5 Things Your
Education
Strategy Should
Know Before
Hiring Them

5 Things Your
Education
Strategy Should
Know Before
Hiring Them

The job of an education marketing agency is to get more qualified leads, enrollment applications, and hopefully more confirmed enrollments. But in a world full of such agencies, how do you narrow your choices to one which you can confidently stand behind?

Choosing a marketing agency partner for your higher-ed institution can be daunting. One quick search reveals dozens of such agencies and on the surface, most of them seem to have the same experience and qualifications.

But selling in higher education is not easy. Especially when fewer people than before believe that higher education is necessary.

The best way to decide on a service provider is to ensure they know your industry, market, and regulations involved. Every agency will claim that you need their services and boast about their ability to deliver results, but can they back up those claims with verifiable proof, knowledge, and experience? Can they talk about the deep and practical aspects of higher-ed marketing?

In this post, we'll share the 5 most critical questions your agency should have answers to before saying yes to you.

1. Does Your Agency Understand Prospective Students’ Journey To Enrollment?

Understanding the student enrollment journey is hands down the first step to an effective higher ed marketing strategy. This is the journey prospective students take from the time they first show any indication of interest in higher education to enrolling in a program.

Broadly, it involves 3Ds:

  • Discovery: Prospective student becomes aware of your program and/or institution Deliberation: Prospective student considers which course or program to choose Decision: Prospective student makes the final decision (or enrolling)
  • Deliberation: Prospective student considers which course or program to choose
  • Decision: Prospective student makes the final decision (or enrolling)

Typically, a prospective student takes between 3-12 months to enroll (yes, it takes that long!). The agency you choose should know better than to rush your buyers.

They should understand that they can’t accurately predict the amount of time a prospective student is going to need to make a decision. This is a life-transforming decision for them. A lot is at stake and everyone is bound by their circumstantial limitations.

Your marketing agency should understand that:

  • Prospective students’ decision to enroll is bound by their own timelines and circumstances.
  • No two prospects will be at the same level in their enrollment journeys.

And most importantly, getting them interested isn’t enough.

Many marketers assume their job is done after they get a lead. But great marketers know that they have to work together with admissions or recruitment teams to ensure that the leads are contacted promptly, qualified properly, and followed up with appropriately to ensure that none of the leads generated is wasted.

After all, a lead is simply a future prospect showing some interest in your program. He/she is probably in the deliberation stage (2nd of the 3Ds) of the enrollment cycle, considering the options they have.

But this doesn’t make them sales-qualified candidates. The marketing agency has to keep them engaged using re-marketing. This is a continuous process.

2. Does Your Agency Know How To Optimally Position Your Program's Strengths and Beliefs?

Does Your Agency Know How To Optimally Position Your Program's Strengths and Beliefs?

  • Your Institution’s strengths?
  • Your program’s unique value proposition?
  • Your Institution’s beliefs and brand values?

And after that, did they explore how to best use your strengths and beliefs to support your marketing efforts?

For your marketing to work, you have to showcase -

  • What makes you ‘YOU’/Your Institution’s identity
  • Why your courses are the BEST solution to your customers’ problems.
  • Why your prospects should choose you.

“DIFFERENTIATION” is a key part of this.

But this isn't about merely showing how different you are from your competitors.

Every other higher-ed institution is busy iterating how “unique” and “different” it is from the rest when the only thing that matters to your prospective students is whether or not your program gets them what they want.

Do they have a dream career in mind? Or are they trying to climb to the top of the career ladder? Does your program make that happen for your prospect?

If so, are you positioning your program correctly?

Real differentiation happens when you position your institution/program’s core value proposition in a way that addresses your prospective student’s pain points and aligns with their desired outcomes.

If an agency doesn't understand this, they're probably not going to be able to deliver the results promised.

3. Does Your Agency Know How To Manage Admission Processes and Expectations?

Managing the admission process alongside your expectations of outcomes is crucial.

This is the stage where your prospects have started showing interest in your institution/program. They’ve moved a step down from the top of the enrollment funnel. But there are still so many things to consider.

What is your agency’s role once a lead is generated?

Did they provide any strategic advice or recommendations regarding your recruitment process?

Are they able to appreciate and express the difference between leads generated using Facebook or Google advertising versus word-of-mouth?

For instance, Facebook is a demand generation platform. It’s able to generate qualified leads at scale, but it takes a special approach to engage and move them into the recruitment process.

On the other hand, Search is a demand harvesting platform. Candidates have usually researched about your school or program and they’re looking for a few more pieces of information before they make a decision.

Finally, word-of-mouth leads are usually the “hottest” and most ready to enroll, because they are already sold by their friends or someone they know and trust.

Without understanding the critical differences between these traffic sources, you may find yourself frustrated with the recruitment process and by extension, the agency.

And it’s the job of your agency to help you navigate the differences.

4. Is Your Agency Familiar With The “Response Indicators” That Drive Enrollment Decisions?

What makes people buy things? What makes your prospective students arrive at the decision to enroll?

And is it possible to understand your customers’ buying behaviors and leverage that knowledge?

This is something your agency should be discussing with you from day one.

Every person acts a certain way before finalizing a purchase. Their journey to buying a product or a service is full of actions that reflect their interest in buying them.

Understanding these “response indicators” is crucial for finalizing more sales for your courses.

But what do we really mean by “response indicators”?

The term “response indicators” refers to the actions people take before making a purchase.

Here’s a simple example:

Someone asking for a test-drive of a car is an indication of “Intent to buy”.

He’s taken the time and effort to do so, which only happens if he’s already serious about a purchase and close to “sealing the deal”.

The “test driving” and the “trial runs” are highly-indicative actions people take before making a high-ticket purchase.

These are response indicators.

This also shows “how far down the buyer’s journey” a prospect is.

In the case of higher education marketing, a prospect exchanging his/her contact details for a program brochure is a light response indicator. If they submit their academic transcripts and documents to check for eligibility, they are showing a strong interest in the program.

Your agency should understand what the response indicators are, not because they’re required to do the job, but with a good understanding of an effective recruitment process, they can better plan re-marketing campaigns to support your recruitment team.

5. Did Your Agency Discuss About The Programs That They Will Be Promoting?

Every successful business has a product-market fit.

If your product does not satisfy a demand in the market, it will not attract customers.

Let’s put this into perspective in higher education marketing:

Before investing thousands of dollars into marketing online, do you have proof of demand for the program(s) that you would like to promote? Did your agency mention anything about this or are you just taking your brief and direction blindly?

If they didn’t, chances are, your marketing dollars will likely go to waste. Online marketing is not a magic pill. It is only a traffic source. Even with the best sales funnels or attractive pitch, a program that does not have demand will not get any enrollment.

As marketing great Eugene Schwartz says, “demand cannot be created where desire doesn't exist. You can only channel desire from one thing to another.” If your course doesn’t target an audience and their desires, no amount of marketing will produce results for you.

On the other hand, if you have proof that the program is in demand, then with the right marketing strategy, you will likely be able to fill the class.

Now that you know this, make sure your agency is on the same page. They are supposed to provide you with the right strategic advice and serve alongside you as your marketing and growth partner, not simply take your word for it.

In
Conclusion

In Conclusion

Before investing thousands of dollars into marketing online, do you have proof of demand for the program(s) that you would like to promote? Did your agency mention anything about this or are you just taking your brief and direction blindly?

If they didn’t, chances are, your marketing dollars will likely go to waste. Online marketing is not a magic pill. It is only a traffic source. Even with the best sales funnels or attractive pitch, a program that does not have demand will not get any enrollment.

As marketing great Eugene Schwartz says, “demand cannot be created where desire doesn't exist. You can only channel desire from one thing to another.” If your course doesn’t target an audience and their desires, no amount of marketing will produce results for you.

  • Student enrollment cycle and how it can support your recruitment team.
  • The importance of positioning your program/ institution’s beliefs and strengths and aligning them with the goals of your prospects.
  • How it can complement and supplement your recruitment team’s efforts.
  • Determine the key actions your prospects are taking before enrolling and customizing your marketing goals and messages accordingly.
  • Gauging evidence of desire and demand for the program.

This is what we have learned through our 6 years of experience helping over a dozen institutions jam-pack their enrollment pipelines.

So rest assured, if your agency knows these 5 things, you’re in good hands!

Agency J.

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