College Marketing: How to Make a Case for Increasing Your Marketing Budget
Budgets. You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. Most higher education marketing professionals lament about limited marketing budgets, but somehow university magazines still need to be printed and mailed, marketing brochures still need to get produced, websites need updating or redesigning, and ads still need to be placed across multiple media platforms.
What’s a marketing professional to do to get more money in the budget? Here’s the approach I took at a university I previously worked for to get more advertising and marketing dollars for recruitment marketing. The approach took time, but it was well worth it when the extra dollars showed up on the budget lines.
Step 1: Save. No, we don’t necessarily mean save money. Save information you receive on places where you’d like to advertise or types of marketing materials you’d like to create. The information will come in handy in Steps 4 and 5.
Step 2: Track. Tracking results of marketing campaigns can sometimes be challenging, especially for small or understaffed communications and marketing departments, but track as much impact as you can. Use whatever data are available—event attendance; enrollment inquiries, applications, and deposits; donation increases; email opens and/or click throughs; web analytics; and more.
Step 3: Analyze. Using the tracking data, look critically at the current places you’re spending money and then ask these questions:
- Do the things you spend money on have an impact?
- Is the impact worth the cost?
- Could you get a bigger impact by adjusting your approach or redirecting the money for a different use?
Also, look at costs for producing existing marketing pieces—consider graphic design, printing, and mailing costs. Ask these questions:
- Can any printing projects be combined to save costs?
- Could you adjust marketing piece sizes to reduce mailing and/or printing costs?
- Could you create a template for certain recurring materials so future design costs are reduced?
Step 4: Plan. Take out the information you saved in Step 1 and use that with the information gained during Step 3 to determine which marketing opportunities (current and new) make the most sense for your institution and your goals. Use Excel to create a “wish list” of opportunities you want to pursue and their annual estimated costs. Be sure to include costs for marketing projects you do every year. For advertisements, remember to include the placement and the ad design and copywriting costs. For any printed materials, don’t forget to include estimated writing, editing, design, printing, and mailing costs.
Step 5: Show the numbers. Once you’ve got your “wish list” completed, use a little Excel magic to automatically add the annual totals. Then, compare it to what your current budget is. If it’s more than your current budget (hey, we can all dream!), can you make a strong case for those costs? What benefit will they provide the university? How will it increase brand awareness, impact recruitment, or increase donations?
If you can justify all the expenses on your wish list, you’re ready to present your budget plan to the administration. Start with your direct supervisor, make any adjustments as necessary, and then meet with a VP or decision maker about the budget in your department. Make sure you present the plan at the appropriate time of year (for example, before budgets are set for the following year, not right after).
Worst-case scenario is the administration will say no to a budget increase, but in the best-case scenario, your detailed plan will show them exactly what they’re going to get for their money and may increase the likelihood they’ll find some extra money to add to your budget. Happy budget planning!
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About Dana’s Creative Services
Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.