Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Marketing new programs: Shaping your plan

One of the most exciting projects for any marketing professional would be the opportunity to build a new brand from scratch. While few of us will get to do this for an entire organization, new institutional programs create a unique opportunity to stretch our creative muscles with a fresh challenge.

Once you've done the preliminary research on your new initiative, it's time to build the plan to get the word out and cultivate interest in your product. A textbook marketing plan is typically broken down into Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics (or GOST). It's easy to get caught up in the strategies and tactics, applying the techniques that have been successful for other projects. But for your best chance for a successful launch, you'll want to start first by establishing the ultimate goals and objectives for the program.

Goals. Typically a new program will be designed with one long-term, primary outcome in mind. It's even possible that the program might be a part of a larger organizational goal. For example, if your law school's strategic plan included the goal of becoming "the nation's leading program for intellectual property," the new LL.M. in Intellectual Property program you've been asked to promote might be a part of that bigger plan. When building your marketing plan, one way to help define this goal is to ask the program director what success looks like five years from now. In the case of a new LL.M. program, it might to be to become a "high-demand, elite program that distinguishes University Law School in the field of intellectual property."

Objectives. These are the measurable steps you plan to take to achieve your goal. If you will excuse another textbook reference, many professionals like to use a "SMART" approach to writing their objectives:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable/Action-Oriented
  • Results-Oriented
  • Time-specific
Unlike goals, you may have more than one objective that will guide your communications plan, however it's still best to narrow your objectives to two or three major priorities. For our hypothetical LL.M. program, one marketing objective could be to "Enroll 25 qualified students by year three."

Strategies. Once you've outlined your goals and objectives, you can begin defining the strategies to accomplish your objectives. For our same LL.M. example, strategies for enrolling 25 qualified students could include reaching out to professional organizations for intellectual property lawyers or engaging J.D. alumni who are in the field of intellectual property or took significant coursework in the area.

In my next post, I'll cover tactics and implementation of your marketing plan, including building timelines for you and your campus clients.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Marketing new programs: A 5-W checklist to get started

If you've worked in higher education for more than six months, it's likely you've also been approached to help market a new program. Whether it's a new event, course, student service or even a degree program, you'll first want to answer these fundamental questions to help define your product before you start building your marketing campaign.

What is it? This is usually the easiest question to answer initially, but go deeper:
  • Has everything been approved by the necessary individuals or departments? 
  • Can changes be made for the program or project to be more marketable? 
  • Should any information remain private?
Who is involved, and who will benefit?
  • Who are the target audiences for the program?
  • Are there strategic partners who can help promote or sponsor the effort?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who can help reach these audiences (media outlets, professional organizations)?
  • Who are the key individuals who can provide insight in reaching your target audience?
  • Will your program create opportunities for participants to build their networks? 
When? To build your campaign timeline, it often helps to work backward from when the program will launch or the date of the event. Here are a few other things to consider:
  • How much time will your target audience need to decide to participate? ...to apply?  ...to RSVP?
  • How much time is available to get the word out to your audience? Is this realistic?
  • Do you need an early incentive (for example, early registration discounts) to gauge interest?
  • How late can people respond and still participate?
  • What scheduling obstacles might your audience experience? These could range from general family or work obligations to incidental conflicts such as competing events, weather or traffic.
  • Is your location obvious or easy to find?
  • Does your location have a built-in target audience?
  • Are there nearby competitors for your program or event?
  • For new events, is the space conducive to achieving your communication goals (such as audience engagement or interaction)?
And most importantly, why? The success of your new program will often depend on your answers to these questions. 
  • Why should your audience participate in this program?
  • What distinguishes your program from others of its kind?
  • Can your new initiative help solve a developing or unique problem?
Working through these questions with your campus clients will help define your market, the messages and approaches to resonate with your target audience, and anticipate potential problems.