Why Higher Ed Marketing Agencies Make Great Partners

As digital marketing in the higher education landscape continues to evolve, it can often feel like a race against time to adopt and implement modern marketing strategies to attract potential students and ultimately drive conversions all the way through the funnel. A complex mix of tactics — from paid search and social campaigns to digital PR, SEO strategies, and content development, to name a few — have to work together seamlessly to yield the desired results. In an industry where demographic changes and market shifts have substantially increased competition for students, the pressure is on to get that digital marketing formula right.

If this sounds intimidating to you, you’re not alone. Colleges and universities across the country often experience many of the same challenges when it comes to executing a seamless, innovative digital marketing strategy that will help to drive enrollment. Whether those challenges are related to internal resource restrictions, a desire to improve current marketing strategies but not knowing where to start, or a combination of factors, higher education institutions often grapple with the question of if and when they should turn to a marketing agency to support their digital marketing efforts. 

Given that we have worked exclusively with higher education institutions for the past decade, we have heard just about every reason why our partners decided to seek our help. From those insights, we have pulled together the top benefits of a marketing agency and how partnering with one can ultimately help colleges and universities overcome their digital marketing challenges and reach their goals. A marketing partner can help you:

1. Think Outside of the Proverbial Box

Katie Keller, Partnership Manager

We all are sometimes guilty of getting too comfortable with the status quo and forgetting to push the boundaries. When we get so used to how things have always been done, we might not even see how they could be done differently. Higher education is no exception. If anything, it can often be tougher to make a change in a higher education setting because tradition is king and change can often require a lot of red tape.

By partnering with a marketing agency whose job it is to take an impartial look at what is currently underway; think of opportunities to implement new, proven ways to help you reach your goals; and ultimately innovate and push the limits of how, why, and what you market to students, you force yourself to get a glimpse at what may be waiting for you just outside of the normal realm of possibility. A great marketing agency will look at the foundation you have built and create an innovative path for how you can build upon that foundation to push your institution past your competitors and past what you may have thought possible. With an eye for innovation, a marketing agency can be exactly what you need to get the edge you have been looking for in a competitive market.

2. Develop a Cross-Functional Strategy

Audrey Willis, Account Manager

Digital marketing is more than just media buying. An effective digital campaign demands a strategic combination of marketing via search engines, social media, content, web design, email, chatbots, and other tactics. One of the main benefits of partnering with a marketing agency is having a team of subject matter experts on your side to highlight what’s important and how you can make the biggest impact.

Our industry knowledge allows our team to take these holistic approaches to the next level. In addition to being digital marketing experts, we’re fully immersed in the higher education industry. Cost per click and cost per lead are not the only metrics we focus on. Cost per application and cost per enrollment are our true key performance indicators. 

Our partners’ goals are our goals, and we aim to exceed them. We understand that you need us to do more than generate a given number of leads per month and leave the rest up to you; we’re here to help turn those leads into students. We work closely with you to develop an understanding of the audiences you need to reach.

Then, using the right mix of SEO, targeted ads, content placement, and analytics, we align your marketing messaging with the specific students you’re seeking. Ultimately, we provide you with a large pool of applicants that allows you to be selective and build cohorts of high-quality students.

3. Make Data-Driven Decisions

Brette Cox, Partnership Manager

Managing a multifaceted marketing campaign that spans several departments and programs can feel reactive and unwieldy, with strategies informed by guesswork or industry “best practices.” All too often, teams make decisions based on anecdotal recommendations about what the audience is expected to respond to according to a small sample size or personal opinion. 

This approach results in a lack of clear strategy or true understanding of how to measure success. For universities, access to clear, actionable data is a game-changer in driving a successful marketing strategy. 

For example, we recently wanted to test marketing to certain geographical locations for a program but didn’t want to over-invest without understanding whether prospects in those locations would move down the funnel to become students. Through our data analysis, we identified a connection between click-through rates and app-start rates that enabled us to evaluate campaign performance with a minimal budget before investing further. This type of reporting and data analysis allows us to take calculated risks, monitor campaigns closely, and adjust in a timely manner.

Working with a marketing agency well-versed in the higher education market not only gives you crucial access to a depth of reporting that enables you to confidently make decisions guiding your advertising campaigns but also provides specific data tailored to your program’s enrollment funnel.

4. Open the Door for Collaboration and Innovation

Jerelsy Young, Junior Account Manager

While partnering with a higher education agency, colleges and universities gain an additional layer of support from data-driven experts who are constantly seeking opportunities to improve their skills and stay current on trends.

As we meet with our partners and learn more about their goals, we communicate and collaborate, dive into the metrics, and have deeper conversations to uncover how we can maximize our efforts. When working with a higher education agency, you’re not just receiving the deliverables or reports; you’re gaining support from a team that focuses on the metrics and consistently lends a helping hand.

 With this collaborative approach, we listen carefully to our partners to ensure their ideal, prospective students are engaged with campaigns, content, and visuals that speak to them in a unique, creative way.

To provide long-term success, we brainstorm and collaborate as an agency as well with our partners. It’s important to have a partner who believes in accountability and keeps the door open for deeper, innovative, ongoing conversations that drive results.

5. Implement a Holistic Approach

Grant Leonard, Partnership Manager

How does the latest Facebook update affect your social advertising investment? How can infographics improve organic traffic for your program’s blog page? What is the best tool for designing landing pages? These are all questions that a marketing agency such as ours answers dozens of times per day.

As a leader of your academic program or institution, you want to maintain a high-level, strategic perspective on all facets of your operation, including your marketing and advertising efforts. Trying to keep up with every trend or update to the digital marketing landscape is not only time-consuming but also potentially overwhelming. I even had a university partner call digital marketing “voodoo” because of how challenging it was for that particular program’s team to keep up without external support.

We have the talent, the tools, and the time to help you succeed in this space. While we ensure that every nook and cranny of your marketing and advertising investment is accounted for and optimized, you can focus your time and efforts on holistic strategy, knowing that all of your bases are covered.

Need a Partner for Your Path to Online Education? Let Our Team Help You!

Circa Interactive’s team of Partnership and Account Managers is always up to date on the best techniques to help your university create a cross functional marketing strategy and reach its enrollment goals.

Contact us or visit our Program Feasibility tactics page to learn more about how Circa can help you reach your enrollment goals.

Katie Keller
Katie Keller is a partnership manager at Circa Interactive who leverages her experience in holistic marketing, higher education, and team management to identify strategic opportunities that support clients’ goals. With previous roles as the director of digital marketing at a nationally recognized liberal arts college and strategic communications manager at a successful, growing startup, Katie brings real-world experience and insights to the Circa team.
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