Home » Resources » “Conceivable!” Marketing Plan Lessons Courtesy of The Princess Bride
What does a movie with fire swamps, sword fighting, a six-fingered man, a giant, and undying love between a stable boy and a beautiful princess have in common with community college marketing? More than you might think!
I’m referring of course to the movie The Princess Bride—the 1987 film that was NOT a major box-office success. It wasn’t until the movie was released on home video that the cult classic became seared in our hearts and brains with its memorable characters and quotable quotes (at least in my household).
So, to bring this back to marketing, there is a lot to learn from our main movie characters–Westley (aka The Man in Black and the supposed Dread Pirate Roberts), Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, Vizzini, and Princess Buttercup.
1. Avoid the “Pit of Despair” and Develop Your Marketing Plan Now!
When forced to enter the Fire Swamp in order to flee Prince Humperdinck and his guardsmen, the Man in Black, and his true love, Princess Buttercup, are faced with numerous obstacles. This has undoubtedly happened to you too—not the ROUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Size), quicksand, and fire spurts. Rather, the unplanned communication events and activities and (dare I say it) “fires” that have to be put out. All those unforeseen tasks that suck up time and energy and take your attention away from your college’s enrollment and marketing goals.
Your annual marketing plan sets the roadmap for your strategies and the markers for success. The plan should drive enrollment for the college, which in turn supports your budget. So, don’t just dust off last year’s plan. This is the time to take a fresh look and develop new strategies as you head into the upcoming fiscal year, and before you venture into your own potential Fire Swamp.
Do it now…before you’re waking up in the “pit of despair” and are “mostly dead.”
2. Don’t Storm the Castle Without a Strategy
As Inigo Montoya said at a crucial point in their journey, “…All we have to do is get in [to the castle], break up the wedding, steal the princess, and make our escape.” If that’s your plan, you better have a clear strategy.
A marketing plan is made up of uniquely timed strategic elements developed to impact audience action and decision making, which of course includes target audiences, messaging, and timing. But you can’t truly develop those strategies until you’re armed with information and data.
Data, data, data! It’s not often romantic and sexy. But it is imperative. When we partner with a community college to help develop their marketing plan, we always look to the latest market and college data. How many inquiries? How many applications? How many converted to enrollment? What is the breakdown of student demographics? And the list goes on.
Looking at your quarterly and annual data should drive your strategy and guide you on the right track for enrollment success and wise budget spending.
As Westley said before they stormed the castle, “it doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.” Which is why every strategic maneuver counts!
3. Know Your Liabilities and Your Assets (Beyond the Strength of a Giant)
At one point Inigo Montoya admits, “I have no gift for strategy.” Well, it’s a good thing our hero, Westley, does! Westley (the supposed Dread Pirate Roberts) calmly reminds marketers in his half-alive state, “What are our liabilities?” Upon discovering there are 60 men guarding the gate, he quietly asks, “And our assets?”
You can’t develop a strategy and storm the castle until you also know your strengths and your weaknesses, including your internal and external assets. Perhaps it’s a new CRM program, or engaged staff and faculty that exemplify your brand, or a partnership opportunity with your local chamber of commerce. Don’t be afraid to look deep and take inventory of all your assets. Who knows? You may have more strategic elements at your fingertips than a pirate’s “brains,” a giant’s “strength,” and a swordsman’s “steel.”
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Bring Out the Wheelbarrow and Holocaust Cloak!
After acknowledging their more obvious assets, Westley exclaims, “If only we had a wheelbarrow, that would be something.” “What I wouldn’t give for a holocaust cloak.”
In other words, don’t be afraid to consider new strategies or tactics, especially if your traditional methods are not as effective as they used to be. Be creative and keep an open mind to new possibilities that aren’t in your usual quiver of arrows…but might be right in front of you.
Luckily for our hero, the wheelbarrow and holocaust cloak proved highly effective in storming the castle, saving Princess Buttercup just in time from the deceitful Prince Humperdinck.
5. Find Your “Moves” for Each Audience
André the Giant’s character Fezzik was quick to share with his opposition, “You use different moves when you’re fighting half a dozen people, than when you only have to be worried about one.”
You may not be in battle and fighting enemies, but you definitely need different “moves” when it comes to different audience segments…which is surely to be closer to a dozen audiences instead of one or two (each with a different persona and requiring different messaging).
As you know, marketing is about understanding and connecting with your audience. Sometimes, connecting with your core audience also involves unique audiences and those that influence the decisions of your prospective students. The more you define your “moves” (strategies and messaging) for each audience, the better positioned you are to build a brand and product that resonates with them.
Don’t worry if you haven’t gotten to your marketing plan yet this year! It isn’t “Inconceivable!”
You still have time to dig into your data, consider your liabilities and assets, redefine your audiences, amplify your messaging, and develop those strategies for 2021-2022 and beyond.