Published on 2014/01/10

The Value of Service Providers in Higher Education Marketing

The Value of Service Providers in Higher Education Marketing
Service providers can ensure institutions have a degree of industry expertise in their arsenal that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
A recent study revealed that only 24 percent of institutions expect to meet their enrollment goals this upcoming academic year, which is quite a staggering statistic as many institutions rely heavily on the non-traditional student enrollment market to sustain their institutions.

Postsecondary leaders looking to boost their recruitment of adult students need to consider the following questions:

  • How do I adapt my marketing to different programs, locations and degree levels?
  • Am I effectively measuring results by marketing channels?
  • Do I effectively track the impact of traditional media on interactive marketing efforts?
  • What percentage of my website traffic is mobile?
  • Am I delivering a consistent web experience across all devices with responsive design?

If your institution has difficulty answering any of these questions, it might be time to look for a partner to help you properly market your degree programs.

Having previously been a director and a vice-president for adult studies, I know the reaction that typically follows the request to establish a partnership with a third-party vendor is one of avoidance. Higher education leaders are typically wary of entering into partnerships with service providers because they have either personally been negatively affected by a vendor relationship in the past or know of another colleague who was.  Just like the higher education industry has evolved in recent years, so too have partners and the services they provide.

Partnering with a company whose concentration is on higher education marketing may be a saving grace. These companies often possess rich amounts of analytical data, compliance departments, and can often get you the better bang for your buck as they buy marketing media in bulk. Let’s explore how a marketing partnership could benefit you.

1. Knowledge of Best Practice

While your marketing intuition is important to follow, it’s just as important to make sure sound research and analytics are driving your decision making. Some providers even offer you real-time tracking capabilities of every lead that may come to your institution. This ensures you are using the most effective marketing strategy and allows you to adjust in real time, not months after you have determined something is not working.

2. Understanding of Industry Regulations and Changes

Secondly, a few marketing partners have full-time compliance departments to ensure your marketing complies with ever-evolving higher education laws.  This ensures you can focus your time on running and operating an education experience that is second to none for your adult students.

3. Research into Industry Norms

Finally, if you often feel like the leadership at your institution is not listening to you and your main problem is not enough marketing dollars, a partner can help. Having a partner to demonstrate, through research, what it costs to recruit an adult student will often help your case. Additionally, a non-biased partner may also help confirm your suspicions if you think a particular academic program has reached market saturation.

Conclusion: Deciding on a Partner

Choosing to partner will not be an easy task as there are many available. Make sure that whoever you choose to partner with meets two criteria. First, the vendor should match the culture of your institution, or offer a work personality match (for instance, make sure your partner responds to you in the timeframe you like to work within). Secondly, seek a partner that will make you look like a professional, not fumbling for answers when asked by leadership. A good partner will make sure you are in the know through established conference calls and will help you gain a better understanding of your markets. Ask colleagues at other institutions with whom they enjoy working. Partnering with any organization, provided it is the right fit, can be a worthwhile venture for many institutions.

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Readers Comments

Eugene Partnoy 2014/01/10 at 12:04 pm

It’s interesting; the questions you raise not only led institutions to consider whether they need to update their marketing practices, they also lead leaders to consider their institution’s business practices.

RF 2014/01/10 at 1:36 pm

Good piece. I would add that in addition to being aware of industry regulations, vendors are also faster to adapt to any changes because, unlike many institutions, they aren’t bogged down by a complex bureaucratic process. This helps institutions to respond better to new conditions.

Wendy H 2014/01/10 at 3:38 pm

With the increased interest in accountability, institutions are under more pressure than ever to back up their decision making with hard data. Vendors can be a valuable resource in that regard, identifying industry trends and best practices.

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