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May 29

A Sweet Symphony: Aligning Roles With an External Marketing Team


As in-house higher ed marketers are consistently asked to do more with less, the prospect of bringing in an external marketing team may give them pause.

Our shared goal as higher ed marketers is to connect with prospective students and families, creating a shared message that resonates with their hopes and dreams.

Boy, if only it were that easy.

In-house higher ed marketers have a lot on their plates, and it’s not uncommon for CMOs of smaller colleges and universities to wear several hats.

But this approach to cost-cutting just isn’t sustainable. After all, we can’t be an expert at everything all at once, and sacrificing efficiency for savings is a losing proposition.

That’s why many colleges and universities of all sizes often leverage the expertise of an external marketing team.

However, to make the most of these collaborations, it’s vital to understand how to align roles between your school’s marketing department and the external marketing team.

When each team is on the same page, everyone can create beautiful music together.

Strategy and Planning: A Concerto of Collaboration

Composing an enrollment marketing strategy is a tough act as a solo performance.

But as a collaboration, your intimate institutional knowledge and the external team’s marketing prowess can create a strategic masterpiece that leverages the strengths of both ensembles.

Creating a marketing strategy and plan should include voices from both teams. It’s a dialogue, an interactive performance where each contribution fine-tunes the overall score.

The finale is a strategy that unites the best of both worlds, harmonizing the institutional knowledge of the internal virtuosos with the marketing maestros of the external team.

And just like any grand symphony, this harmony – this sharing of expertise – makes the resulting performance a success.

Your Role: The Institutional Virtuoso

As part of the internal team, no one else breathes your school’s brand like you do. As a result, you have a finger on the pulse of your students, faculty, and alumni.

You understand the core values underpinning your college or university and are intimately familiar with your institution’s mission, academic offerings, and unique selling points.

So it’s your job to share this knowledge, to impart the essence of your institution, to the external marketing team.

The core responsibilities your school’s team should prioritize in a partnership with an external marketing team include the following:

  • Schedule briefing sessions
  • Share branding guidelines
  • Provide relevant resources and documentation
  • Facilitate meetings with your school’s key stakeholders
  • Relay stories that capture your school spirit

Authentic messaging is critical in marketing, and your external team needs to grasp your institution’s genuine, unfiltered essence to find the stories that will resonate with your audience. So consider yourself the translator and the torchbearer of your brand to the external marketing team.

But it’s not just about giving information. You also play a crucial role in providing feedback and direction.

This alliance isn’t about handing off tasks to the external team and walking away. Instead, you need to bridge your internal staff and the external agency, promoting a culture of learning and growth that benefits everyone.

As the institutional authority, you must ensure all marketing efforts align with your school’s identity and goals.

Remember, you are not just a client to your external team. You are a partner. And as the institutional virtuoso, your insights, feedback, and guidance are instrumental in shaping a successful marketing strategy.

The External Marketing Team’s Role: The Maestro

Think of an external marketing team as the maestros conducting a symphony that echoes across multiple channels and audiences.

They see the big picture in industry trends and have a wealth of experience from working with a variety of institutions. They know what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.

Whether through social media, email campaigns, SEO, or digital tools, they’re adept at storytelling and crafting compelling narratives that captivate and engage. They can turn data into insights and insights into actions.

As the marketing maestro, an external marketing team focuses on these essential movements:

  1. Translate your vision into a marketing strategy: They translate your institutional knowledge into a marketing strategy that aligns with your goals and objectives.
  2. Execution: Once the strategy is in place, the external team goes to work. This could involve branding and messaging, content creation, social media management, email marketing, SEO, paid advertising, print collateral, and more. They ensure each element aligns with your brand guidelines and resonates with your target audience.
  3. Staying ahead of trends: The external agency keeps an eye on the ever-changing landscape of marketing trends and adapts accordingly, leveraging its expertise to make your institution stand out.
  4. Analytics and reporting: They’re responsible for tracking the success of the marketing efforts, analyzing data, and adjusting the strategy based on the results. This typically includes regular reports on performance metrics and insights into what’s working and where improvements can be made.

The external team isn’t there to take over but to complement and augment your efforts. You are partners in this endeavor, each with your own set of expertise, working towards a common goal.

The external marketing team’s role is to harmonize your internal knowledge with their marketing expertise to create a campaign that hits all the right notes. They are conducting, but you are providing the key themes and motifs that make the music distinctly yours.

Keeping Communication Lines Open: A Happy Harmony

An ensemble is only as good as the harmony between its musicians. Similarly, the success of a collaboration between an internal marketing team and an external marketing agency hinges on the flow of clear, open, and consistent communication.

Communication, or lack thereof, ultimately defines the tempo of your collaborative performance.

Here’s how you can ensure it stays on key:

  1. Regular check-ins and updates: These could include weekly meetings, update emails, or progress reports. They provide an opportunity to address issues, share updates, and adjust plans as necessary.
  2. Transparency and honesty: Every team member, whether internal or external, should have a clear understanding of the project’s status, challenges, and successes. Honesty and transparency foster trust and facilitate smoother collaboration.
  3. Feedback and constructive criticism: Giving and receiving feedback is an essential part of communication. Constructive criticism helps refine strategies and improve outcomes. Remember to give feedback in a way that’s actionable and supportive.
  4. Open channels for questions: Team members may need clarifications on specific tasks or strategies. Ensure available channels exist for these questions to be asked and answered promptly.

Keeping the communication lines open is about more than just problem-solving and progress reports. It’s about creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect where everyone feels heard, appreciated, and motivated.

Like a well-rehearsed symphony, this synergy makes the music – or in this case, your enrollment marketing strategy – that much more powerful.

Everyone’s a Critic: Performance Reviews

Like after a musical performance, successful marketing collaborations also require regular reflection and evaluation.

Performance reviews set the beat and allow for course corrections when necessary.

A performance review isn’t just a critique. Rather, it’s a two-way conversation that allows both teams to learn, grow, and improve.

Here’s how you can orchestrate this process:

  1. Set clear performance indicators: Establish clear, quantifiable metrics for the campaign. These may include KPIs like increased enrollment numbers, improved student engagement, or a higher volume of web traffic. Both teams must agree upon these indicators and align with your institution’s overall goals.
  2. Regular evaluation: Conduct periodic performance reviews. Assessing campaign performance regularly, whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, provides the opportunity to address any issues early and adjust strategies as needed.
  3. Mutual feedback: Just as musicians seek feedback to improve their performance, internal and external teams should provide each other with feedback. Discuss what’s working, what isn’t, and brainstorm ideas for improvement. This mutual exchange strengthens collaboration and drives improvement.
  4. Celebrate successes and learn from failures: When a particular marketing strategy succeeds, celebrate it together. If a strategy doesn’t perform as expected, treat it as an opportunity to learn and grow, not a failure. Reflect on what went wrong and how you can prevent it in the future.
  5. Adjust and move forward: Based on the insights gained from performance reviews, make necessary adjustments to your marketing strategy. This might mean refining messaging, reallocating resources, or trying a different marketing approach.

In the end, a performance review is about learning and adapting. It’s about ensuring that every note in your enrollment marketing strategy resonates as it should.

With an External Marketing Team, You Can Enjoy the Grand Finale Together

Collaboration between internal and external marketing teams in higher ed can conjure a marketing strategy that hits all the right notes.

In the spirit of partnership and growth, it’s crucial to remember that everyone has a part to play.

Communication and feedback loops should be open, and regular performance reviews conducted to ensure everyone is progressing towards a shared objective.

But to truly harmonize this collaboration and make your institution’s unique melody heard, it helps to have a seasoned conductor.

Caylor Solutions wants to help you conduct your school’s enrollment marketing strategy. With extensive experience in higher ed marketing, we understand your unique challenges and can provide the expertise to complement your internal efforts.

Your institution has a unique story, and we would be honored to help you share it. Reach out to us today, and let’s work together to make your institution stand out.

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