Seven Tips for Avoiding Shady Partners and Vendors


By: Christopher Tashjian Sep 28, 2017

As a higher education marketing pro, you certainly have been approached by tons of “partners” out there looking to sell you their services. I am sure you are also familiar with how important affiliate and warm transfer leads are to establishing a diverse marketing mix and hitting your enrollment goals.

Whether you love it or hate it, partner and vendor management is an integral part of any successful higher education marketing strategy.

Make Your Partnerships Work

As such, it’s important to on-board and build relationships with the most effective partners to help you reach your enrollment goals and give you back more time to focus on the other parts of your marketing mix. This quick list is to help you cut through the noise made by a lot of affiliate vendors out there. It’s by no means comprehensive, and there are always outliers to each of the situations below that could be understood.

Here are 7 quick ways to help you identify a shady vendor:

  1. The partner hesitates giving information about traffic and audience. We don’t expect all of our vendors to always share their sources, however they should be more than willing to share data regarding traffic volumes and demographics on their audience. They should also be able to explain any spikes or decreases in volume.
  2. The partner doesn’t put emphasis on contract negotiation and terms. If they don’t have much interest in this initial part of the relationship, you’re likely going to have a hard time resolving issues around delivery, processes, and billing down the line. 
  3. The partner doesn’t ask for your enrollment goals. If they don’t ask what your target student and cost per (application, enrollment, student) goals are, they likely don’t care and are happy just sending you people’s data. It’s also an indication that they may not have a good understanding of the higher education industry in general.
  4. The partner over-projects lead volume or conversion rate. Since you’ve been doing this awhile, you know what is a reasonable expectation for high intent leads and conversion rates for all of your programs. If the vendor’s numbers are way off, they either don’t know any better or are being misleading. The same can go for under-projections of course.
  5. The partner doesn’t request your data or feedback. If they don’t have a process for optimization of your campaign in mind before launching, it’s a safe assumption that it will never be high on their list of action items. This one ties into 2 and 3 above, this needs to be set as an expectation from day one. Need Some Optimization Ideas for Affiliate or Warm Transfer Campaigns? Here are 4.
  6. Your account manager is also the sales rep for the company. I thought about leaving this one off since all organizations are setup differently. However it’s hard to ignore there is a clear conflict of interest whenever this occurs. You should keep this in mind as your relationship expands.
  7. You do not have ownership of your assets, content, or data. This should be obvious, but we come across it way too often. If you don’t have final say on the content being presented to the public and the data that comes from it, you are immediately lack the tools needed to improve your campaign and also are opened up to compliance issues.

The most important takeaway here is to do your research and due diligence. You should be navigating their lead generation processes, checking their numbers, and also asking around for other client’s feedback or referrals.

Our team at EducationDynamics are experts in everything digital marketing and enrollment related, but we are also very aware that there are a lot of other publishers and marketers that do just as well in certain niche segments of the higher education vertical. It can be anything from expertise in a certain set of programs like healthcare, engineering, and criminal justice degrees or maybe they just generate high quality (read: high intent) traffic. These are the teams and organizations that you want to align with to benefit all involved. The process for launching a partnership campaign like this varies widely and can take anywhere from weeks to months so it’s important to make sure all parties are aligned on goals from the beginning. Over the years EducationDynamics has established, optimized, and expanded relationships with dozens of partners to help us exceed our clients goals. If you need help managing your current partners or just want some candid feedback on a prospective vendor, all you have to do is send us note! We’ll be happy to provide you with a consultation to help you navigate your situation and hopefully reach your objectives.