nonprofits and delegating tasks accordingly, and your education organization could face similar issues. Remember: putting too much on your team is a recipe for disaster. Be realistic about the bandwidth of your available marketing resources.
Measure your results
Your SMART marketing objectives come back into play here. How will you actually make good on your goals? It’s important to hold yourself accountable for the actual results of your marketing.
Then, after you measure the impact of your marketing tactics, determine why you didn’t meet your goals or where you exceeded expectations. Based on these results, you can update your education marketing plan accordingly (by revisiting our template!) for the next quarter or year.
Ready to get started on your education marketing plan?
With our template, putting together your education organization’s marketing plan is much easier than you ever thought. Using our framework and examples as guides, you can build a lean, mean marketing plan for your education organization. Access our education marketing plan template now and get to work!