Select an option below to browse sample content from the Integrated Marketing Workbook.
Chapter 1 – Some Basic Understandings about Integrated Marketing
Chapter 2 – Sorting Out the Nomenclature
Chapter 3 – The 4 Ps and 4 Cs – A Refresher
Chapter 4 – The First and Most Important P (or C)
Chapter 5 – The Importance of Focus
Chapter 6 – Image is Everything (and a little about brand marketing)
Chapter 7 – Market Research
Chapter 8 – Competitive Positioning
Chapter 9 – The Power of Segmentation
Chapter 10 – The Integrated Marketing Plan and Planning Overview
Chapter 11 – Guiding Principles for Establishing the Marketing Budget
Chapter 12 – Lay the Foundation
Chapter 13 – The Planning Team and its Members
Chapter 14 – Planning Assumptions
Chapter 15 – Undertake a Situational Analysis
Chapter 16 – Define Your Target Audiences
Chapter 17 – Settle Your Vivid Descriptors
Chapter 18 – Clarify Your Target Geography
Chapter 19 – Refine Your Marketing Goals
Chapter 20 – Writing Marketing Action Plans
Chapter 21 – Assemble the Final Budget
Chapter 22 – Implement, Evaluate, and Modify
Chapter 23 – Making Your Plan Work: Some Lessons from the Trenches
Chapter 24 Conclusion
Appendix A – Integrated Marketing Planning Checklist
Appendix B – Terms and Definitions
Appendix C – Meeting Resources
Appendix D – Segmentation Variables
Appendix E – Faculty Survey/Interview Guide
Appendix F – Marketing Action Plan Template
Appendix G – Marketing Bookshelf
Appendix H – Author Biography
Before we progress into our discussion of how to create an integrated marketing plan, I want to make sure that some basic understandings are in place that will help assure your progress.
First, recognize that you must have the correct attitude about marketing before you can have a plan for marketing. In other words, you and your institution must be already predisposed toward marketing–and have at least a basic appreciation of what it can do for you–before you can write an integrated marketing plan.
If your senior administrators and key faculty groups do not already “get” marketing, at least at a basic level, then you must begin with a series of discussions about the challenges and opportunities before the college or university. Work hard to find that set of common problems or issues that most people on campus are concerned about. These concerns are an important catalytic engine that will help motivate people.
As the discussion progresses, show how marketing can help the institution–and them personally–address those issues. Explain how peer institutions have used marketing to advance their cause. Stress outcomes–problems solved and opportunities gained in undeniable terms. Show dollars saved or revenue created. Take your time, and be patient.
Second, remember that your goal is not to write a plan. Rather, your goal is to implement the integrated marketing plan that you have written. By way of an analogy, your goal is not to plan a vacation. Your goal is to go on vacation. In other words, don’t write a plan if you are not interested in implementing it.
Third, your goal is not a perfect plan, but a good enough plan. Harry Beckwith, in his great Selling the Invisible, talks about the too-high cost of perfect plans. Beckwith “ranks” different kinds of plans in the following order:
- Very good plans
- Good plans
- The best plans
- Not good plans
- Truly awful plans
So why does Beckwith rank “best” plans lower than “good” plans? Because he believes that getting to the best plan is too expensive in terms of time, money, talent, and political capital.
Beckwith notes that many big-picture thinkers are burdened by this search for perfection: the perfect plan, the perfect decision, the perfect idea. Too often, however, the path to perfection leads through procrastination. As Beckwith concludes, “don’t let perfect ruin good.”
Sometimes good is good enough. Rather than spending all your energy trying to get all the answers, running all the projections, getting data, and trying to achieve total consensus, you must reserve the majority of your energy for executing the plan.
Fourth, recognize that the plan is, ultimately, a resource allocation and coordination tool. It is amazing how much time, talent, and treasure are wasted when everyone is not moving in a coordinated fashion in the same direction. Confusion reigns and opportunities are lost when the admissions office communicates one message, the advancement office another, and the people in continuing education yet a third.
Surprisingly, and this is generally a big surprise for many, most integrated marketing efforts are not funded with new dollars, but with reallocated and coordinated existing dollars. In fact, a good integrated marketing plan with shared and agreed-upon goals and pooled resources is like a well-coordinated racing shell with the coxswain coordinating the efforts of the rowers. Everyone is pulling in sync to the cadence called out by the coxswain.
Fifth, realize that a successful integrated marketing plan must have measurable outcomes. Ideally, your efforts should improve enrollment or fundraising, enhance your image, or improve your educational offerings. If your plan doesn’t impact these or other strategic issues or concerns in a real and demonstrable way, it isn’t much of a plan.
Finally, keep in mind that the most important integrated marketing resource is institutional will. Colleges and universities are filled with bright people who often have individual or departmental agendas. Too often, there is turf, there is delay, and there is political maneuvering. Sometimes this is disguised as discussion, but the result is clear: little real progress. It takes will and courage to call an end to endless debate and force a decision.
A friend of mine who recently retired as college president told me how he dealt with the endless debate that seemed to precede any decision. He would tell faculty and staff that he or the administrative team would make a decision on the issue in 14 days and that they could hold as many meetings as they wanted during that time to debate and discuss the issue and make their recommendation to him.
Using this tactic, he said, the decision date becomes fixed, and it was entirely up to interested individuals to decide how much time and effort to invest in a discussion. The result, he said, was focused discussion on only the most important issues.
When leaders duck tough issues and refuse to declare a singular direction, the institution is imperiled. Instead of a lean racing shell moving swiftly through the water, the organization acts like a rowboat dragging an anchor being pulled first this way and then that. Even after a great expenditure of energy, there is little real progress.
- If you don’t already have an appreciation for integrated marketing on your campus, don’t proceed with plan development until you have laid the necessary foundation (see Chapter 12)
- Don’t spend time and money writing a plan if you are not committed to its execution
- Your marketing efforts must show real, concrete results
- Integrated marketing is all about the strategic use, integration, and coordination of existing resources (time, talent, and treasure)
- Successful integrated marketing plans, like successful strategic plans, require a willingness to make tough decisions
- Why do we think this is a good time to undertake an integrated marketing planning effort?
- What do we hope the plan will do for our institution?
- How successful has past strategic planning or marketing planning efforts been?
- What problems have we identified with past planning efforts and what steps have we taken to assure that those problems do not persist with our integrated marketing planning effort?
- As an institution, department, or individual, how good are we at making tough decisions?
- Have our senior administrators demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to integrated marketing? If not, what steps do we need to take before we can begin the integrated marketing planning process?
- What turf issues will need to be addressed before we can begin the planning process?
- Think about past plans completed by our institution. How consistently did we evaluate whether or not these past plans were successful?
It is important to note that while there are 4 Ps and 4 Cs, not all Ps and Cs are of equal merit. In fact, three of the Ps and Cs are strategic and emanate directly from your mission and vision. The final P and C are tactical and focus most directly on messages. The parallel structure of the 4 Ps and 4 Cs looks like this:
The ongoing debate
Some folks get all excited about differences between the 4 Ps and 4 Cs. In reality, however, there is little real difference. Granted, the 4 Ps tend to be institutional-centric. They are more top-down. The 4 Cs, on the other hand, tend to be more marketplace-centric. They are more responsive to the marketplace and your customers.
However (and this is a big however), when applied well, either approach will move your institution ahead dramatically. My recommendation is to spend more effort on the application of either approach and less time debating the merits of one approach over another.
With that preamble in place, let’s take a quick look at the 4 Ps and 4 Cs.
Product … and customer
The first P is product, the offer you make to prospective students, donors, and other audiences. In the case of students, your product is the sum of the academic, social, physical, and the values/spiritual dimensions of your institution. For a college or university, your student-related product involves:
- What is taught (curriculum and other dimensions)
- How it is taught (faculty, teaching technology, style of teaching)
- Support services (counseling and career advising)
- Campus life (clubs, athletics, activities, residence life)
- The campus environment (facilities, landscaping, signage and perimeter marking aesthetics)
Your product also involves the opportunities that a student has upon graduation. The ability to land a great job, or gain entrance into a graduate school of choice, is an important part of your product offer.
For donors, your product might involve specific giving options, giving amounts, opportunities for involvement aside from giving (serving on committees), involvement in student recruiting, etc.
Interestingly, issues of reputation and prestige are also part of your product for both students and donors. Students, especially those that are not place-bound, are more likely to attend a well-regarded institution than one that is not. Donors, in the same manner, are more willing to give, and willing to give more, to institutions that are more well-known.
As noted earlier, the 4 Ps have an institutional perspective. The college or university often decides what is taught … or how … and when. With today’s interest in and understanding of the marketplace, it is not surprising that the 4 Ps have been modified. The first P, product, has a more market-sensitive counterpart: customer.
Keeping the customer central in any discussions about integrated marketing is extremely helpful as colleges quickly learn that their success is less about what they want to teach and more about what customers (students) want to learn.
A pivotal understanding
I have long felt that a curriculum that is in-tune with the students in your marketplace is the most important marketing asset of all. Programs that are sought after by students and differentiated from those offered by your competitors are much more valuable than a better price or even a better promotion plan. What happens, however, is that most colleges and universities tend to have very similar programs. As a result, students and donors differentiate on other variables such as price/cost, place/convenience, or promotion/communication.
We will spend quite a bit of time in Chapter 4 looking at options for differentiating your curriculum.
Price … and cost
The second P is price. Traditionally, colleges and universities have focused on only one aspect of price: the cost in dollars to attend. However, as with most marketing issues, things are more complex than they might first appear. In fact, there are several “price” issues that should be addressed.
First, there is gross price. This is your top-line, or sticker price, calculated in dollars, that many students and families use to compare one college to another. As we know, students and families seldom look beyond the initial sticker price and fail to recognize that this cost is often reduced through financial aid. Furthermore, they tend to focus solely on tuition and often ignore substantial fees.
Second, there is the net price, or the price after aid. Again, this is calculated in dollars. This price tends to be fluid and depends heavily on federal, state, private, and institutional forms of aid including gifts, scholarships, grants, loans, work study, etc. Most students need to be fairly far along in the recruiting process before they get a sense of what the emerging net price might be. Also, there is a big difference to students between a net price that has been reduced through gifts and grants and one that has been reduced through loans.
Next, there is the reservation price. This is a barrier or price point, as often psychological as real that families just will not cross. Sometimes this barrier is based on a family budget or savings. Sometimes it is psychological. Usually it is both. Ultimately, if the college cannot get its net price below the reservation price, the student and the family will balk and walk.
In the parallel universe of Ps and Cs, price is mirrored by cost. In most cases, they largely address the same issues.
As you think about price issues, remember that students are not only looking at your cost and what they think you are worth in their mind, but they are also comparing you to a set of competitors and trying to make the same, often very difficult, calculation.
Pricing strategy options
In Richard S. Ruch’s Higher Ed, Inc.: The Rise of the For-Profit University, we learn that a basic pricing strategy for the University of Phoenix is to price its programs less expensively than the privates in the marketplace, yet more expensively than the publics.
In the same manner, you might consider different pricing options for different programs and sites. For example, you might consider setting your price above your competitors if:
You are a well-branded institution
- Your cost to recruit a student is lower than competitors
- Your market is not overly sensitive to price
- Your programs are in high demand (be willing to charge an overage for high demand programs)
- Your programs are the only option in a marketplace
- Your programs are at full capacity
At the same time, you might consider setting your prices just below your primary competitors if:
- You are not a brand
- Your cost to recruit a student is higher than competitors
- Your market is sensitive to price changes
- Your programs are not in high demand
- Your programs are not the only option in a marketplace
- Your programs are not at full capacity
Another set of costs that must be calculated are called “non-dollar costs.” For example, suppose the institution is in an unattractive area; students will perceive this as a non-dollar cost. Or perhaps from students’ perspective, it is too large, too small, too Catholic, or not Catholic enough. These and dozens of other variables may also be calculated as costs—non-dollar costs, but costs nonetheless.
There is a curious relationship between non-dollar costs and product mix. If a student is not satisfied with some aspect of your product, that dissatisfaction is often translated into a non-dollar cost. For example, while the quality of the faculty is a primary component of academic product, if students feel that faculty are not available to them as first-year students, students will translate that aspect of product into a non-dollar cost.
Interestingly, the cumulative impact of these non-dollar costs often has a greater impact on the final decision of where to attend, or at a later date, whether or not to persist.
Costs, benefits, and the importance of value
Before we continue with the remaining Ps and Cs, we need to examine a subtle but important aspect of price: value. As human beings, when we consider the cost of something, we also calculate, perhaps subconsciously, what we will get in return. We want to make sure we are getting a good deal for our money or time. We call this the relationship between the perceived cost of something and the perceived benefits we will receive “value.”
It is important to understand this relationship between costs and benefits. When we make a decision, we add up the perceived dollar and non-dollar costs of doing something and put this on one side of an imaginary scale. Then we add up the perceived benefits and place them on the other side of the scale. If the costs outweigh the benefits, we don’t do it, because we are not getting a good deal. But if the benefits outweigh the costs, we do it, because we are getting a good deal. When students say, “You cost too much,” what they may be saying is that you are not worth the cost; the value isn’t there. In their minds, they do not perceive enough benefits for the costs—dollar and non-dollar—that they must incur.
Importantly, it is the student, donor, or other customer who defines costs, benefits, and ultimately value, not the institution. This is particularly true when we look at non-dollar costs. The only way to truly identify non-dollars costs for a particular audience is to conduct market research.
Place …and convenience
Of the 4 Ps, place has usually been bound to geography—the physical location where a college or university does what it does. If your target audiences perceive your place as attractive, rich in cultural and learning resources, or fun, place can be a powerful part of your marketing mix and can be used to offset other parts of your mix that target audiences find less attractive. For example, suppose your facilities are not terrific. You might help balance this weakness by emphasizing your great location, say, Santa Barbara. However, if your place is viewed as inconvenient, distant, or unsafe, the overall impact of place is negative and you need to emphasize the other Ps instead: price, product, and promotion.
For some students, place centers around the notion of convenience. The place is accessible. It is within an easy drive time. There is parking. This aspect of place is important to students—typically adults and commuters—who are more place-bound.
The best way to evaluate the marketing impact of your place is to ask target audiences the effect it plays in the decisions they make. You may discover, for instance, that students may not be that interested in your primary location (where your main campus is). However, they may be quite willing to attend classes at an off-site campus or even an international location. At the same time, you may discover that donors are reluctant to travel to West Texas to attend a banquet, but will gladly attend receptions you sponsor in Dallas or Fort Worth.
It is possible to change how your target audiences view your place. I remember a publication from a consortium of colleges and universities in northern Ohio that sought to position their place, Cleveland, as a great benefit. “Some colleges have pretty ponds,” the copy exclaimed, “while we have a great lake.” The piece then went on to discuss the many resources available in Cleveland including world-class internships, entertainment, and cultural opportunities. In another example, Columbia struggled for years with its location in New York City. Now, it proudly identifies itself as “Columbia University–New York City.”
Keep in mind that place has been expanded to include time, or when a college or university does what it does. This is particularly important for institutions who are interested in meeting the needs of adult students who often work during the day.
Place has also been affected greatly by distance learning, Internet-delivered curriculum, cable TV, and other electronic wonders which allow institutions to shift place (and time).
Rather than place, some colleges prefer to think in terms of the corresponding C, convenience. In other words, they try to make it as convenient as possible for students to visit, attend, enroll, or for donors to give. Recently, the wife of a close friend received an annual fund solicitation from her alma mater. After she wrote the check she discovered that the college had not enclosed a return envelope for her to use. Rather than use one of her envelopes, she simply tore up the check. That institution lost a donation because it didn’t make it convenient for her to give.
Promotion … and communication
The final P and C are promotion and communication. In many respects, promotion and communication involve how well you get the word out on the other three Ps. In other words, how well you build awareness and generate response. As you can see from the chart below, a sophisticated communication or promotion plan can involve a variety of channels:
As stated at the beginning of this chapter, promotion tends to be downward, almost as if the college or university is on a mountain top shouting at the marketplace. When one tactic doesn’t work, the college simply cranks up the volume and promotes a little more loudly. Two ads don’t work; let’s try three. Ten thousand search pieces didn’t get the class; let’s go with 20,000.
Communication, on the other hand, tends to be two-way and typically involves active listening (research) and remembering (message modification, even segmentation). In a marketplace oversaturated with messages, colleges that effectively communicate, rather than simply promote, will have an important edge.
The final P and C, unlike their predecessors, are wholly tactical. They focus on messaging, building awareness, and generating response.
Key questions related to the 4 Ps and 4 Cs
The following questions are designed to help you explore issues and develop strategies that make you more market sensitive
Questions you should ask related to product/customer:
- What is our product?
- How do we know our product is in demand?
- What product mixes do we offer for different kinds of students?
- How willing are we to adopt a more marketplace-sensitive curriculum?
- What are the demonstrated outcomes of our product?
Questions you should ask related to price/cost:
- How much do we charge for our product?
- How does this cost compare with competing institutions?
- Do we clearly and demonstrably offer a better value?
- How effective is our financial aid program?
- What non-dollar costs most concern students, alumni, and donors? How do they weigh these non-dollar costs when they calculate value?
- What strategies have we implemented to determine, evaluate, and negate non-dollar costs?
Questions you should ask related to place/convenience:
- Where are our programs and events offered?
- Are people willing to take classes and attend events in those places?
- Do people find these places inviting, attractive, convenient, and safe?
- What segments of our target market perceive our location as positive; what segments perceive it as negative?
- What other places might serve us better?
- What alternative, electronic-based delivery modes are available?
- Are our programs offered at a time that students, donors, and other target audiences find attractive?
- Does this place or time compete with other potential conflicts (job, family obligations, and traffic patterns)?
Questions you should ask relating to promotion/communication:
- To what media (TV, radio, advertising, direct mail) are our audiences most likely to respond?
- How do our promotional activities compare to those used by our competition?
- How do we evaluate the effectiveness of our media plan?
- What media can give us an edge?
A final reminder
If you are only interested in addressing promotion and communication issues, then you are not working on an integrated marketing plan. At best, you are working on an integrated marketing communications plan. Furthermore, if you do not do the research a priori and show willingness to segment messages, you are more likely undertaking a promotion plan.
Colleges and universities that are only willing to address promotion (and unwilling to address product, price, and place issues) have made a decision to focus on tactical issues rather than strategic ones. While this may buy them some time, sooner or later issues of product, price, and place must be addressed either in your integrated marketing plan or in your strategic plan.
A complete glossary of terms
If you are interested in a comprehensive overview of marketing, brand marketing, and strategic terms, take a look at Appendix B.
- Rather than debating the nuances between the 4 Ps and 4 Cs, choose one approach and execute
- Product/customer, price/cost, place/convenience are strategic issues and must emanate directly from your strategic plan
- Promotion/communication is a tactical issue and is chiefly involved with getting the word out on strategic decisions related to the other 3 Ps and 3 Cs
- A valued and differentiated curriculum is your most important marketing asset
- When calculating price, don’t forget to anticipate the impact of such non-dollar costs as location, aging facilities, poor or no reputation
- If you are only willing to address promotion or communication, you are not really doing integrated marketing. At best, you are doing integrated marketing communications
- Carefully consider the differences between the 4 Ps and the 4 Cs. What are the chief differences between the two? Which orientation seems most appropriate for our integrated marketing plan? Why?
- On which of the 4 Ps will we meet the most resistance? How can we overcome this resistance?
- On which of the 4 Ps, if any, are we particularly vulnerable in the marketplace?
- How important is our brand as part of our product offering? If we do not have a strong brand, what is preventing us from building a stronger brand?
- How cost/price sensitive is our market? What strategies have we undertaken to reduce this sensitivity?
- Which non-dollar costs most negatively impact student recruiting and fundraising?
- How does our value compare against our major competitors?
- What is the number one reason that nonmatriculants give for not attending our institution?
- Why do donors sometimes give once, but not again to our institution?
- How have we used promotion and communication strategies to overcome product, price, and place issues on our campus?
- How well do we coordinate our media mix?