Agency 101: How to Build a Great Relationship

Keith Scheib ESM Digital


The best part of my job is when I bring new clients onboard to all that ESM Digital has to offer institutions of higher education. We’ve been doing this for more than a decade and we’re experts in higher education marketing. But unlike a lot of my peers in the field, I don’t step off at the contract’s start. I check in regularly with account management, campaigns, copy, design. I want to know that the school I sold on our services is getting what I promised. I make certain they are.

This is how I build a great agency relationship with our partner schools:

Start at the beginning. That might sound obvious, but it’s important for me to understand that the “beginning” is different for every school. For some it’s when I meet their representatives at a conference like UPCEA. For others, it may be when they visit our website or respond to an email. And for still others, it may be when I meet one person at an institution who moves to another. Wherever the relationship begins, I make it pretty clear that I’m in for the long haul.

Listen really well. I meet lots of people who want to know what we can do for their student recruitment and enrollment efforts. They want to hear about all the services we offer. But before I tell them what we do, I find out what they do, and what they want. Every school is different so I don’t pretend that one easy answer will fit all their needs. I listen to their problems and concerns before I bring the team in to find a solution that will be uniquely theirs.

Cultivate the relationship. It’s great when a school has a need ESM Digital can fulfill and we get them onboard right away. But even if an institution’s RFP process is a year away, I stay available. I answer questions, send worthwhile articles, invite them to events we run. I offer up introductory services like site audits and consulting, and let them know what conferences I’ll attend. Sometimes, I just touch base with them when I’m in their area. I try to give them a glimpse of what that could expect if they partner with us.

Handle the handoff. Once a school does decide to partner with ESM Digital, I still hang in there. I jump in on the kickoff call and make certain the transition goes smoothly. I also check in with the account managers and other team members on a regular basis to confirm that everything’s going well. I guess the truth is, I don’t ever fully hand off—because an ESM Digital client is my client. I began the relationship and I don’t ever want it to end.

How does your agency treat you? If you think it’s time for an agency breakup, give me a call. At ESM Digital, we’ll treat your school the way you deserve to be treated.

~Keith Scheib