Seven Steps Toward Developing Your Strategic Educational Marketing Plan

Liz Kistner - Monday, October 27, 2014

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." - Benjamin Franklin

That four letter word:

P-L-A-N.  I have been a planner since I was eleven years old.  As I worked cleaning out my neighbors' yards and gardens I was developing a plan for the money I was going to make!  I have passed this on to my kids who continually say "yes mom we know....planning is a blueprint for future growth".  My son is looking at colleges and we continually talk about defining what type of goals he has (getting into a college that offers physics/engineering program), how he is going to get there (study hard and do well on the ACT) and his end result ( bomb explosive engineer for NASA).  Developing a strategic educational marketing plan is very similar both professionally and personally.  Mapping out your institutions blueprint for success involves defining goals, procedures, and methods that determine your future.  In order for your blueprint to work it needs to be clear, workable, complete, practical, and simple. 

First, lay a foundation in which your institution communicates a vision, goals, and its mission.

Second, understand your environment by building your plan (tasks the plan requires and a schedule for completion), identifying drivers (economic, human resource, market, government) and conducting a S.W.O. T analysis (present and future directions).


  • Competitive advantage, resources, assets, people, experience, marketing awareness, location, and qualifications


  • Lack of competitive strength, reliability of data/plan predictability, morale, commitment, reputation, and leadership


  • Marketing development, competitors' vulnerabilities, industry trends, global influences, new /niche target markets


  • Legislative/political effects, market demand, loss of key staff, obstacles faced, economy, competitor intentions, and market demand

Third, collect relevant data that will help in your strategic planning decision such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and back end analysis from direct mail and other channels.  Determine what data is needed and relevant by defining the criteria and outcomes of the data collected.  What methods are going to be used to insure accuracy and reliability?

Fourth, validate your findings by analyzing the collected data.  Data can be assigned numbers and viewed statistically.  Validate your metrics measurement data, understand your market segments, behaviors, and characteristics,  as well as economic trends, and channels that give your institution ROI.

Fifth, define mission, vision, and values as well as prioritize needs and identify risks.   Where are we?  Where do we want to be?  How do we get there? What do we want to be known for?

Sixth, document and communicate the plan.

Seventh, maintain the plan.

There are no magic wands that will create quick results.  A strategic plan should be based on empirical evidence to guide important decisions along with concentration on quality and distinction, setting well defined goals and objectives as well as remaining consistent.



Collaborative Strategic Planning in Higher Education by Patrick Sanaghan

High Impact Tools for Strategic Change by Patrick Sanaghan

Planning and Assessment in Higher Education:  Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness by Michael Middaugh

Strategic Change in Colleges and Universities.  Planning to Survive and Prosper by Daniel James Rowley, Herman Lujan, Michael G Dolence

Vision for Excellence Chronicle of Higher Education 10/5/2007