What do you do at the end of a year? The usual answer in marketing textbooks is evaluation. But evaluation isn't one step. Perhaps it would be best if we split the idea into three?
Evaluation = Measuring + Reflecting + Improving
1) Measuring - what does the data say?
You need to look at what has been achieved against your school and marketing objectives. Where did you meet them, where did you fall short, where did you exceed targets? The big advantage of explicitly splitting out this section is that you can do this objectively - don't try to explain or defend what happened.
2) Reflecting - making sense of the data.
You can now take time to understand each area, turning data to knowledge. Were targets wrong? Were things always planned early enough? Were messages appropriate? To avoid focusing too much on either the negatives or the positives (it's rare to find people who don't prefer one or the other!), a good tool is Edward de Bono's PMI process - giving equal weight to positive and negative factors as well as generating anything 'interesting' that you can use in the third stage.
3) Improving - so what are you going to do next?
This is the key to successful evaluation and involves the most creativity as well as humility. You should certainly look at moving your marketing expenditure from areas that didn't work to those that did. A good rule of thumb is to move the least effective 20% of spend - 10% to the most effective channel, and 10%to something new. Our School Marketing Survey tracks innovations that schools are trying - perhaps one of these would work for you?
You should also use the evaluation process to refine targets for the next year. Don't forget to feedback the impact marketing has had and ask for extra resources if you feel they will help you reach critical business targets!
Please add your end-of-year tips below!