Over 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!