Whenever beginning a new project, you should always consider the questions to ask your partners. Here are five questions to consider when interviewing higher education marketing firms:
1. Does the Firm Have Higher Education Marketing Experience?
While this seems obvious, it often is not the case. Many schools will hire the cousin of the president’s nephew to handle digital marketing based upon the fact that they have done websites or worked within social media.
Beyond the political issues, many firms will be considered based upon their success in other verticals. While we agree that it is critical that higher education marketing firms understand the best practices and the next practices in marketing, they also have to have a firm understanding of the enrollment funnel and how prospective students and parents make their college decision.
Takeaway: Make sure the firm you chose has the proper credentials.
2. Are They Focused Where You Need Them To Focus?
If you need a website, do they create websites with their own team? Or is it just an after-thought? If you need research, is that a core competency? Be sure to understand that the services you need are part of their core abilities and not add-on sales or outsourced deliverables. Will they deliver what you need or try to change your entire game plan? Look for partners who will focus on what you need to focus upon.
Takeaway: Be sure that the deliverable you need is part of their core competency and not just an add-on.
3. Do They Fit Your School?
While there are some great firms available to you, the question is are they the right size for you? There is an old purchasing agent axiom that says “no one ever got fired for buying IBM.” While it is true that you may not raise eyebrows for bringing in the largest firms, eyebrows may be raised when the bills start arriving. Do you know your end marketing goal? If so, be sure you have a firm that will be nimble and flexible enough to work with you, your team, and your budget to see success.
Another business idiom: “It is better to be the big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.”
Takeaway: Are they right-sized for the needed project and for your team?
4. Can They Listen to Your Needs?
The number one complaint regarding sales: does the salesperson really understand and listen to what you need? Be sure that the firm you select listens and completely understands your need. While it is advantageous to have methodology and processes in place for repeated success, that should not be simply replacing the logo and school name within the deliverables. Be sure that they listen and understand what it is your school needs and creates a custom solution that will work for your audience and your market.
Takeaway: Will they create a solution for your specific need, or fit you into one of their specific solutions?
5. Do They Practice What They Preach?
How are they doing their own “recruitment?” Are they using the tools, methods, and practices for their own sales and marketing that you aspire? Do you find their expertise showing through in their work? Are they doing the same social media and digital marketing campaigns that they are selling to you? Be sure to ask about that and how they are measuring the success.
Takeaway: Do you like their sales practice? Do they represent themselves the way you want to be represented?
Higher Education Marketing Firms are Not Equal
There is a choice in how you engage with outside higher education marketing firms. All of them can provide you deliverables and professional materials for your enrollment marketing campaigns, but it will come down to how they work with and for your institution and the ability to create a partnership for success.
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Photo courtesy of milos milosevic(CC Attribution)