How to find a higher education consultant for your university

How to find a higher education consultant for your university

Higher education consultants can have a number of different roles and goals, but the best companies can help improve your university in a number of ways. Here are some tips for finding a higher education consultant that fits your needs.

What do higher education consultants do?

Depending on your needs, there is likely a company out there that can help you with those needs. Higher education consultants can help you simply plan out your strategy or manage an entire enrollment process. 

Some of the things enrollment consultants can do include enrollment planning, institutional enrollment audits, executive leadership consulting, revenue management and growth, academic planning, marketing, and more.

Higher education consultant reviews

When hiring a new consultant – of any kind – looking at reviews from past and current clients will be one of the most important pieces of information you can have. Many higher education consulting companies have been in the industry for years, which means you should be able to either find reviews online, or ask for a list of references from the company that you can reach out to.

Ask both qualitative and quantitative questions of the past clients, including:

  • Did they increase enrollment at your institution? (If so, by how much?)
  • Were the leads high quality?
  • What were they like to work with?
  • Are there any employees you particularly liked or would stay away from?
  • How did the company affect your bottom line?

Ask questions specific to your situation

If you are looking through reviews, you should be looking for reviews specific to your situation. For instance: If you are looking for an enrollment consultant specifically to increase your enrollment, ask questions related to enrollment numbers; If you are looking for an academic planning consultant, look for reviews specifically related to the academic side; etc.

What are their success rates?

A lot of what higher education enrollment consultants do is quantitative, and most of the consulting firms will keep track of those numbers. If they specialize in executive searches, they should know what their success rate is. If they specialize in enrollment, they should have an average increased enrollment rate for clients they have worked with.

What is their process?

Many higher education consultants have their processes they like to follow to make them successful. Before you hire a consultant, it’s OK to ask for their processes to make sure your personality and processes will match up. They may not give you their step-bys-step process, but they should be able to give you a broad overview of how they work. No matter how good they are, if they cannot work with you (and vice versa), they may not be a good fit.

When looking for a higher education consultant, consider your needs and what you are trying to accomplish. Look at reviews, numbers, and processes to find the best consultant for your institution.

How to fill out a university RFP

How to fill out a university RFP

Contracting your services for a government organization, like a public university, is not a quick or easy process. In almost every situation, you will need to fill out a request for proposal (RFP) for the organization. Here are some tips on how to fill out a university RFP.

Where to find government contract & university RFPs

The Small Business Administration (SBA) put together a workbook on applying for government RFPs that has all the information you need to find government contracts. But one way to get started is by simply Googling “[your city or state] [your product or service] RFP.” For example, “Utah university marketing RFP.” Or you can Google “Utah RFP,” which will usually lead you to the state website with all the open contracts, and you can search from there.

How to be added to a university-approved vendor list

There are also many databases you can use, including the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) on the SBA’s website, which helps government agencies conduct searches for small business contractors to do business with. To add your business to the database, you should register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM).

Manage your expectations

Filling out an RFP for a government organization is a difficult process, and winning the bid is even more difficult. You will need to be qualified and competitive to win the contract. But even if you are completely qualified, it will not matter if you fill out the application incorrectly.

Spending some time to understand the process of how to win a government contract, aligning your skills to their needs, and managing your expectations on budgets will put you ahead of the competition.

Get some help to fill out your university RFP

Filling out a government RFP is no easy task, but there are people who can help you. Reach out to a grant writer or lawyer who is well-versed in filling out RFPs to help you out. It is usually worth the extra money to give you a higher chance of winning the contract. These professionals understand budgets, expectations, wording, and plenty more nuances of filling out a government RFP, including a higher education RFP.

Finding the best school food suppliers

Filling out a university RFP and going through the approval process can be a long road, but if you win the contract, it will be well worth it. Government contracts can be long-lasting and lucrative if you go in with the right expectations and understand their budget.

Finding the best higher ed school food suppliers

eduvendorstars-school-food-supplier-vendor

When your higher education institution is looking for a new school food supplier, there are many considerations to think about. Dietary needs, budget, distribution channels, ability to mix and match items, customer service, and other needs specific to your university should all be considerations to find the best school food suppliers.

What does your university need in a school food supplier?

The first consideration you should think about when looking for a new school food supplier is what are your needs? Are you a public college or university, a private college or university, or a community college? What are the demographics of your students? Are they mostly traditional students, mostly adult students, or a mixture of both?

Change the Paradigm: Find Higher Education Vendors by Doing the Reference Checks First

Depending on your student body demographics, the right school food supplier should be able to provide menus based on their needs.

Food safety

A food service vendor for higher education should have safety protocols in place, during COVID-19 but also before and after. Ask about the steps they take to ensure the safety of their food and of your students.

Food variety

No matter what the demographics of your school are, you should be able to find a food vendor to not only provide a menu that fits your students’ needs, but also that provides variety in the types of meals provided.

Will your students be able to mix and match meals, or will they have a set menu every day? Are there snack options? These are some of the things you should think about when looking for a new food vendor.

According to FoodPrint.org, there are a number of models for school food procurement, whether you are K-12 or higher education and

If you are in a more remote location, do not be afraid to ask where the company’s supply chain and distribution channels are routed through. If their products are mostly purchased locally, it will be easier to do the research on those brands. This will give you a better idea on not only the variety of foods, but also the freshness.

Customer service

Customer service should be one of your top priorities when it comes to finding a new higher education food service provider. Even if they meet your budget and they have all the options you are looking for, if they are not providing you the service needed for you to in turn provide service to your students and employees, then the partnership will likely not be worth it.

How to be added to a university-approved vendor list

It’s a good idea to see how they treat you during the RFP process, but then also looking at reviews from other customers to see how they have been treated. If you see any reviews that throw up red flags, it’s OK to bring them up to the company to see if they can explain the situation. But if you see a lot of bad reviews, it’s may be a sign you should continue looking.

Finding a new food service vendor can be a long and difficult process, but if you follow the advice above, you can create a great partnership for years to come.

Higher education conferences: Using your professional development dollars

Higher education conferences: Using your professional development dollars in 2021

Higher education conferences can teach you valuable skills and keep you up to date with your industry. You may be especially interested in attending events for higher education if you are given professional development dollars from your university each year. But with so many conferences and other events out there, how do you know which ones are best to attend?

Ask yourself what you are looking for in a higher ed conference

Whether you are in marketing, administration, food service, an academic department, development, alumni, or any other department within the university, there are plenty of conferences out there for you. You will need to decide if you are looking to improve your professional skills, network with your peers, or learn more about the current state of the industry — or all of those things.

Define the Fit When Selecting Qualified Higher Education Vendors

Decide what your goals are for attending a conference and then begin your research on the different events and conferences out there.

What is your conference budget?

Many universities will offer employees a professional development budget. If you were not notified of this, ask your supervisor to see if it exists. This will help you determine the budget of the conference you attend (including any travel included).

If you do not have a professional development budget, many departments will still pay for you to attend relevant conferences throughout the year.

Do your research

Once you have decided what you want in a conference, you should begin your research process. There are a number of articles out there from reputable magazines like InsiderHigherEd.com that list some of the conferences and what you can learn by attending.

How to find a new higher education marketing agency

Many fellow universities will also put together articles, and they are usually sharing from personal experience. For instance, Northeastern University put together this article on the top higher education conferences of 2021.

Narrow down your search to your specific topic — for instance: marketing in higher education conferences, conference on running an academic department, best higher education sports conferences, enabling diversity in higher education conference, or STEM higher education conference. The more narrow your search, the more likely you are to find exactly what you are looking for.

In 2020, budgets for conferences were easier to request because of the move to virtual events — and so the budget did not have to include travel expenses. This may continue through 2021, or become a permanent trend, and will help you request a budget for your continual growth within the field.

Finding the best CRM for higher education

Finding the best CRM for higher education

Finding the best CRM for higher education can be a long and difficult process, but should help streamline your processes and save you time (and maybe money). Your email marketing can be one of the most powerful marketing tools you can utilize, whether you are looking to find and retain new students, donors, or other stakeholders. 

What is a CRM?

A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management system that will help you with a number of different tasks. Most people think of email marketing when it comes to CRMs, but they can also be responsible for things like relationship and contact management, sales data, and task management. Some examples of commonly-used higher education CRMs include MailChimp, Constant Contact, Slate, and Ellucian.

What to look for in a higher education CRM

A CRM should meet your needs, and there are enough of them out there now that you should be able to find one that does everything you want it to. Because many businesses use CRMs mainly for email marketing, you should be looking at your email goals and what you need from a CRM.

How to find a new higher education marketing agency

Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • How user friendly is it?
  • How many users will they allow?
  • What does their user database look like and how easy is it to find and sort different types of users?
  • Is there any reporting offered?

What are your email needs?

In many cases, whether you are sending emails to potential students, parents, donors, or someone else, you will want access to a drip campaign. A drip campaign is a multi-email campaign that is triggered by someone signing up to your email list. The recipients will receive multiple emails at a cadence assigned when you set up the campaign.

If you are sending emails to potential students, a drip campaign is important to retain their attention.

If you are simply looking to send updates or news to your subscribers, then you will want to make sure your CRM is capable of that as well.

What are your user management needs?

If you are using your CRM for user management, the benefits of different CRMs can be helpful. If you would like the option to change user type for your advisors or coaches as the student is moved through the funnel from prospect to student, then a CRM that can handle this transition will be important. Allowing your advisors to add notes, whether it’s about the prospect’s life, preferences, or enrollment status, may be the difference between a new student for you and someone who chooses a different university.

Best-Practices for Identifying the Best Higher Education Vendors for Your College or University

Finding a new higher education CRM can be a long process, but can streamline your marketing and management processes – if you find the right one. Taking the time to research and sit through multiple demos will help you make the right decision for you and your department.

Finding the best education software for your university

Finding the best education software for your university

Software for higher education can be a confusing thing, especially because there are both so many needs by a university and tools offered by the software. Whether you are looking for marketing software, student information software, learning management software, or a number of other types, finding the best software for your university can be overwhelming. Here are some steps for finding the best for you.

Determine why you need higher education software & what you need it to do for you

Adding software to your department should be about saving your staff time, organizing your processes, or to help with tasks that cannot be done without software.

Although many tasks handled by software can also be handled by spreadsheets, the software is there to help the organization you would otherwise need to do manually.

Who will you be working with?

Before choosing an outside software vendor, think about who will be using it within your university. This will help you determine all of your needs and how complicated it should be.

Higher education conferences: Using your professional development dollars in 2021

Software can range from an easy intern task to complex processes that you only learn with a college degree. No matter how impressive a certain software may seem during a demo by the company, if your staff is not equipped to use it, then it is useless for you and your department.

Similarly, if it will take your staff additional time to complete their tasks, even after they are experts, it may also not be right for what you are hoping to use it for.

What is your budget?

When first speaking with a software company, being upfront about your budget will be important to finding the right education software vendor. The good part is that most software has black-and-white pricing, and while some leave room for negotiation, you will likely not have to go through an entire demo to learn the processes. This will help you narrow down your favorites before spending too much time on any one company.

Finding the best CRM for higher education

If you need help coming up with your budget, consider what the software will be used for and the return on investment (ROI) it will provide. This includes saving your employees time on their work or the actual revenue it will bring to your university or department.

Higher education software should always be accessible

Although all companies should be concerned about accessibility, working for a government organization means it is required that you keep your processes accessible. Learn more about accessible technology from the American with Disabilities Act.

Software companies will know if they support accessibility, and if they are unsure, it usually means they are not.

Finding the right software vendor for your university means doing a bit of research, but all that research is worth it when you find the right software company for you.

How to find a new higher education marketing agency

How to find a new higher education marketing agency

Whether you are brand new to marketing your university or department, or you are a pro, finding a new higher education marketing agency can be an exhausting (but important) process. There are a number of things you need to think about before, during, and after your search. Here are our tips for finding the right marketing agency for higher education.

What are your goals?

Before you ever reach out to a new company, consider what goals you have for the short-term and long-term. If your goal is student leads, then you will have different goals than someone whose job is to raise awareness of the university or sell tickets to a sports event.

Finding the best education software for your university

If you have student lead goals, your priority when speaking with a potential agency should be to make sure they can handle the volume you will need to reach those goals, which includes different marketing channels and strategies. Don’t be afraid to ask which platforms they are well-versed in, their preferred marketing tactics for student outreach, and how they expect to reach your goals.

What is your budget?

Another thing to discuss with a potential marketing agency is your budget, so your expectations will not come as a surprise after they are hired. A good agency will talk with you about whether your budget is realistic for the amount of leads you are looking for within the time frame.

You should also account for their management fee in your budget – many agencies won’t tell you how they break down ad spend vs. management fee, but it’s OK to push them on this information.

What are you doing now?

Do you currently work with a marketing agency or have campaigns running? You will want to bring this up to the potential agency, as well as any pain points or successes you have had in the process. Asking their opinion on how they would handle a few issues will help you better understand their process and how they work.

What to look for in a partner

Do you want a partner who will be transparent throughout the process or are you OK with receiving reporting once a month and trusting them otherwise? There is no wrong answer, but ask them upfront if they will give you access to the marketing platforms they use and how open they are to sharing other metrics throughout the month.

Higher education conferences: Using your professional development dollars in 2021

Be sure to review the contract carefully for any add-ons you are expecting, like daily, weekly, or monthly meetings; reporting (and how often); and access to an account manager.

Reviews

When you are considering a new higher education marketing agency, reviews will be crucial to knowing how the agency has performed with past clients. Do not trust just one review – read as many as you can to get a good picture of how the agency has performed with (and treated) their past clients.

Hiring a new marketing vendor for your university does not need to be a long and difficult process, but you will want to make sure you are doing your due diligence to find the right agency to be your marketing partner.

How to be added to a university-approved vendor list

EDUVendorStars - Higher Education ratings & reviews.

Because many universities are government entities, becoming a vendor can be a long and difficult process. There are usually two ways you can be added to a university-approved vendor list.

Request For Proposal (RFP)

The first way to be added to a university vendor list is to apply through the competitive bid process through a request for proposal (RFP). These RFPs are usually found on the university website or the state’s website.

Change the Paradigm: Find Higher Education Vendors by Doing the Reference Checks First

Winning an the RFP is one of the quickest and easiest ways to be added as a vendor for a higher education institution. Although the RFPs themselves may be intensive, you will not need to employ outside sales staff to reach out to departments with hopes they will get back to you, and you know the university or university department is in need of a new type of vendor.

Establish a relationship

Another way to be added to a university-approved vendor list is by first establishing a relationship with the university or within a department at the university.

According to Northwestern University: “Typically these agreements are established because it has been determined to be in the best interest of the University to establish a relationship with these vendors. Some of the reasons are that there is a strong University preference for the product or service offered by a particular vendor, the product or service needed is proprietary, unique, or exclusive in nature, the individual amount per transaction may be very low, etc.”

Universities and states have different guidelines and spend limits to become a vendor. For instance, American University requires a vendor approval for all purchases greater than $10,000, while others may have a limit of $2,000 or $20,000.

Brown University explained that they choose their vendors based on “the growing need that universities maintain safeguards to ensure that marketing projects are completed only by vendors knowledgeable about laws governing areas such as privacy, copyright and accessibility.”

Finding the best CRM for higher education

In most cases, after a vendor is approved within the university, different departments are able to utilize their services without going through the vendor approval process again.

If you are a university employee looking to add a new higher education vendor, first searching your university-approved vendor list can save you a lot of time, and the entire approval process if the vendor you are looking at has already been approved in the past. Your university-approved vendor list may already include a number of options to choose from.

Being added to a university-approved vendor list may not be the easiest of tasks, but with some determination and understanding of the processes, it can be done.

Change the Paradigm: Find Higher Education Vendors by Doing the Reference Checks First

Five hands with outstretched fingers form a star, showing the value of finding higher education vendors who fit best with your team.

Facing unprecedented changes in 2020, higher education is reconsidering all it does and forced to make some hard choices. Finding highly rated higher education vendors is only one challenge among the many.

Colleges and universities are re-examining old ways of doing things. Institutions are considering new approaches to make better decisions and use their resources to effectively provide quality experiences for students. Therefore, new paradigms are challenging old ways, prompting institutions to experiment.  

Tighter budgets and higher expectations require institutions be thoughtful about approaches for finding higher education vendor partners to support them. Innovation and consistently asking “Is there a better way?” is a refrain that is heard throughout college and university campuses.  

Five hands with outstretched fingers form a star, showing the value of finding higher education vendors who fit best with your team.
Finding the right higher education vendors to partner with your institution can help everyone become a star!

Colleges and universities are deploying new technologies to assist them with countless aspects of the business that happens on campus. Technology has been the multiplier of our other resources. Similarly, it enables education via smart classrooms, reaching students through social media or reimagining how to be better online teachers.  Everything is on the table.

In the midst of these changes, institutions are re-evaluating those external resources that are most beneficial to them. Making decisions about what support is “out there” has more importance than ever before.

Institutions evaluating potential higher education vendor partners should be asking the question, “Is there a better way to do this?”

Institutions are intent to find vendors who meet their needs and would be a great fit with their campus. As a result of these changes, a new paradigm is emerging finding higher education vendors to help institutions succeed. Harnessing the power of “social proof,” institutions can use vendor reviews to help them make decisions about vendors they hire.  

Checkmarks checking off options in a list to illustrate reference checks when finding higher education vendor partners.
Consider the benefits of moving vendor reference checks to the beginning of your process

There has been a long existing process of identifying quality higher education vendors, and then seeking affirmation of decisions in the form of client references.

Consequently, we go through the entire process and then affirm it’s a good decision. We wouldn’t do this with the selection of a car, choose where to eat, or to buy a book.  It is time to switch the paradigm and reverse the order of things.

Using authentic user reviews to find out about something we are considering purchasing is a fundamental way we make consumer choices in our own lives

Similarly, can colleges and universities not use reviews of highly rated higher education vendor partners as they consider options?

The old paradigm also often unintentionally caused potential higher education vendors who could be great fits to never be considered. By considering a broader set of higher education vendor partners, you’ll find the best fit to help your institution succeed.

As times change, so must campuses searching for highly qualified vendor partners to help them run college and university operations. To sum up, institutions can move the higher education vendor reference checks to the beginning by consulting user reviews for qualified vendors — improving dramatically their potential for finding the right fit.

Best-Practices for Identifying the Best Higher Education Vendors for Your College or University

Five hands with outstretched fingers form a star, showing the value of finding higher education vendors who fit best with your team.

In today’s college and university environments budgets are tight and staff are stretched. Finding the best higher education vendors to provide specialized services, be they technical, analytical research, or creative, to name just a few, is a critical decision for moving the college or university forward.

The best higher education vendors can be an extension of the campus team

Illustration of a female team member showing a list of star ratings for finding the best higher education vendor partners.
Evaluating your requirements and star-rating promising campus partners in a careful way can help you find the best higher education vendors for your institution.

They bring outside expertise and perspective to an issue without the overhead costs of head count, office space, benefits, professional development etc. Furthermore, some of the best higher education vendor relationships can extend for multiple years, making their selection and the attention to building and maintaining the relationship a critical process.

Identifying the best higher education vendor for your campus begins with defining the project, expected outcome and timeline. Secondly, it then moves to identifying the best solution or service, and concludes with a close evaluation of the quality of the higher education vendor itself.

Consider these factors when seeking to find the best higher education vendor to serve your college or university campus:

  1. Client institutions: What other colleges and universities use this higher education vendor? Do these institutions share similar characteristics to your campus? Are they facing similar challenges? Do these client institutions of the higher education vendor push and promote new and challenging use cases for the service? Moreover, will your campus, as a client, receive the focus you desire? How do their references, ratings and user reviews check out?
  2. Staff profile: Do these vendor experts have familiarity with your specific challenge and dynamic? Do the education vendor’s experts have a breadth of experience to bring new perspectives and solutions to your needs? What is the size of the education vendor’s team? Does it have enough depth to serve your needs now and in the next three to five years? Does the education vendor’s staff connect and demonstrate synergy with your team?
  3. Service offerings: What technical services will the vendor provide to set up your solution? Does one vendor provide a higher degree of documentation or self-help resources for the technical solutions? Do all vendors provide accompanying advisory or consulting expertise? Similarly, what ongoing technical management and services does each vendor provide? Further, how many of these particular services or solutions were provided in the last year?
  4. Vendor Partners: Do any of the vendors partner with your other campus providers? Have these vendors intentionally created integration points to enable joint clients to maximize the value of both services, and is there a commitment to maintaining them?
  5. User Community: Has the higher education vendor developed a supportive and collaborative client community to improve adoption and utilization of the service? Furthermore, which vendors will create a community to foster ongoing professional growth for your team? Lastly, does the higher education provider use the community to seek ideas for product enhancements and improvements?

Evaluate the vendor partner’s company profile in the market as a second set of variables

  1. Product and Industry Vision: How well does the higher education vendor communicate its vision for product enhancement? Does the vendor have a road map with defined R&D investments? How regularly do they release new innovations in response to changing campus needs? Furthermore, does the education vendor understand the industry changes which are on the horizon?
  2. Endurability: How big is the vendor company? Similarly, is it financially stable? Likewise, is it nimble? Who are their leaders and investors? Are the vendor’s leaders accessible and responsive to you if needed?
  3. Growth success: Does the vendor partner company show a strong history of growth? Above all, has it grown in terms of numbers of client institutions and revenue?

To sum up, consider that a simple 5 point Likert scale (1 = doesn’t have the capability to 5 = strong capability) is easy to apply to the factors above and incorporate into the decision to add the best higher education vendor to your campus team. Similarly, using validated and authentic user reviews can supplement direct conversations you have with vendors as you complete your evaluation.