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October 12

Managing Outside Vendor Relationships


In enrollment marketing, there are lots of factors that contribute to your success. Perhaps more than anything, your outside vendor relationships can mean success or failure. Here’s how to get the most out of your outside partnerships.

When you think about the private education sector, you normally think of the private colleges, universities, and independent schools that make up this exciting space in our world.

But the education space is so much more than educational institutions. 

There’s all of the connected vendors that provide services, products, and expertise to keep private institutions running at their best.

From sanitization services to executive coaching, private education schools constantly hire outside help to make their education experience the best it can be. 

Personally, I’m grateful for this arrangement. I’ve been in the enrollment marketing space for over two decades now doing what I love to do. 

I’m passionate about education!

But I don’t have to be an administrator or faculty member to make a worthwhile contribution.

That’s why I value the relationship I have with schools who hire the Caylor Solutions team to help them improve and automate their enrollment marketing.

However, I’m sure you have other outside vendors besides marketing teams like us.

With all of these outside vendor relationships, how do you make sure that you’re getting the most out of these important partnerships?

I’ve identified some ingredients I’ve seen in my most fruitful relationships (like increased web traffic and higher search rankings) with education institutions. 

I offer them here for you so that you can get even more out of your current and future outside vendor relationships.

Finding the Right Vendor

Every outside vendor relationship starts with a search. Searching for an outside vendor can be as quick as looking up local ride sharing drivers (yes, they are a temporary kind of vendor) on your mobile phone, or it can be an intensive year-long search. 

How can you make sure that your search will help you find the solutions you’re looking for?

Identify exactly what you want your vendor to do.

Some problems are obvious. Campus trash needs a reliable sanitization service. 

Yet determining exactly what you need isn’t always easy. You simply may be unaware of the cause of the poor results you’re getting. 

So I highly recommend you don’t rush the diagnosis. 

You may wish to hire the services of a consultant to help you analyze the results you’re getting. They can suggest the vendors you need to solve the problem.

That’s why we start our work with new clients by listening

We listen to them tell us about their frustrations, their values, their goals, and their current process.

Also, we listen to the data. Grabbing every metric we can get our hands on, we cull through the information to find the underlying problems. 

This discovery phase always comes first. 

Sometimes what our client needs most is our direct help with their marketing. 

But there are many times when we simply introduce them to the tools they need, train them, and then let them fly.

You can save yourself a lot of time and a lot off your precious budget by waiting to get a full perspective on the problem you’re facing before sending that email.

Qualifying Vendors

Once you know what you need, now it’s time for Google, right?

Sure. But I also recommend that you talk to friends and colleagues. Ask them about people, companies, and agencies they’ve worked with.

You may unearth some incredible teams that just don’t make it to the top of the search results page. 

This also applies to a vendor you find on the Internet. 

Look at their reviews, their case studies, and if nothing else, ask them to provide you with names of past clients as references.

With all that said, if you’re trying to hire someone for digital marketing, I definitely do recommend looking for agencies who’ve got traction in search results.

You wouldn’t hire a cobbler with ripped up shoes, would you?

Make sure you hire an outside vendor with good reviews.

A few things at this point I want to stress.

Common values are important.

Holding the same values as your vendor means that you’re more likely to have a long, fruitful partnership. 

Even if they’ve got awards and recognitions all over their web page, it won’t matter if you don’t enjoy working with them.

Common philosophies are important.

Even when you hire a consultant, the best way to work with them is to know how you think about marketing in general. 

  • How do you see the “product” you provide to your students?
  • How do you see your role as an enrollment marketer?
  • How do you see prospective students? Are they merely customers, or something more?
  • Do you believe in permission marketing, or do you feel there’s value in more aggressive tactics?

Look for outside vendors who share your philosophy on education and on marketing so that you’ll “gel” better when working on projects.

Results are important.

Good outside vendors have proven track records.

They should be able to point to previous clients and projects where their client saw a real, measurable benefit. 

Of course, if you see results that look too good to be true, they probably are. 

But there should be something tangible that says they’ve got what you need.

If you’re willing to hire someone new for the job – perhaps a young developer, writer, or photographer – simply make sure your expectations are set accordingly as well as the project cost.

You do get what you pay for, even in outside vendor relationships.

The more experience and results a vendor has seen in their work, the more you can expect to pay for their services. 

Kicking Off the Project

The kickoff phase is critical to success. Once you’ve decided to work with an outside vendor, how you begin everything often determines how it will end.

That’s why good communication is everything at this stage.

Start off your outside vendor relationships right.

I know talking about things like money, project costs, and deadlines can be uncomfortable at times.

But these are necessary talking points for the success of your outside vendor relationship.

A clear scope of work (who is responsible for which deliverables) has been key for my most successful relationships with private education institutions.

With a clear scope of work, if at any time something changes, we can go back to the agreement and make the necessary adjustments. If price changes, we can also talk about that in the same meeting.

But without a clear scope of work, you won’t have a touch point to come to so you can clarify expectations and make decisions.

Keep the Honeymoon Going

Clear communication at the beginning of your outside vendor relationship is essential, but it’s still important after you’ve worked on a few projects together. 

One of the best investments I’ve ever made when working with writers, designers, developers, and consultants on hundreds of projects is a team management software.

Right now, I use an amazingly easy tool called Teamwork to keep our projects, communications, projects files, and anything else related to our projects on schedule and on budget.

There are lots of tools out there like this, but I like it because it integrates Google Drive for all of the documents we’re collaborating on (it will also integrate with Dropbox and OneDrive).

It also comes with a robust iOS and Android app version so I can stay current with my outside vendors no matter where I am. 

If you have an ongoing outside vendor relationship, I recommend setting down for monthly or quarterly meetings to review progress, address issues in your working agreement, and make changes to your scope of work.

You might realize later that you’ve outgrown your relationship. That’s okay.

Keeping in touch will allow you to pivot quickly to get the right vendor on the job.

Growing without Bloating

By following the ideas you see in this blog post, I’ve been able to grow the Caylor Solutions team through outside vendor relationships.

My “staff” is actually quite small. But our team is robust!

Through healthy outside vendor relationships, I’m able to grow without bloating the company. I have access to the best expertise to meet my client’s needs, without increasing HR headaches.

Educational institutions are different and have different staffing needs than I do.


…many private colleges, universities, and independent schools could do so much more by thinking outside of the traditional employment model.

Outside vendors are in the education space because they’re passionate about education – and they’re passionate about helping you! 

They may not be on your payroll, but that doesn’t mean they are not partners with you in your mission. 

That is as long as you pick the right ones at the beginning and keep your communication clear and strong.

To learn more about how Caylor Solutions can be one of your best outside vendor relationships, contact us today!

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    • 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
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