Please sir, can I have some more?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I am rarely asked by our clients, how much should I spend on marketing?  Probably, as my answer in almost every case would be more than you are at present (I should declare an interest as I run a consulting firm working with higher education institutions). 

Of course, the answer depends on many variables – current reputation of the institution, its short term objectives and long term strategy, the markets and audiences being targeted and much more besides.  However, the MarComms Affinity Group of AACSB has just released some data benchmarking marketing and communications departments at business schools around the world and providing an insight in to budgets.

Two hundred business schools responded to a survey in 2016 with schools split 72% public, 28% private and 75% North America, 25% rest of the world.

Marketing departments are growing and changing.  In 2008, schools taking the same survey had 4.4 FTE, while today the figure is 5.7 FTE.  In 2008, marketing departments said they were best at doing collateral, today it’s social media.  Although some things never change – the greatest challenge in 2008 was branding, in 2016 it is keeping the brand fresh.

But how much is enough?  According to the study, the average annual operating budget for a business school marketing department is $426,000 with an annual average staff budget of $345,000.  A quick search on Google produces suggestions that marketing budgets should be anywhere from 5% of gross revenues upwards, although some are spending considerably more.  A Gartner study in 2015 suggested the average was 10.2% of revenues.

Whatever the sum, it’s not just size that matters, it’s what you do with it that also counts.  An effectively spent marketing budget, that tightly targets, makes use of low-cost technologies, is backed by a strong brand and involves imagination can produce great results for a business school.

But if you need to ask for more, there are different ways of going about it; just ask Oliver Twist or Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and you probably get some very different answers.


If you want to discuss business school branding, marketing or communications, do get in touch or drop by our booth at the AACSB ICAM event in Houston or the EFMD Annual Conference in Berlin.