Digital Marketing Trends in International Student Recruitment

If you’re a part of the international recruitment or the marketing division for a university or college, you’re dealing with a world of challenges:

  • Covid-19 and how social distancing changed forever face to face recruitment
  • increasing competition from countries and education providers
  • a decreasing applicant pool due to falling demographics and rising costs
  • Struggle to balance demand by nationality while maintaining high costs
  • Fragmented communications, too many places to be
  • Fast-paced race to promote new programs

And… perhaps the biggest challenge of all is the constant budgeting pressures of needing to get more done with less.

All of these challenges are unique to international student recruitment departments. So how do you overcome them?

One of the best solutions is practicing effective digital marketing for the recruitment of targeted prospective students.

Digital marketing encompasses a variety of powerful tactics that can dramatically improve your success as a student recruitment and marketer in the student recruitment department. When you implement a proper digital strategy, you can elevate everything from lead generation for enquiries, connections with advisors, brand awareness, applications, and student yield.

Why is Digital Marketing So Important for International Education?

Over the past 20 years, digital marketing has played an ever-increasing role in international education recruitment. Today, more than ever, the internet is the number one resource prospective students use to go through the research and decision-making process when selecting their future school, college or university.

The international education sector has gone through massive changes, and now, more than ever remains extremely competitive. More than ever, universities and colleges that lean heavily on a digital strategy continue to reap the benefits of effectively tapping into the ever-expanding student pool.

Every year, innumerable students finish high school and apply for multiple education institutions or start plans to further study and grow their careers. It’s more important than ever for these institutions to do everything they can to ensure maximum visibility and to use digital marketing to help them qualify genuine aspiring students.

Even though most education institutions know they need to employ effective digital marketing strategies, they often lag behind when it comes to getting the highest return on their efforts to stay ahead of the competition. Many organisations, including universities still do not have a CRM.

In light of this, universities and colleges need to understand that if they want to reach qualified aspiring students, their digital approach should be relevant, unique, and fun. International education needs to keep up with the face-paced world of mobile devices and social media in the current age if they want to win over the deep pool of students available.

International Education: Digital Marketing Trends

Digital marketing isn’t cut and dry when it comes to international student recruitment. However, there are some key tactics you need to use if you want to ensure you pull the highest number of prospects through the student journey and ultimately enrol at your campus.

In this article, we’ll cover two marketing strategies you need to focus on in the early stage of the buyer’s journey.

1. Start With Brand Awareness

If you want to attract students into the buyer’s journey, you’ll need to make sure they notice you. The first step you need to take is to focus on brand awareness.

Awareness marketing is different for every institution. If you represent a lesser-known university or college, you’ll gain the most from building up brand awareness. This will help you drastically improve your lead generation advertising performance down the road.

If you work at a bigger university or college, you’ll still benefit from building brand awareness since it’s all about creating an emotional connection and building a relationship between your institution and your prospective student. Creating that emotional connection with students is the most important thing you can do to get them to consider your institution as a potential option.

You can create effective awareness campaigns by focusing on the following digital tactics:

Social Media

The key to effective marketing regardless of industry is to go where your audience goes. If you want to get in front of potential students, then social media is the perfect place to start.

Social media offers a low-cost per impression and impressive targeting capabilities. You should begin advertising on social media to build awareness for your school and specific programs. Nowadays, you can implement incredibly targeted messaging through demographic data.

Mobile Over Desktop

Another thing to consider is what device your prospects are using. The fact is, the world is shifting more and more towards mobile every year. 10 years ago, desktop was number one. Now, it’s mobile. In fact, 50.48% of web traffic is mobile while 46.51% is desktop (Techjury).

Keeping that in mind, universities and colleges need to adapt their websites, giving preference to mobile user experience. This means adjusting web pages, emails, and forms, so they’re easy to read and engage with on smartphones. If you don’t focus on mobile, you’ll run the risk of losing out on prospects to other institutions that are mobile-friendly.

Creating a mobile-friendly experience doesn’t just mean optimising the way your content looks. It also means rethinking how you market across devices of different sizes. For instance, you could set up a chat function that lets your prospective students text questions. Or, you create apps in platforms like WeChat or Facebook Messenger.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimization helps your visibility in the search engines. This means creating custom content relevant to your audience and increasing the content on your site.

This will help your institution’s website rank higher in the search engines results page (SERP) so more students will find your site and engage with you.

Display Ads

You should start placing ads on specific websites to reel in prospects. One of the best ways to do this is to reach out to professional or feeder sites for specific programs you offer.

You could also run display network campaigns to run advertisements across a variety of relevant websites in a single purchase to expand your reach.

Press Releases & Bloggers

Another way to increase brand awareness is through Digital PR. You should start reaching out to bloggers to write blog posts and press releases on their own sites and on other media and news sites. This is especially useful when launching a new program.

2. Focus on Lead Generation

Once you’ve got your brand awareness strategy in full force, it’s time you shift your focus on stoking the relationship with the prospective students you’ve attracted.

Lead generation should be used to increase the number of student inquiries and the number of visits if your student is located onshore already, and matches (between student and the counsellor).

You should build up your lead generation campaign with the following digital tactics:

Social Media Ads

Social media ads use sophisticated psychographic and demographic data about social media users to create highly targeted ads. You should create ads to promote site visits, webinars, content, and individual programs.

You can create lookalike audiences on platforms like Facebook which help you target users with similar interests, behaviours, and demographics to your custom audience. This will help you target accurate and likely prospects.

Paid Search Ads

While SEO is a great tool to use to build up your organic traffic, you should begin implementing paid ads as well. Paid search will help you reach students who are looking for educational programs.

Your paid search ads will skip the line, heading right to the top of the search engine results pages to quickly increase visibility.

Website Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

It’s easy to focus so much on reeling prospective students in that you forget to optimize your website. Once you’ve gotten a prospect to your site, you need to ensure you keep them there and impress them quickly.

You need to focus on optimising key pages including landing pages by improving different page elements like your copywriting, headlines, graphics, layouts, and call-to-action (CTA).

Remember to keep in mind any changes you make will affect desktop and mobile differently.

Remarketing Ads

Remarketing ads are an easy way to make sure a prospect who visited your site doesn’t forget about you.

You should be reaching out to previous site visitors through social media, video, display, and responsive ads. Remember to include clear calls-to-action to encourage them to return and engage with your website.

You can even tweak your ads to personalize messaging whether or not the previous prospective visitor is a lead already or not.

The Future of Digital Marketing in International Education

University and college recruiters and marketers have faced several challenges in international student recruitment over the past few years. Not only COVID-19 has imposed great challenges, the competition is also getting stronger, and students are faced with more options than ever before.

International education marketing isn’t as easy as it used to be. Now, the power is in the hands of the prospective students. They have a greater ability to pick and choose the type of school they want. And they don’t have to wait for schools to reach out. Their future is at their fingertips.

If you want to ensure your institution is able to maximise enrolment, you need to first focus on the early stage of the student’s journey and you need to provide and alternative better than what other education providers do.

By beginning with brand awareness, you’ll help get your university or college in front of your prospective students who would have otherwise passed you over.

Once you’ve established a brand awareness campaign, you need to shift your focus to lead generation. Engaging and re-engaging with your prospects digitally will help you create a relationship with your target audience and convert prospects into leads.

If you capture student’s interest, then you must qualify the student to further assist, this assistance normally comes as a CRM engagement or an agent engagement, but is there more than this?

Embracing new trends and tactics like custom mobile apps in the moment might seem difficult or costly to your institution, but they’re almost guaranteed to lead to substantial dividends in the future. The best part is, thanks to modern marketing technology, you can track your progress immediately so you can focus on what works and get rid of tactics that don’t.

The internet is a fluid environment and institutions need to stay up to date with the ever-changing landscape if they want to stay relevant and competitive in today’s digital age.

If you want to connect your digital marketing activity with outcomes like counselling sessions and applications, do reach out as we can pair your campaigns with our peer-to-peer platform so prospective students connect with your desired counsellor, e.g. staff, agents, ambassadors, etc. to schedule a free session to discuss your marketing opportunities, message us here.

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