Higher education recruitment practices are front and center as Congress, the Administration and the media scrutinize schools’ efforts to reach and attract prospective students. In this climate of review and transparency, compliance monitoring has become an integral part of effective inquiry management. Not all inquiry generation vendors are created equal and prudent colleges and universities will take measures to examine marketing efforts, identify where inquiries are coming from and flag unethical practices. By redirecting resources to credible vendors that are operating honestly, reliably and conscientiously, schools will not only ensure their recruitment practices are compliant, but will also be able to protect their reputation, while maximizing their marketing spend by focusing on highly-qualified prospective students. Colleges and universities can determine if their vendors are legitimate partners or wolves in sheep’s clothing by asking these three questions:
1. Is their information about you correct?
Are vendors promoting the correct programs or are they misrepresenting your offerings? If a vendor isn’t accurately representing your program offerings – saying you have programs you don’t, or not listing the ones you do – the prospective students they connect you with are going to be unsatisfied and you’ll be set up for failure when you reach out to them. You can’t serve a prospective student if you don’t have what they are looking for. Also, does the vendor use the correct copy and descriptions to describe your offerings? Or is the language they use to talk about your programs misleading? Do they use the correct logos and images? If the vendor is the first interaction a prospective student has with your school and your brand, their information needs to be clear and accurate. If the vendor is engaging in deceptive behavior as it relates to your institution – steer clear.
2. Are they making you guilty by association?
Vendors whose conduct is unscrupulous will have a negative effect on your institution’s reputation. Be aware of what your school’s brand is being associated with. For example, does the vendor participate in false advertising (Free iPad! Click here!) to generate inquiries? Are the prospects truly interested in higher education or are they confused when you call them? Be sure to know what drew the prospective student to your school and demand high quality inquiries from your vendors. If your vendor is using your brand to drive inquiries, you need to be in control of the message they are sending.
3. Is the vendor collecting the right information?
Information is vital to determining the viability of a prospective student. Are your vendors including the correct validation field questions on the request form? Vendors that are doing their job well will ask the right questions and gather the right information to make sure that they are validating inquiries in a meaningful way, one that provides only high-performing inquiries.
Ultimately, inquiry generation vendors act as a conduit between the prospective student and a school. Any experience a prospective student has during the initial process may impact the school’s brand or the prospect’s perception of the school – regardless of whether they request information or not. It is therefore in the best interest of the institution to take all necessary steps to make sure that partnership is beneficial and to sever ties if it is not. Ask questions and demand answers. The last thing a school needs is for a vendor to facilitate an experience that will set the prospect up for disappointment when contacted by an admissions counselor. Make sure you know what your partner vendors are doing, so that you can be confident that they are representing you ethically and in a way that aligns with the mission and values of your institution.