Home Features School Operations We Invited Our Marketing Agency to Our Annual Planning. Here’s Why You Should Too.
We Invited Our Marketing Agency to Our Annual Planning. Here’s Why You Should Too.

We Invited Our Marketing Agency to Our Annual Planning. Here’s Why You Should Too.


By Charlie Buehler, Vice President of Marketing, Broadview Education Consortium

Many of us have had the “privilege” of orchestrating an annual planning meeting. Although these meetings are important and can be very meaningful, they are difficult to organize and a beast to pull off successfully. Many essential questions must be answered: where should we host it, what should we cover, and who should be there? Not to mention probably the most important question of all: what should we eat? For anyone who has taken months to plan out these events, you fully understand the joy and pain of this process. For our annual planning meeting this year, I found myself in this time-honored position and wrestling with these same questions. I was also working through a recent transition to a new marketing agency. Over the past couple of years, we have become a very different organization, and this meeting was going to shape not only our year ahead but the future vision of our schools.

Historically we had always had our marketing partners do some sort of a presentation on our plan, new creative, new concepts, etc. But this year was different. Our new agency, Becker Media, had only been on board for a few months. Our campus leaders and teams did not really know much about them. Although I had daily conversations and transition meetings, they were also still learning about us.

If there was ever a time to truly change how our annual planning meetings were structured, this was the year.

We decided to take the bold step of not simply inviting them to present on our marketing plan but instead invite them to participate in our entire annual planning process. It is slightly unconventional to invite an outside group to participate at that level in your internal planning meetings. However, it was an amazing experience for all of us. Here are some of the reasons why it was so successful and hopefully it will prompt others to consider doing the same thing.

One of the desired outcomes of inviting our partners at Becker Media was for our teams to meet our agency team and gain more insight into why we chose to work with Becker. As most who work with external agencies know, the interaction between your company and the agency is generally limited to a small number of people. Most never get the opportunity to interact with the external marketing team. There are certainly valid reasons for this, but as we have all experienced, this can also foster not only a level of curiosity but often times distrust. Every aspect of our organization had gone through major changes and the front-end marketing and enrollment departments were no exception. These meetings presented a great opportunity to bridge the unknown and put faces and personalities to our marketing agency partners.

Kyle Shelstad, an admissions representative at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, found value in the interactions and face-to-face time. Kyle recapped, “Meeting the team from Becker helped to reinforce what I believe happens in the admissions process. You may know the abilities and outcomes of a school, or in this case marketing agency. However, people more often choose who they are going to work with because of the personal connection they make. Before anything else can happen, enrollments, success, etc., you have to build a connection and trust. This meeting helped me build trust with our internal and external marketing teams. This meeting also helped refine my understanding of what each new student goes through. Realizing how critical this trust relationship is to the success of the student journey, I have found myself spending more time developing a relationship with the prospective student before diving into why he/she should choose IPR.”

This was not just about finding out what people were like or understanding their personalities.

It was more important that our partners at Becker explain their understanding of the market in our sector and help ensure we all had the same, realistic outcome expectations.

The days of high demand and quick converting inquiries were long gone. We could no longer live in a single-attribution mindset as it pertains to how our inquiries were generated. As an organization, we were finally able to fully understand and see the benefits of a truly integrated marketing approach. However, having realistic and updated expectations of what outcomes could look like was still a struggle. Having our experienced partners stand in front of ownership, the board, executive leadership, and campus leaders and layout their idea of successful outcomes was truly eye-opening. It was the moment that everything clicked for the room. Not only had we changed our marketing approach, changed our agencies (twice), but we now had to fully change our understanding of success.

It was also a great chance for the team from Becker to explain where they saw our organization and teams. Prior to the meeting, they did some mystery shopping of our various locations and were able to provide data on everything from inquiry to attempted first contact time through lead nurturing and follow up. The team had the ability to discuss where we had great strengths as well as our areas of opportunity. This is information we had talked about time and time again with the campus-level teams, but as we all know, it resonates differently when it comes from an external voice. The team presented the information professionally and in a manner that never talked down to anyone or any team. Even in the areas of opportunity, it was always presented as something we would all tackle together.

The next desired outcome was for Becker to learn more about our organization, our struggles, and our goals. The importance of transparency regarding your business is a key component of building a trusting, solid working relationship with an external partner. Our sector has gone through so much change over the last decade, and one would struggle to find an organization that has not felt pain from those changes. More often than not, we provide marketing with a budget and inquiry goals. Sometimes, we will provide additional data such as start goals, program goals, etc. Not to discount the importance of those numbers, but the idea was that if Becker knew the reasons behind these goals, it could help them better understand the importance of meeting those goals.

Over the two days of the meetings, the Becker team heard from Broadview Education Consortium’s CEO, Jeanne Herrmann, on the vision of the organization in the coming year and the overall strategy to get there. They also were able to hear from various members of the leadership team and how their departments fit into the overall strategy. The campus-level leaders were able to present their campus’ strategic plan for the upcoming year including growth strategy and overall census goals. During day two, the team was able to directly interact with the admissions teams from each campus.

Being able to connect with our front-line admissions team members allowed the Becker team to share a lot of knowledge and best practice tips for how to work with specific types of inquiry sources as well as understand the overall marketing strategy.

When asked how the team from Becker Media felt about being invited, Roger Becker, CEO of Becker Media, responded:

“We were honored to be invited to participate in the event and got a lot of value from the two days we spent together with their team. It was instrumental being able to interact and spend valuable time with all the school directors and admissions personnel to get a first-hand understanding of the respective challenges of all the schools and the goals for 2019 and beyond.

“Spending the time not only gave us insight into the metrics of the different schools’ performance and challenges, but also a feel for the culture of the schools, the people, and the broader organization. By participating in this event, it gave us the confidence that we’re valuable partners in their success and that we’re appreciated for the role we continue to play.

“We left the event with a high level of enthusiasm for the mission of the company and a clear picture of what our role is expected to be in the partnership moving forward. We interact with BEC on a daily basis via phone and email, but it was invaluable to spend the additional time in person discussing business and interacting socially.”

As Roger mentioned, even the social nature of the meetings proved to be invaluable. Our organization is family-owned, and that culture permeates throughout all of our campuses. As most would attest, it is one thing to hear about that type of culture and another to experience it. We are a melting pot of personalities and work styles, and we benefit from the fact that we all process the things in front of us differently. Becker was able to see that during the various presentations and conversations held during the two days of meetings.

One of the most unexpected surprises of the two days came from dinner on the first night. Becker Media graciously sponsored dinner that night and invited the ownership, board, executive leadership, and campus leadership out to dinner. As anyone who has ever attended a work-sponsored dinner, you know this can go one of two ways. For all of us, it was an amazing experience to put the constraints of work behind us for a night and socially interact with each other in ways we do not normally have the opportunity to do. Finding the commonalities between us all, both professionally and personally, helped solidify relationships that were already on a solid, successful path. Whether we were bonding about food or family, listening to those from warmer states complain about the Minnesota weather in October, or laughing about how many notifications someone had on their phone, the evening was one that we felt took the partnership from solid to exceptional.

The lesson in this exercise was clear: stepping outside of the realm of “this is how we have always done it” helped our organization tackle the unknown and build solid, legitimate relationships that will move us forward into 2019 and beyond.

As the person who works daily with our partners at Becker Media, I have experienced the courting phase of exploring the potential of a new partnership, the transition and learning curve that comes along with starting that new partnership, and now the joy of seeing this collaboration turn into something truly special for both sides. Not only do we know more about our external marketing team, but it is apparent that they know exactly what we want to accomplish. That intersection of where each sides’ strengths meet is the point where goals become reality. A key part of that reality started with the invitation to join our annual planning meeting. To anyone searching for a way to take your planning to a new level, consider inviting those that are key to achieving your goals. The better each side knows about the other, the more transparent everyone can be, the better chance there is of reaching and potentially exceeding your goals.

Charlie Buehler

CHARLIE BUEHLER  is the Vice President of Marketing for Broadview Education Consortium which includes Broadview University, the Institute of Production and Recording, and Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Charlie has worked in the private, career college sector for almost eight years. He has experience in admissions, campus operations, online education, and campus support areas.

Contact Information: Charlie Buehler // Vice President of Marketing // Broadview Education Consortium // 651-447-8445 // cbuehler@broadviewuniversity.edu // https://broadviewuniversity.edu/; https://www.ipr.edu/; https://www.msccollege.edu/


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