NBOA Annual Conference: Marketing in a Business World


This week, I’ve been attending sessions at the National Business Officer’s Association (NBOA) Annual Meeting, held in Washington, D.C. When meeting new people, they automatically assume I work either in the business office or in an HR capacity, and are slightly confused when I introduce myself as a Director of Strategic Marketing & Communications. While yes, my attendance at this meeting is unusual, I think it is most warranted.

Marketing continues to play a larger role in revenue generation and the need for public relations in crisis situations and risk management has proven to be a crucial element for success. As such, the presence of my role at conferences like this one is becoming more and more warranted. Admittedly, I have struggled with finding my niche at this conference, but several sessions have proven quite beneficial. From managerial and leadership sessions to crisis management and strategic planning, I have found benefits.

Through my conversations with other schools, I am reminded how far many of our institutions have to go to catch up to corporate models of operations where marketing, communications, and public relations are equity partners when it comes to the advancement of our schools.

That’s why I’m at NBOA’s annual meeting this week, and why I’ve partnered with Blackbaud K-12 to lead a Goldmine session on the final day of the conference. “The Business Officer Marketing Primer” session focuses on the role of marketing in revenue generation, and how business officers can better assess the impact of their marketing departments on the school as a whole. In the handout I created, I even shared five strategies for success, along with examples of best practices and online resources for education.

A successful partnership between a school’s major departments, especially marketing, is critical to achieving business objectives. Implementing marketing strategies for admission can help increase inquiries and applications, and improve yield, bringing in more tuition dollars. Strategic marketing can also impact donors by improving relationships that lead to more funds raised.

5 questions to help better assess your school’s approach to revenue-generation marketing

1. Do you truly know your target audience’s wants and needs?

It’s too easy to focus on the wants and needs of the loudest few, rather than the quiet masses. The marketing department should be regularly researching the behaviors of your paying customers (prospective families and donors, NOT faculty and trustees), analyzing the performance of print and web communications, and asking audiences for feedback that can drive consistent and effective strategies. You might be surprised by what you learn.

2. Are you providing a branded and consistent message?

A properly designed print or digital piece that portrays a clean aesthetic and consistent message is key to connecting with your audience. It builds recognition, shows stability, and makes users feel comfortable. Good design and messaging can also encourage users to engage with you more, which gives you more opportunities to convert users into donors and enrollees.

3. Are you current with digital, print and demographic trends?

It’s not enough to just have a schedule of publications and a digital presence through social media and a website. You need to properly leverage these tools and stay up on trends (which can change quickly). Offices need to understand user behavior, marketplace challenges, demographic changes, and even future predictions to maximize impact now and plan for a successful future. Getting left behind when it comes to best practices could mean you’re leaving money on the table by missing opportunities to convert users into loyal donors and enrollees.

4. Do you have measurable goals that are clearly communicated to all major departments?

It’s not enough for admission to know enrollment goals and development to know fundraising goals. Other departments and the faculty at large need to understand the goals of the institution. Plus, marketing needs this information too, and not just the big picture. If ninth grade girls are a top admission priority, marketing campaigns can be developed to target this specific demographic. Same for fundraising. A major donor and a young alum have different needs for messaging, outreach and relationship-building. Marketing strategies can help you not only reach but also exceed your goals.

5. Have you audited your staffing and outreach practices?

When assessing staffing and outreach, don’t just look at each department individually. Look at the bigger picture. If development is struggling with alumni communication, consider growing your marketing department to hire a digital expert who manages branded mass communication and event promotion, freeing up your alumni office to focus on relationship-building. Need more admission inquiries? Don’t automatically increase travel or run a print ad. Strategic inbound marketing can increase inquiries and set your school on a path for annual growth. You might even save some money.

5 Strategies for Success

These five strategies can maximize your outreach to paying customers and save money.

1. Inbound Marketing

Gone are the days of simply sending a user a brochure or letter and waiting for them to come back. Schools need to push information out and pull users back in. A successful inbound marketing strategy might include an admission blog that provides a service, email marketing to nurture leads, paid and targeted social media, gated content, and an overhauled inquiry form. As a result, admission isn’t just getting more inquiries, they’re getting primed sales qualified leads.

2. Targeted Social Media

Today, schools need to be acutely aware of who their users are and how they consume social media content. That means, having content strategies and leveraging digital tools to target both prospective families and donors. Cheshire Academy’s social media strategies bolstered the success of a $100,000 Giving Tuesday campaign and increased qualified inquiries. Social media tools can tell you who is interacting with your content, what they like, and how you can target your ideal user.

Social media tips: http://blog.cheshireacademy.org/educators 
Take a webinar: https://hello.blackbaud.com/2016-K12-Social-Media-Hacks.html 

3. Email Marketing & Workflows

When faced with disconnected alumni, disinterested prospective students, and confused students in the summer, Cheshire Academy turned to email marketing. Through targeted messaging and purposeful scheduling, we nurtured relationships using value-added communication in order to prime constituents for completing inquiries, forms, assignments, and making donations.

4. A Website Optimized for Admission

Today’s prospective families are savvy shoppers, which means they will likely research your school heavily before they reach out to inquire. As such, your website is one way they can find you, and is one of the main sources for them to learn about your school. If your site isn’t optimized for your target audience and easy to use, you risk losing tuition dollars.

5. Print & Digital Advertising

Take a look at how you’re spending your advertising dollars. If your school is primarily relying on print ads, you might not be seeing the ROI you want. There are simple ways that marketing can better evaluate advertising ROI and determine where dollars will have the most impact. UTM codes on print ads and even online campaigns can play a major role in determining the success of an initiative. You might be surprised what advertising methods perform best for your school. Believe it or not, it might be social media.
Have other strategies to share? Let me know in the comments.

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