Month: May 2021

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8 Great Marketing Books for Higher Ed Marketers … for Your Summer Reading Pleasure

8 great marketing booksOver the last 6 months, I have done a lot of study and reading for a couple of major projects I have worked on. Out of that effort, I present you with a shortlist of some of the best of those resources in this list of great marketing books for higher education marketers with brief descriptions below. If you are a marketing wonk like myself, you will find great satisfaction in all of them. If you are not quite so far gone down the marketing rabbit hole, but are looking for a business-related summer beach read to balance out all those great fiction novels you’ve picked out, read on. They will all provide that tremendous lift you get from a great business book – confirmation of some of what you already knew, exciting new information and insight, and a renewed enthusiasm to build upon both.

Check them out!

Higher Ed Focused, Marketing Books:

Flannery, T. (2021). How to Market a University. Johns Hopkins University Press

Written as a short primer on higher ed marketing for higher ed leaders/executives, this book provides a solid overview of the current state of traditional and digital marketing for higher education. It is a short, 237-page intro, that provides firm marketing foundations, deep insight from an experienced VP of marketing and lots of useful examples. Highly recommended.

Kotler, P. (1995). Strategic Marketing for Educational Institutions (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall

This is a golden oldie, in its second edition, that still provides a useful foundation for new higher ed marketers with a particular emphasis on the “strategic” approach. It is definitely dated, but if you really want to capture the theoretical foundations of marketing as applied to the higher ed marketplace, it is a great place to start and build up from. You just can’t go wrong with Kotler.

Hossler, D. and Bontrager, B. (2015). Handbook of Strategic Enrolment Management. Jossey-Bass, Wiley

Hassler/Bontrager really is the bible of Strategic Enrollment Management. 624 pages, containing everything you ever wanted to know about Strategic Enrolment Management but were afraid to ask. It is 6 years old now, so it’s light on the current digital side of things but if you are looking for a solid reference on SEM this is the one to have. SEM is a broad, multidisciplinary and complicated field and this very comprehensive tome definitely captures that landscape.

160over90. (2012). Three in a Tree: How to Take Down Bad University Marketing, One Cliché at a Time. OneSixtyOverNinety, Inc.

Ok, so if you’ve read all the serious stuff above and really need a break from the technical, (and maybe a bit stuffy), details, this is the one for you. Cheeky, irreverent, and humorously self-deprecating, this is a fun, easy read that can help all of you much too serious, higher ed marketers loosen up a bet and get a chuckle about how silly we can sometimes get. A fun, quick beach read for sure.

General Marketing Books:

Kotler, P. (2017). Marketing 4.0, Moving from Traditional to Digital. Wiley

Kotler, Marketing 4.0 is one of the best descriptions/explanations of the evolving nature of marketing that I have read. Kotler is a marketing guru, (some say, even a god), who has lived through and thought deeply about, the evolution of marketing to today’s digitally-focused version of itself. The book is now 4 years old but I think it still reads like it was published yesterday. It is importantly, very relevant to our business. I believe Kotler was definitely including the higher education marketplace as part of his intended audience as he was penning this book. Even if you don’t read the whole book, be sure to check out his representation of “The Interchanging Roles of Traditional and Digital Marketing” on page 52. It is a very useful model for higher education marketers to understand and to plot themselves against.

Rumelt, R. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy. Currency, Crown Publishing

Ok, I admit, I am also a strategy enthusiast, but trust me, this book really needs to be on your reading list. It is about strategy in general, covering the theory of, and examples from marketing, business, politics, and even the military. The beauty of this book is how clearly Rumelt develops and defines what good vs bad strategy, really are. And then he documents them with countless insightful examples. This is a must-read if you spend any time at all focused on marketing strategy for your higher ed business or institution.

Dunford, A. (2019). Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It. Ambient Press

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, if you don’t get your market positioning right, you’re sunk before you even begin. April Dunford consults for mid-stage venture capital-funded tech start-ups, so you have to do a bit of work transposing her ideas into the rather different higher ed marketplace, but don’t let that slow you down, this author’s approach and model on how to develop your positioning is really very workable for higher ed marketers.  Positioning your programs and/or your institution well makes everything downstream of it, and I do mean everything, much easier to do and generally much more successful. If you are beginning a rebranding project, your timing to read this book is perfect. Start here and it will pay tremendous dividends.

Godin, S. (2018). This is Marketing. Portfolio/Penguin

So, what can I say about Seth Godin’s, This is Marketing. It is a seminal work in marketing literature and I think should be required reading for all marketers. He reframes all marketing, but particularly digital, in a way that will change the way you think about doing marketing in the future. For those younger marketer’s just coming up, I highly recommend you really carefully study this book alongside Kotler’s, Marketing 4.0 and you will be well-positioned to understand the challenging marketing landscape you face in the coming years.  And I will bet you money that once you have read This is Marketing you will also tackle the rest of Godin’s marketing books. (See the reading list at the end of this book.) It is great, thought-provoking stuff. Enjoy!

So, that’s it for my 2021 great marketing books for higher education marketers’ summer beach reading list.

Here’s my challenge to you, good readers. I’ve given you my recommendations, now it’s your turn to share your thoughts. Please pass along your recent favourites.  I really do need a few new good ones for my summer review!



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How to Visualize Your Marketing Mix with “Mix Maps” on the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table

Your higher ed marketing mix is a collection of optimized decisions, tools, and tactics that you organize around a marketing strategy to effectively promote your product or service. Most people think of creating their marketing mix as something that’s pretty tactical, a step that you get to in your planning; a to-do list that you spin out of your marketing plan and strategy.

But marketing mix is more than just a bunch of tactics that you string together. It’s also a dynamic, “Complex” or maybe even “Emergent” system where the overall effect of the mix is greater than the sum of the parts. When you really get it right, it’s where the magic happens. If you’ve been a marketing practitioner for a while, and have had a major success or two, you know what I mean.

The problem is that it’s really hard to optimize your mix if you’re just thinking about it as a list of tactics. You need to be able to see your whole marketing “footprint”, visualizing the relationships between its elements. Only then can you understand its structure, its scope, its potential, and how to leverage all of its parts to maximum effect.

That’s where marketing “Mix Maps” on the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table can help.

To get a fuller description of the Marketing Principles Behind the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table click this link.

Here’s how to visualize your higher ed marketing mix with mix maps.

So let’s start our explanation of Mix Maps by defining its parts, building a mix map from the ground up.

At the foundation of a Mix Map is the Higher Ed Marketing Periodic Table. It provides a visualization of the general landscape of the higher ed marketing ecosystem and includes most of the different elements you might want to include in your marketing mix. Click this link for a full description of the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table and to download a pdf of it.

There are three different types of marketing mix indicators on a mix map. They are the Positioning Elements, Active Mix Elements, and Strategy Anchor Elements.

I define these elements as the following:

  • Positioning Elements are the background, foundational marketing mix elements that serve an important role but have a lower profile in the mix. They are not always clear or visible from the outside looking in.
  • Active Mix Elements are the dynamic, or activated mix elements that are clear and visible from the outside, that are driving your marketing strategy forward.
  • Strategy Anchors Elements become evident after mapping the positioning elements and the active mix elements. They are the most important of all of the mix elements. Once identified, they suggest the primary marketing strategy in play across your total mix.

Next, let’s create a mix map on the Higher Education Marketing Periodic table.

If the higher ed marketing periodic table is the landscape of higher ed marketing, the mix map plots your path on the landscape that gets you to your marketing goals.

Let’s dig into the example shown above. Note that I have built this example from recent news headlines and am identifying the mix elements while looking in from the outside. I don’t work with either EdX or SNHU. The analysis is mine, not informed by anyone from these institutions. It is an example of looking at a marketing case from the outside, as many of you regularly do, when you are examining a competitive program or an innovative offering, like this one, and considering how to compete. Here is the link to the press release that announced the launch of this program back in April.

Now, lets review the steps you go through to build a mix map.

Step 1) Gather background information and establish the main mix elements

Gather the main elements of the case into a brief profile of the example you want to map.

A quick summary of the highlights of the edX/SNHU Microbachelor program might go like this:

  • Includes 2 courses, Data Management and Business Analytics, get 6 credits,
  • Cost is $US 1250,
  • Have 8 months to complete,
  • All online
  • SNHU profs teach the courses
  • SNHU and edX cross promote
  • these edX courses articulate into SNHU associate or bachelor’s degree program

Step 2) Add the Positioning Elements to the Periodic Table

This is the part of the process that is very subjective. It is based on your experience, your knowledge of, and your perspective on the situation you’re examining.

Here’s my take on what the Foundation Elements should be :

Step 3) Then add the Active Mix elements.

I define the active mix as those elements that are dynamic parts of the mix. Many of the active mix elements in this example are inferred from my general background knowledge and experience, but I confident they are pretty close. They are the things that are most visible, dynamic, timely, the ones that hit the gas on your campaign or plan.

(PRO TIP: Have a colleague create own their version of the map for an example you are working on and compare. The differences between the two maps will prove to be very interesting, revealing a wealth of information, and reveal clues about your different experiences and perspective.)

Step 4) Add the Strategy Anchor Elements

Based on your positioning and active mix elements, now work out the strategy anchors. These are those critical pieces of the mix that reveal the real foundation of your marketing strategy, the main elements that are shaped by “the how” of your marketing mix.

Step 5) Add your Strategy Anchor Titles to the Periodic Table

Once you determine what you believe to be the strategy anchors, drop them onto the mix and summarize what you discern to be the strategy of the mix you are studying. If I am going to be presenting a mix map to others, to help them understand my analysis, I will usually add these keywords to the mix map to help reveal the insights that I have concluded.

So there you go. That’s the quick intro into how you develop a Mix Map on the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table.

(PRO TIP: To capture these elements in a simple way I use PowerPoint. Basically, I drop the PT into PowerPoint slide and then draw the mix elements on to the map. Usually, I’ll do that one layer at a time, adding a new slide for each to keep them separate. When you are finished with a layer hit escape and ppt will ask if you want to save your drawing. Say yes, and it adds your elements to the slide as a layer that you can move around, copy or simply save. )

I will review these steps of how to use Powerpoint to do this in more detail in an upcoming blog and provide an example of it there.

So that’s how you can visualize your higher ed marketing mix with mix maps. I hope you find it useful.

Assuming they’re not proprietary or top secret, feel free to send along examples of your mix map examples to me to comment on. I’d really love to see how you choose to apply this tech, to learn from you and continue to improve the Periodic Table and this Mix Map approach in the future.



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