The enrollment marketing landscape has changed. You’re aware of just how much … and so are your competitors. It’s likely they have already hired an enrollment marketing agency to help boost their visibility and encourage best-fit students to apply.

Perhaps you haven’t yet. Or maybe you did hire an agency – only to realize their tactics (and, by proxy, their results) didn’t lead to meaningful growth for your institution. Or maybe they didn’t set the proper expectations of what it would take to achieve the growth you are looking for.

Whatever the case may be, at this point you are most likely not looking for just a marketing agency, but for an enrollment marketing partner: a collaborative team that will help guide your strategy, work with your staff, and help your institution reach, engage, and enroll more prospective students for your programs.

The challenge is deciphering whether an agency just wants your business or whether they can be a more integral part of your team, strategy and long term success. When you’re considering your options, you’ll notice all enrollment marketing agencies tout a very similar message: they employ their expertise to boost your enrollment numbers – all with a partnership focused approach.

So how can you tell if an agency truly wants to partner with you for long term success? Here’s a short list of basic questions to ask any agency in order to help you understand their capabilities and expertise, expose their motivations and structure, and ultimately reveal the best enrollment marketing partner:

How many people are dedicated (or will be working on) my account?

Setting expectations is one of the most critical aspects of a successful partnership. A good agency will guide this discussion and help you understand their structure and process(es).

What percentage of time will your team spend on my account?

You’ll want to understand how you stack up on the agency’s client roster and what kind of priority you’ll be. If your institution is smaller or has a smaller budget, it is important to be realistic here, and keep in mind you can still benefit from their expertise. But if the agency isn’t able to dedicate an adequate amount of time to your institution, that is certainly a red flag.

How experienced is your team, and how did they gain that experience?

It’s not to say that having a few inexperienced team members is a bad thing, however, you should feel comfortable with your team’s roster of talent. The goal would be to have a balance of senior and experienced team members that can help guide the rest of the team. You should also have confidence in the leadership of the agency itself. Didn’t get a chance to meet them? Ask to.

How often will your team review results with my team?

The answer to this question can be very telling. Trust your gut if you think the agency is not committing enough time keeping you in the loop on your campaign’s performance and challenge them if so.

Do you work with my competitors?

If you work with an agency that specializes in Higher Ed, it’s likely that they will work with a competitor. The key here is to have an open and honest discussion about how they will manage those accounts (ideally with completely different teams) and make sure they don’t work with multiple direct competitors.

What can I expect from this relationship in the first 90 days? 

Any agency should outline what you can expect within the first 30, 60, to 90 days in terms of on-boarding and performance ramp up. If they don’t – ask them.

What are the three most important metrics your team uses to measure performance?

This is perhaps one of the more telling questions to ask. What gets measured gets improved. Traffic, impressions, and inquiries are great, but the expectation should be that your marketing agency is helping you grow enrollment. So if there is no focus on enrollment growth and the costs associated with generating that growth, then this could be a red flag. A good agency will teach you the right metrics to measure and will develop KPI’s for both their team and your team to monitor closely. 

While these questions certainly are important in determining a right-fit agency, none of them truly uncover the difference between an average agency and one that truly wants to be your enrollment marketing partner and generate long term growth for your institution. If you are looking for more than just a vendor relationship from your enrollment marketing agency, the most important question to ask is:

What questions do you have for me?

Now, if you’re interviewing a truly great agency, you likely will not even get the chance to ask this question. A great agency – one that really cares about your success and wants to build a partnership with your institution – will begin by asking YOU questions. Questions that illustrate its desire to understand your institution’s individual brand and unique challenges. The team will want to understand where you are now and how you are currently measuring success. They will want to know how your admissions team is staffed and how your admissions processes work. They will want to understand what success looks like for your institution, and how that vision is different from where you are today.

Then, they will take the answers to these questions and craft a strategy that’s unique to your school. They will guide your enrollment marketing strategy while teaching you how to improve your marketing results, how to handle incoming inquiries and applications, and how to properly measure and optimize results.

At the end of the day, the difference between an agency and a partner is that a partner first seeks to understand your institution. And it can only do so by asking questions of you.

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