Connect earlier with prospective international students and make sure you stay connected
How to increase your international student prospect pool by implementing a digital marketing strategy: Part 5
The majority of students who are keen to study abroad are motivated to do so because they are interested in a particular university. Therefore, it’s imperative that your institution establishes a presence in overseas markets so that you can make a compelling case for why students should attend your university.
It’s probable that international students will be applying to several institutions (sorry about the hard truth!) so to put your university at an advantage, it is crucial to build a rapport with students early on, capture their contact details and maintain a relationship with them until they are ready to enrol.
With this in mind, we interviewed more than 1,000 international students who are currently researching higher education options through the International Student Admissions Service (ISAS). We wanted to know when they started researching higher education options abroad.
Here were the results:
Most universities tend to focus on the candidates who are set to enrol at a university in the upcoming year, overlooking a significant proportion of their demographic- in the USA for example, there are currently 1.13 million foreign students enrolled at American universities this year, meaning 113,000 people had considered studying abroad more than five years in advance.
Addressing such a large, untapped demographic should be a top priority for institutions looking to improve prospective student engagement. Interacting with the 64% of international students who are thinking earlier about studying abroad will allow you to shape your image from the earliest possible opportunity.
So where should you start?
Identify your customer demographics and geodemographics, then ask yourself the below questions to consider the best method of communicating your brand message:
- Who are you communicating information to? Create personas with age, courses of interest, year/deadline for enrolling, and current priorities and concerns.
- What information are you communicating? It is essential to make the information transparent and concise with a clear call to action to entice a student to leave their details with you.
- How are you communicating the information to them? How is your education establishment going to stand out against your competitors? What is the best method of communication with each student profile?
Ensure you rank at the top of their search:
According to our research, search engines are the most popular information source for students thinking about studying overseas – so make sure your university is at the top.
Ensuring your website addresses the questions that international students are researching will improve your SEO ranking immensely without exploiting loopholes. Google continuously improves its algorithm to identify high quality and relevant content – so keep the information readable and avoid keyword stuffing!
Have you considered other search engines other than Google? After all, Baidu is the most popular search engine in mainland China and Google is banned. Google is also blocked in Russia, along with several other countries; indeed, over one third of the world’s population cannot access Google- or simply choose not to! Do your research and make sure your SEO strategy is in line with the most popular search engine in your target market.
Once prospective students have found your website, ensure that you have a quick option, such as an online enquiry form with a ‘call me back’ service, to capture their details and keep them engaged.
Ways to nurture the relationship with your future student applicants include producing targeted emails where content is relevant to the person you are sending information to. Fully utilising your CRM system to genuinely Manage the Relationship with the Customer is central to providing great customer service. Accurate recording and data analysis allows you to better understand what information each student is interested in receiving. By sending emails full of content that the student wants, rather than sending general admissions content, you create value and build trust with your prospective students.
That then creates an opportunity to demonstrate your ability and credibility as an establishment that cares about each and every student- this is further emphasised by responding quickly and directly to students. Therefore, it is important to have the right student admissions management tools in place.
A final point to think about
By building a rapport with the student several years in advance and maintaining a sincere relationship, you have a much greater chance of that student committing to your university and becoming a ‘student in advance’.
Utilising the relationships that you have already built is going to be a much more cost-effective method of recruiting international students at your university and will prompt you to consider both your short-term and long-term strategy, ensuring a stronger and more consistent pipeline of international students.