Choosing a Higher Education digital marketing agency is not an easy job as it is a very specific industry, with many stakeholders (students, parents, professors, academic bodies, supporting staff, alumni. community, etc) and, in many countries, heavily regulated. Getting your way around in the industry is not an easy job.
I was in the FMCG industry before I made the move to the Higher Education industry to work at Laureate. It took me a while to get the gropes on the sector. Having been around in the industry for 11 years, both on the client and agency side, allowed me to understand what works and what doesn't. Based on this experience I leave with some thoughts on what I believe you should cover when choosing your marketing agency.
1 - Higher Education experience
An agency should work as a partner and be an extension of your team. They can only do that if they really understand your business and can actually help with new industry insights. It's the agency that needs to add value, help and bring industry knowledge, and not the other way around. You should validate not only the agency's past work in the industry but also the team's higher education experience.
2 - Track record in Higher Education
Experience by itself is not enough. What is the ability of the agency to put that experience to the benefit of its clients? Ask for case studies. What impact did the agency have on other higher education institutions? Ask for the metrics. How have they impacted website traffic? Did search engine visibility improve? What about traffic to lead conversion rates? And lead to enrollment conversions? Most agencies have confidentiality agreements that prevent them from sharing the client data but they also have contracts that allowed them to build case studies. Ask to speak to some of the clients to get first-hand feedback.
3 - An agency with full-funnel services
When you choose a partner, choose one that is aligned with your goals. You don't grow just because you have more traffic on the website through high-traffic campaigns. Did that traffic generate quality leads that converted into enrolled students? The same goes for lead generation or campaigns. A partner that can help you through the entire funnel will be able to keep in mind the main goals and stay away from tactics that can be very impactful in one step of the funnel but have low impact on your growth. Choose a partner that helps you grow in a scalable and sustainable way.
4 - Learn from the agency sales process. Trust you instincts
Never underestimate empathy. In the end, you will be working with people, and if all goes well, you probably will work together for quite some time. Probe the agency's values. What do they believe in? What type of content do they share. Do they really have a true desire to help you or are they always in pitching mode? Do they challenge you during the sales process or do they say yes to everything in order to gain the client? Agencies focused on helping clients grow, will challenge you during the sales process. They don't want to deliver any type of services you are willing to buy. They want to build a project that will be successful even if it is harder and it takes longer to sell. They will ask for data, they will try to understand/validate where the major challenges are. The first step to solving a problem is to clearly define it. If the problem is in the traffic to lead conversion rates why should you focus early on traffic strategies? Even if the client asks for traffic campaigns, a good agency will challenge you on that. Why do you want more traffic? You get the picture. A growth agency will work with you during the sales process on identifying what are the actions that will deliver the greatest impact. Use their experience to define the scope of work.
At Latigid we focus on our client's growth working the entire funnel and going beyond the funnel. Never forget that a happy student or engaged alumni are more powerful than any education marketing campaign. That is why for us the funnel is a flywheel that includes customer service. If you want to discuss some of your challenges with us feel free to book a meeting with me. If you have additional thoughts on the subject or want to share your experience please drop a line in the comment box.