The best way to start a new year’s school marketing plan

As each year rolls (or hurtles!) into November, most school marketers start to craft their marketing plan for the year ahead.

Wondering where to begin? Start by looking back.

Maybe you’ve got your new budget all set up and approved. Perhaps you’re a go-getter who likes to get a head start on planning.

Whatever the motivation, lots of marketers look ahead to a new semester, a new year and new strategies to grow their enrolment pipelines. Whenever that time comes, we recommend you begin by taking a look back at various wins and successes from the past year.

Our natural tendency is to look back at all the things that we’d do differently and all the strategies that didn’t go as we’d hoped.

While you should always learn from past mistakes, there’s a real danger in getting too deep in the quagmire of regrets and disappointments. So before you get to the negative analysis, we recommend you start with a positive review.

What happened in your school marketing this last year that’s worth celebrating? This isn’t just advice to help you feel better. Starting with a positive look back has some strategic advantages.

Looking back reminds you of your goals

With so many things going on, it’s easy to lose sight of the goals you’ve set. In the fast-paced world of school marketing, you can get so lost in the day-to-day tactics that you can’t see the overarching plan. That’s why it’s critical to remind yourself of your goals. And celebrating past wins is a great way to do that. Another reason to remind yourself of your goals is that if you don’t, you might end up celebrating results you didn’t work for.

If you think about it, there are two kinds of events you could celebrate:

  • good things that happen by accident
  • good things that happen through the direct work of your team.

We all love it when great things happen unexpectedly — but to gain strategic value from celebrating your wins, you need to celebrate results that came specifically through the good work of your team.

Celebrating happy coincidences can feel like a hollow exercise. We’re all glad it happened, but we can’t know for sure if what happened occurred as a direct result of our work or not.

On the other hand, celebrating wins that happened after long days of hard work, bold risks or disappointing setbacks can bring your team the motivation and clarity you need for the coming year.

How do you know which results are a direct result of your team’s work? By identifying and celebrating the goals you’ve set and met. When you are reminded of the goals you made at the outset of the year, you’ll be more inclined to forge ahead with newer, bolder goals for the year ahead.

Looking back reinforces what’s important

There’s a popular leadership maxim, “Vision leaks.” It’s true for marketing teams as well.

As marketers, we often forget the three things we do:

  • generate new, quality leads for the enrolment team
  • build our brand’s authority, visibility and voice
  • serve our audiences by answering their questions through quality content.

Creatives tend to get distracted by their designs and strategies. Skewing to the design side of marketing — which admittedly, can feel like the coolest side — can lead to doing things just because they’re cool, not because they’re effective.

Celebrating the wins of the year just gone will help reorient your team to the key performance indicators they need to support them in their creative work.

Looking back boosts morale in your team

When you celebrate past wins, you’re really celebrating your team. It’s about what they’ve done. It’s about the contributions they’ve made. Recognising the value and work of your team is an incredible way to boost morale. You’ll need all that energy and esprit de corps to accomplish what you have in mind for next year.

Looking back enables you to see what worked

Looking back to celebrate your wins over the past year will bring to light the strategies that worked and which ones didn’t. It is easier to work out which tactics are worth repeating or investing more in.

Your uniqueness is your biggest competitive advantage. Which means that the strategies others are using won’t always work for you. Be open to new ideas and adopting new strategies that you see working for others, but make sure you are tracking your metrics so you know which strategies or tools are actually working for you.

Once you see clearly which strategies, hacks or tools are producing good results, then you can make room to invest more into them in your next plan and budget.

Looking back increases confidence in your leadership

One thing you’ll need for sure in the new year is the full buy-in of your team. This is one of those intangible must-haves for marketing success. Any marketing strategy or campaign can be derailed if there’s little to no internal confidence in the idea.

By pointing out the progress you’ve made over the last year and celebrating victories, you’re growing the strength of your leadership in front of your marketing team and the other departments within your school. You’ll need their confidence in you and your ideas as you head into the new year asking for their input, time and resources.

Celebrating past wins is a powerful and effective way to bolster the confidence of your team in the strategies and projects you’re preparing for the year ahead.

So we wish you all the best as you look back and forward to next year’s plans with insight, gratitude and celebration!

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