Top 10 Higher Ed Marketing Agencies of 2020

Looking for an agency that specializes in marketing for universities, colleges, and other higher education institutions? We did the legwork for you.

Marketing for the higher education industry has unique challenges that require deep, higher-ed-specific experience to overcome. Your marketing agency will need to be fluent in marketing to students at different levels (undergrad, grad, certificates, courses), plus different modalities (on-campus vs. online), and need to hit unique goals such as enrollments, student yield, and alumni donations (or fundraising needs). 

The competition in the higher ed marketing space is fierce, absolutely fierce. Universities and colleges are becoming more and more sophisticated in digital marketing strategies, so the need to execute is paramount.

There are tens of thousands of marketing agencies in the United States, but only a select few with experience working with universities and colleges, even fewer with successful track records. 

If you want tips on how to assess and hire a marketing agency for your higher ed institution, skip to the end of this article to read our “Agency Hiring Guide for Higher Ed.”

Here is a list of the top 10 higher education marketing agencies in 2020:

vital. logo

[Sponsored]

Agency: Vital.

Location: Portsmouth, NH

Year Founded: 2001

Total Employees: 50-60

Vital has worked with higher ed institutions for over a decade. However they’ve been around since 2001.Vital has been recognized for their inbound marketing philosophy and their metrics-driven approach to getting results for their clients. 

They provide the following marketing services for universities and colleges:

  • Website Design and Development (in WordPress)
  • Content Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Paid Advertising Management
  • Conversion Rate Optimization

This means they specialize in creating the website, driving traffic to it, and then converting the traffic on it. They’ve developed specific expertise around marketing for university online degree programs. They know the online degree landscape and hit their goals.

University of Cincinatti Website Design

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • The University of San Diego
  • The University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • The University of Cincinnati
  • The University of New Hampshire
  • College for America

To learn more about Vital, visit their website: https://vtldesign.com/

mStoner Logo Higher Ed Marketing Agency

Agency: mStoner

Location: Chicago, IL

Year Founded: 2001

Total Employees: 10-20

mStoner was founded in 2001 by Michael Stoner. Since then they’ve worked with more than 300 colleges, universities, and educational institutions across the US. They focus on authentic storytelling, content creation and digital communications.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Art Direction
  • Content Strategy and Writing
  • Digital Marketing Strategy
  • User Testing

park university website design

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • The University of Pittsburgh
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Northeastern
  • Park University
  • Elmhurst College
  • University of North Dakota

To learn more about mStoner, visit their website: https://www.mstoner.com/.

Paskill, Stapleton, and Lord Higher Education Marketing Agency Logo

Agency: Paskill Stapleton & Lord

Location: Glenside, PA

Year Founded: 1986

Total Employees: 30-40

Paskill Stapleton & Lord focus exclusively on “Enrollment Marketing for Higher Education.” They’ve been providing marketing services to higher ed institutions since 1986 and have hundreds of college and university clients.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Digital & Traditional Advertising
  • Brand & Creative Strategy
  • Market Research
  • Staff Development & Training

Des Moines University Marketing Collateral

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • Texas A&M University
  • United States Coast Guard Academy
  • Marywood University
  • Point Park University
  • Neumann University

To learn more about Paskill Stapleton & Lord, visit their website: https://www.psandl.com/

Logo for Edufficient, A Higher Ed Marketing Agency

Agency: Edufficient

Location: Paramus, New Jersey

Year Founded: 2008

Total Employees: 30-40

Edufficient was founded by David Flack and Tom Ferarra, and bills themselves as a “performance-based higher education marketing agency.”  They aim to partner with schools and inquiry providers to further evolve advanced higher ed marketing  strategies.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Digital Media Management
  • Paid Search Management
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Email Marketing Automation
  • Compliance Monitoring Services
  • Third Party Inquiry Management

To learn more about Edufficient, visit their website: https://www.edufficient.com/

Ologie Logo Marketing Agency for Higher Ed

Agency: Ologie

Location: Columbus, OH

Year Founded: 1987

Total Employees: 60-70

The team at Ologie has worked with a hundred plus schools, including public universities, private liberal arts colleges, faith-based institutions, and K-12 schools. Ologie was founded by Bev Ryan who was recently as one of Columbus’s 30 most influential women by Business First.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Brand Development
  • Integrated Marketing
  • Fundraising Communications
  • Reputation Building

University of Pittsburgh Marketing Campaign

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • Bucknell University
  • Oregon State University
  • West Virginia University
  • University at Buffalo
  • Northwestern
  • University of Arizona

Check out their research on the Gen Z College-Bound Mindset here

To learn more about Ologies, visit their website: https://ologie.com/

Simpson Scarborough Logo, A Marketing Agency for Higher Education

Agency: Simpson Scarborough

Location: Alexandra, VA

Year Founded: 2006

Total Employees: 40-50

The team at Simpson Scarborough believes that higher ed can eradicate poverty, cure disease, and end systemic racism. They state that “we exist to further the higher education ecosystem.” and “because higher ed changes the world.” They bring together research, strategy, creative, and digital to provide a comprehensive marketing offering for higher ed institutions. Since 2006 they’ve partnered with over 300 higher education institutions, and take a research-first approach that many other agencies on this do not offer.

Chairman & Partner Elizabeth Scarborough Johnson has presented more than 200 workshops and papers at “a veritable alphabet soup” of higher education-related conferences and symposia, and chaired the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education from 2007 to 2011.

Simpson Scarborough’s higher education marketing services include:

  • Research (Brand and Messaging, Recruitment, Alumni Engagement, Fundraising)
  • Strategy (Brand Positioning, Competitor Analysis, Brand Assessments, Paid Media)
  • Creative (Visual Identity, Marketing Collateral)
  • Digital (Content Strategy, Website Design, SEO, Email Marketing)

Whittier College Website Design Example

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • UC Irvine
  • Kenyon College
  • Ohio State
  • Villanova University
  • Pratt
  • Syracuse University
  • Northwestern University

Be sure to check out their resource page of successful higher ed RFPs they’ve collected over the years.

To learn more about Simpson Scarborough, visit their website: https://www.simpsonscarborough.com/

Up & Up Logo, Marketing Agency for Universities

Agency: Up&Up

Location: Greenville, SC (of course they are)

Year Founded: 2002

Total Employees: 10-20

It’s hard to do a top 10 higher ed marketing agency list and not list this agency. Up&Up was founded in 2002 by Adam Landrum. Originally a consultant with Arthur Andersen, Adam thought he could make a difference in higher ed and started Up&Up. The team at Up&Up believes that “an education is the surest path to meaningful change.” They are driven by the idea that their work will help someone find the perfect school.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Brand Platforms (Brand Pillars, Messaging, Creative Concepts)
  • Creative Communications
  • Marketing Campaigns
  • Digital Experiences

Mount Saint Mary's Website Design

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • Auburn University
  • Campbell University
  • Clemson University
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Kentucky
  • Miami University

Check out their whitepaper: The Higher Ed Marketer’s Guide to Reaching Generation Z

To learn more about Up&Up, visit their website: https://www.upandup.agency/

Oho Interactive Logo, Marketing Agency for Higher Education Institutions

Agency: OHO Interactive

Location: Somerville, MA

Year Founded: 1998

Total Employees: 30-40 

Since 1998 the team at OHO Interactive has worked with over 100 higher ed institutions. OHO Interactive works with universities to understand their prospective student journeys and generate enrollments (not just leads). In addition to focusing on digital marketing for student enrollments, they also run capital campaign drives.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Website and CMS
  • Content Strategy
  • Digital Marketing
  • Full Funnel Digital Marketing
  • Capital Campaign Websites
  • User Research

Oho Champlain College Website Design Screenshot

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia Law School
  • University of Oklahoma College of Law
  • Berklee College of Music
  • Samuel Merrit University
  • Babson College
  • Virginia Tech

Check out their post: 7 Strategies for Recruiting Adult Learners and Non-Traditional Students

To learn more about OHO Interactive, visit their website: https://www.oho.com/

Echo Delta Logo, A Higher Education Marketing Agency

Agency: Echo Delta

Location: Winter Haven, FL

Year Founded: 

Total Employees: 20-30

Echo Delta is a full-service enrollment marketing agency for higher education. They help higher education institutions drive enrollment, increase yield, and capture donors’ attention through their integrated marketing services. They focus on digging deep to find effective ways to share the unique stories of colleges and universities.

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Prospective Student Search
  • Enrollment Consulting Services
  • Integrated Marketing Strategy
  • Web Design & Development
  • Marketing Automation
  • Search and Social Marketing

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • Florida Polytechnic University
  • University of the Ozarks
  • Saint Leo University
  • Polk State College Foundation
  • University of Florida
  • Warner University
  • Florida Southern University

Check out their podcast, the Higher Ed Marketing Lab.

To learn more about Echo Delta, visit their website: https://echodelta.co/

Circa Interactive Logo, Higher Education Marketing Agency

Agency: Circa Interactive

Location: San Diego, CA

Year Founded: 2011

Total Employees: 40-50

Robert Lee and Clayton Dean founded Circa Interactive together in 2011. Circa Interactive’s vision is to provide an alternative solution to traditional marketing models for universities who were looking for assistance in driving high-quality student enrollments (for both on-ground and online degree programs) while keeping control over their brands and messaging. 

Their higher education marketing services include:

  • Branding
  • Lead Generation
  • Educational Technology
  • Recruitment Management
  • Paid Media
  • Search Engine Optimization

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • California Western School of Law
  • University of Central Florida
  • American University School of Healthcare
  • Tulane University
  • University of Pennsylvania

Check out their blog, the Higher Ed Marketing Journal (HEMJ)

To learn more about Circa Interactive, visit their website: https://circaedu.com/

RNL Converge Logo, A Higher Education Marketing Agency

Agency: Converge

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

Year Founded: 2011

Total Employees: 40-50

Converge was founded in 2011 by Ann Oleson and Jay Kelly. The team at Converge focuses the full enrollment funnel for higher education institutions. They craft integrated media mixes that combine the power of paid social advertising, search engine marketing, programmatic display, traditional media and strategic channel opportunities to deliver new enrollments.

Converge’s higher education marketing services include:

  • Digital Advertising
  • Content and Communications
  • Data Analytics and Reporting
  • Website Strategy and Optimization
  • Strategic Consulting

Their higher ed client portfolio includes:

  • Santa Clara University
  • Emory University
  • Northwestern University
  • Northwest Nazarene University
  • Tulane University

Converge also claims Ane Oleson wrote the first book on Inbound Marketing for Education. We can’t verify if it’s actually the first, but props to them writing it.

To learn more about Converge, visit their website: https://convergeconsulting.org/

 How to Choose the Right Higher Ed Marketing Agency For Your School

 

 Ok, so you’ve seen the list, there’s a lot of options here, so how do you choose which agency is right for your school? 

 1. Evaluate Each Agency Based on the Depth of Expertise of the Services You Need — All agencies are not great at all things. Even though this is a list of industry-specific higher ed marketing agencies, they each have different specializations. Make sure you’re buying something from them that is a core competency, not a “yeah we also do that” sort of thing.  

2. Be Aware of Cookie Cutter Approaches — Industry experience is incredibly important, but make sure you check their work to ensure they’re not solving your problems with a cookie cutter approach. Most times industry experience is great, but if all your competitors use the same agency for the same work, and so do you, then you’ll only ever be as good as they are, and you should want to be better.

 

3. Get an Idea of the Team You’ll Be Working With — It’s helpful to talk to people outside the sales team at the agency you’re considering. Ask for a call with their accounts team and maybe even their creative team to get a feel for how they approach the work and see how they handle communication. They may not be able to tell exactly who your team is until you sign with them (and that’s reasonable), but just talk to someone outside of sales, you’ll be surprised by the transparency you’ll get. 

 

4. Ask Them for a Legit Story Where They Failed and Lost an Account — Every agency loses accounts, it’s just part of being a business. And every agency has war stories about failed projects. Ask to hear one, and then don’t hold it against them. Ask them what they learned from it, and then consider how you would handle that situation as the client.

What Evaluation Criteria Was Used to Create This Year’s List?

 

Over 100 different marketing agencies were evaluated for inclusion on this list. In order to hone the list to the top higher education marketing agencies, we evaluated:

1. Portfolio Density of Higher Education Clients — For inclusion on this list, the agency’s portfolio had to be at least 80% higher education clients.

2. Quality of Portfolio Work — Was the work in the client portfolio impressive? Exceptional? We know evaluating the quality of portfolio work can be quite subjective, but we’re agency people, we know what’s hard and what’s a short cut, so we call it like we see it.

3. Glassdoor Employee Reviews — Do people actually like working there? We read through the Glassdoor reviews (where available) to ensure the agencies being included on this list were highly regarded by their employees.

4. Tenure in the Higher Ed Space — How long has the agency been working in higher ed? Are they a new entrant or do they have a decade or two under their belts? This matters and we factored it into our list.

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