Educational marketers and development teams have much to gain by outsourcing their marketing efforts. But picking the right education marketing agency means the difference between success and failure.
As my friend Liza Fisher Norman of InspirED School Marketers so aptly put it, “powerful, effective marketing and communications are more important than ever for enrollment and development.”
With the number of schools out there competing for the same students, you MUST have a strategic marketing plan in place and the capacity to produce significant volumes of quality content consistently that will break through the noise and earn the trust of your prospective students and parents.
Even the biggest educational institutions rarely have all the strategic and execution skills they need in-house to fill up their enrollment pipelines with quality candidates.
That’s why hiring outside consultants and content creators can be one of your best decisions you make as an education marketer.
But you’ve got to pick the right one for you and your school. So here’s a helpful checklist of characteristics to look for in an effective education marketing agency.
12 Characteristics of an Effective Education Marketing Agency
While there are certain principles of successful marketing that cross industry barriers, education marketing is nuanced and the competition is fierce. You need a marketing partner that works exclusively in the education field, who has intimate knowledge of how the enrollment decision/admission process works.
The educational community is all about relationships. It’s about people helping other people along in the pursuit of their dreams. Any marketing partner you work with should be known among the professional associations that represent your educational community.
Similarly to being known among the associations in your educational community, excellent marketing partners of every kind—agencies, consultants, freelancers, etc.—are always willing to provide references that you can talk to about their work.
Beware of the education marketing agency that’s unable or unwilling to provide good contact information for one of their previous or current clients.
Internet technologies have made the entry barrier into marketing much lower than ever before. Think of how smartphones have made everyone a “photographer.”
Overall, this is a good thing. New and bright minds are able to bring their creativity and passion to the table to serve you!
But a low entry barrier also means it’s easy to pack up and do something else, dropping you and all your marketing projects in the middle of an all-important campaign.
Look for education marketing agencies with years of experience under their belt. These folks have seen both good times and bad, and they’ve stayed in the game—right alongside their clients—through it all.
Beware the rockstar, flash-in-the-pan.
You should never trust a barefoot cobbler. In the same way, you shouldn’t trust a marketing partner with your school’s budget dollars who doesn’t practice what they preach.
Make sure they’ve got their act together before you trust them with yours.
Accountability comes in two forms:
- Accountability to People
- Accountability to Numbers
We’ve already covered what it looks like to be accountable to people by being a part of the educational community and providing solid references. But too many would-be marketers are scared to death of the numbers, nervous that they’re not bringing in the results their clients need.
A good education marketing agency measures their results. They know what metrics to track, and they know how to gauge real progress.
Look for marketing partners that can show you real results from their work.
People with integrity will show you the real results, not too-good-to-be-true numbers. People with integrity will never exaggerate their role in the success. People with integrity give credit where credit is due.
Character counts. Look for that kind of marketing partner.
Related to the previous point, you need a marketing partner that will tell you the truth… even if you don’t like it.
Even if you’ve just spent a large part of your budget on a new website, your outside marketing partner should be willing to be candid about the performance gaps (if there are any) clearly and logically.
Sometimes the truth hurts, but we need it in order to fix problems and grow. Make sure you choose a marketing partner who’ll tell you the truth as they see it and are able to explain why they see it that way.
Chemistry is important. Do you like them?
To do good work, you will be meeting with them often. Do you look forward to seeing them again? Or, do you inwardly groan about having to set aside time to talk with them?
A good marketing partner should fill you with hope and excitement for the future. If you feel drained emotionally after meeting with them, it’s probably time to break up.
Be sure that the services you need are part of their core abilities and not add-on sales or outsourced deliverables. If you need a website, do they create websites with their own team? Or is it just an afterthought? If you need research, is that a core competency?
Look for partners who will focus on what you need to focus upon.
Be sure that the deliverable you need is part of their core competency and not just an add-on.
No matter how fun they are to be around, and no matter how dedicated they are to your school, eventually money will be a part of your marketing-partner relationship. Marketing partners that are a joy to work with won’t squirm when you start talking about money, budget, and restraints.
Mature marketing partners understand the way institutional budget cycles, RFP’s, and PO’s work. They also have transparent pricing, simple billing, and flexible payment terms.
Outside consultants are here to serve you, not make your life complicated. So look for partners who are mature during negotiations and billing.
On the same note, look for an education marketing agency who is flexible with their services. Some marketers use a strict process, methodology, or service package structure.
With these guys, you’re going to get billed for services you don’t need whether you like it or not because it’s a part of their service package. Look for partners who will deliver what you need instead of trying to change your entire game plan.
Remember, you are looking for a partner to help you make your plans a success, not a boss to tell you what the plan is.
We want to work with you!
If you would like to work with an educational marketing agency with all of these qualities, why not get ahold of us? We’d love to be a part of your team and bring you the same proven results we’ve experienced with other clients like you!