INTERNATIONAL STUDENT RECRUITMENT DIVERSIFICATION: DIGITAL MARKETING

The International Student Recruitment landscape has never been still. Educational institutions such as Universities, Colleges and schools with vocational programs have been making use of education agents and their portfolio of services for a long time.

It is safe to say that Agents have the ability to contribute strategically by giving school’s presence in countries abroad and giving foreign market insight.  

The traditional agent-student relationship however, is now being revised due to an increasingly competitive market that is forcing institutions to re-visit their recruitment models. Lead generation as a result of relationships  born from wide-reaching online strategies is becoming a valuable ancillary engine that schools are starting to rely on.

As a result of this revitalized brand awareness strategy results are becoming undoubtedly more stable by shaping a recruitment mechanism that can result in a steady stream of organic inquiries.

Diversification of Your International Student Recruitment Strategy

The use of agents, within the education landscape vary based on the type of institution and whether the institution occupy a more domestic focus. K-12 Schools and Community Schools strategies may differ from those utilized in Universities with a wider range of channels and efforts.

Schools in Markets like Canada and Australia have been known for adopting agent-student recruitment initiatives for many years positioning them as preferred destinations for International Students. In the USA, where this model is considered illegal for recruitment of domestic students, the absorption of the traditional model has progressed more slowly.

The American international recruitment Council (AIRC) was created to abate the controversy surrounding the issue concerning standard procedures for certifying agents, but for many, the pace at which the market is growing requires an immediate alternative to agent recruiting services.

AIRC: International Student Recruitment

The role of the agent in any recruitment strategy is very clear. As the ambassadors for the schools they  build relationships and nurture prospects while attempting to deliver qualified applicants. For every region, there is an agent specialized in that particular market, and this can pose a challenge for the schools as they become dependent of a very small group of people. A good agent can play an important part in your International student recruitment strategy, but is up to you to decide how dependent of your current “Agent model” should you be allowed to be.

Shifts in the market set the tone for how the agent-school relationship is shaped. Recessions in regions where the schools were previously doing business can handicap the school’s ability to counter winds of change. This can leave them vulnerable to financial instability. Digital Marketing  however, can help institutions quickly shift attention to uncharted markets with very little research and effort and expand the reach of their recruitment budget. A wider pool of destinations can be utilized if confronted with market fluctuations.  

International Student Diversification by University
The Top 100 Universities Ranked by Diversity

Diversification when it comes to your countries of focus will most likely ensure a sustainable model enabling you to cultivate a constant international student base while injecting the campus with a healthy mix of backgrounds.

Developing Brand Visibility in Emerging Markets

Digital Marketing Agencies can also be particularly beneficial for developing brand visibility. In crucial markets such as South America, only Ivy League institutions enjoy brand recognition ultimately powered by external sources outside the recruitment arena. For the majority of schools there’s no recognition of the brand down in LATAM and a Digital Marketing strategy can ultimately assist you tackling proper brand introduction and development in emerging markets.

With more international students moving to the digital realm to search and identify options for their education, digital marketing is quickly becoming an essential strategy to drive the decision making process. Targeted paid advertising campaigns and social media marketing can and will make a  difference as to how is your Brand perceived in emerging markets. Education related topics and institution related queries become the window of opportunity and the means by which you can sell to prospective students by moving your School to the top of the alternatives list.

Banner Ad for International Student Recruitment
Example of Display Network Banner Ad

Effective Brand Development and Representation abroad.

Many agents will go the extra mile trying to learn and understand everything regarding your school: campus location, curriculum and amenities. In many occasions visits can be arranged to experience first hand what it feels like to be in a school like yours. But when you provide information to students miles away, there’s always the possibility that some of it can be misrepresented ending in the classic “Lost In Translation” scenario.  

Remaining accurate can be a challenge especially when dealing with students and their expectations regarding accommodations, class sizes or methodology. Is not unusual to find students in the United States completely dissatisfied when they encounter slightly different circumstances to what was initially disclosed to them.  Although unintentional, the impact in your international brand and retention strategies limit the reach and overall success of your localized agent-model ventures.

Many of your social media content divulged publicly can serve as a valuable reference. Up to date information allows schools to remain truthful regarding facilities, methodology and campus culture, making it imperative to provide your staff the control they need over the message distributed in international environments.  An all-inclusive Digital Marketing Strategy tailored to Higher Education is the only way to accomplish that.  

Direct Inquiries from Digital Marketing Initiatives: How to address them?

One of the greatest advantages of utilizing agents for recruitment initiatives can also become the  downfall for the schools in the international sphere. Good agents will assume great part of the enrollment process up to a completed application and turning it over to the schools at this point in time.  Admissions officers barely interact with the prospect during the first stages of introduction  leaving all the inquiry process to the agents themselves.

Although convenient, many would agree this is not necessarily the best approach in the long term. Leaving the entire representation of your brand and the creation of a long lasting bonds with candidates in regions where your reputation is yet to be evaluated seems a little risky and inefficient. Cultural values based on the country of origin may create an aura of doubt and distrust among prospects along with the families and their financial subsidiaries.  

Digital marketing, can overcome these obstacles in any of its possible variations. A well thought-out Digital Strategy for International Recruitment can generate inquiries but also produce applications. Students can maintain direct contact with the school at every stage of the nurturing process without eliminating the valuable follow up, e-mail or phone call of in-school representative. A Digital Agency of record can build a robust Dripping Campaign, SMS follow-up strategy and even social media content creation, but ultimately the admissions officer can and should control the final output of information.  

An approach like this can tremendously increase the amount of inquiries coming through your CRM system keeping your staff busy at all times. An increased workload can also be daunting and often seen as detrimental by some of the schools, but in in reality a good Digital Agency for Higher Education can help with the implementation of integrations, API connections and in many cases real time Call Center Management alternatives.   

Student Recruitment: CRM Platform
Pipedrive used as CRM for Education

Generating direct inquiries, may be a blessing in disguise. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology can not only help you organize your data feed effectively but can also help you assume control of stages during the nurturing process that are off-limits on a pay-per-performance model. You can also tailor your Digital Marketing Strategy by implementing a framework that can produce data points, produce extensive reports to track inquiries by source, location and best performance keywords just to mention a few. What this really means is that not only you can measure success, but you can get real time intel about your campaign and the overall performance of the agency you employ. All this while enriching the school’s expertise in any International scenario. This understanding of the market is what makes an International Recruiter Successful.

Personalizing Your Online Follow-Up Processes for International Students:

In our current digital world informal engagement occurs almost inevitably and thanks to the revolution of Social Media outlets. Students can connect from any part of the world and engage in a one-on-one exchange making social nodes and new technologies yet another recruitment tool.

In many cases these outlets are so successful that is common for Schools to encourage students to utilize similar channels like WeChat and Whatsapp in markets like China and South America for primary contact. This direct and personal approach can in many cases eliminate the need for “boots in the ground” and the need of physically sending recruitment staff to foreign countries. Corresponding directly with the institution rather than through an intermediary can alleviate some pain points regarding the distribution when it comes to accurate information regarding accommodation, programs certifications that some agents might find difficult to address.  

All of this suggests that a strong Digital Marketing presence is vital if you intend to break into any existing or emerging market. Any ongoing digital representation of your school can help prospects make decisions in a world where the first interaction with your brand is bound to happen online. Begin attracting leads almost instantly, explore markets at will and move into a more diverse scope of sources on the march. This is the flexibility, and the cost-effective reach of Digital Marketing.

STUDENT RECRUITMENT STRATEGY FOR INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH

Creating your own international student recruitment strategy doesn’t have to be a daunting task. However, understanding the moving pieces involved in the process of creating a successful one, will bulletproof yours against failure. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that by the year 2025 the number of international students worldwide will be around 8 million. This trend demonstrates that student mobility has experienced a steady growth over the past years and appears it will continue to do so.

As a result of this phenomenon, colleges and universities are now engaging in intense competition hoping to reap the benefits of international student acquisition. Domestic enrollment can be slow and affected by federal cuts putting the internationalization and diversification on the radar of educational institutions looking to achieve enrollment goals and boost efficiency.

Routine travel to distant countries, sometimes with uncertain results, has become a common practice of many professionals in the academic world. Many on the other hand, understand and have embraced the emerging digital marketing strategies that deliver effective results for significantly less. The latter also understands that by doing so they can gain brand equity, fast-track communications, and customize admission processes while downsizing and cutting dependency from foreign agents.

Continuous advances in modern technology require shifting engagement expectations and a certain disposition to explore and utilize new powerful but daunting enrollment tools and strategies.

This is certainly not easy.

An official website with “one-size-fits-all” approach to design and messaging along with some passive Social engagements are not enough to appeal to international students in the midst of a global revolution. This may still work for brands with huge Brand equity catapulted by Hollywood movies translated into dozens of languages, but probably not for you looking to increase active recruitment.

 

CULTURE DRIVES LATAM INTERNATIONAL STUDENT RECRUITMENT

Internationalization has come to define (education) recruitment strategies for many institutions looking to enhance their role in the global market.

For many, future success comes in the form of strategic plans and high-level documents aiming to longer term goals and their faculty to see the “big picture”

Example: The Tandon School of Engineering is one of many institutions constantly marketing themselves to international prospects. Their international admissions pages in native languages such as in Spanish demonstrates the clear understanding of “Global Perspective” they clearly share.

Promoting internationalization means providing resources that can trigger “empathy” while showcasing the school’s educational capabilities and opportunities. These propagate reputation through inevitable word-of-mouth dynamics and better retention tactics. All of the above are all long-term methodologies requiring visionary leadership but: Are there any tactics that can be implemented to achieve more immediate results?

Landing Page for student recruitment strategy

DIGITAL MARKETING CAMPAIGN FOR LATAM STUDENT RECRUITMENT

Developing realistic targets, leveraging historical data and communicating clear goals, are at the center of a solid international student recruitment campaign. By choosing markets with leading numbers such as China and the Middle East seems a typical or safe approach, however, understanding the international landscape could offer unprecedented benefits.

Did you know Brazil offers governmental financial aid for students wanting to pursue STEM programs in the United States?

A Per-Pay-Click (PPC) advertising campaign is an exceptional cost-effective formula for revealing insights into potential markets and programs to promote since you only spend money when interested prospects click your name.

  • What programs should you sponsor?
  • What keywords are driving the most traffic?
  • What combinations are generating the most interest? 
Google ads for student recruitment strategy
How Google ads look like for Spanish queries

 

Unique language barriers add an extra level of complexity when aiming globally and choosing the correct terms is not a matter of regular translation.

Keyword planners and tools to build your own ad groups are always a good start. Also, launching a good campaign requires some serious prepping in order to fit copy requirements.

All pages should possess their unique analytics code for proper tracking and reporting and microsites need to meet expectations in terms of conversions with properly set up forms and necessary integrations with your CRM system.

This may sound complicated or way out of your comfort zone but a good Digital Agency with roots in the Latin American market and with a native outlook will certainly provide best results when trying to break into the Latin market.

Example: The University of San Francisco has a custom Spanish and Brazilian Microsite showcasing programs known, thanks to Google research, to increase the likelihood of generating inquiries from prospective students from Latin America.

 

Microsite for student recruitment strategy
Microsite for USF both in Spanish and Portuguese

 

MOBILE OPTIMIZATION FOR LATAM STUDENT RECRUITMENT

In a modern world with profound digital and mobile inclinations, Google has shown us how search inquiries for education related topics and institutions have moved to the online realm. With a high level of uncertainty, students rely on Non-Branded search queries to drive their decision-making process. Unaware of the options, the rate at which prospects seem to be pursuing these queries have been increasing dramatically.

The good news is, Google’s internal algorithms are able to track geographically click-through conversions providing us with valuable insight that could translate into putting your Brand first in front of qualified students. Increasing visibility of certain programs or degrees in recommended locations boosts results.

Top selling points of your institution, degree information videos, and collateral resources are among the most popular content to include in your mobile driven strategy. A bad experience navigating your site on mobile devices can account for almost a 35% abandon rate, moving your prospects interest to the next potential alternative on their list.

Critical information such as financial information and study permit details are paramount if you want to have all your mobile strategy geared toward success.

 

Responsive Landing pages for student recruitment strategy
Responsive Landing pages are mobile friendly

 

OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE FOR LATAM STUDENT RECRUITMENT

One of many challenges, if not the most important, is to develop an official page that can appeal and talk to different markets. The auto translation itself does not work for SEO purposes and your page may be underutilized if relying on this method alone. Many institutions develop specific pages for specific regions or languages.

Many utilize a big array of designs with tabs and subdomain folders as a tactic aimed to close the geographical gap. Ask us about the different alternatives you school can explore in order to drive international traffic.

Although providing content in multiple languages may seem difficult, it really goes a long way and it will certainly benefit your brand in the long run. Providing messaging in Spanish to Latam students increases your potential of communicating effectively and perhaps even more so, allows you to target better-qualified prospects.

Remember, parents make part of the decision-making process and they also need to be informed. Displaying prominent colored flags with Mexican, Colombian or Brazilian flags at the top of the page. A good Digital Agency with roots in the Latin American market can tackle these enhancements in no time.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR LATAM STUDENT RECRUITMENT

Do you understand the language in the way students actually speak? A clear messaging based on cultural patterns reflect your understanding of your market in question. Using an actual student or individual involved in the educational culture may help to craft and attune messaging aimed to various groups present in Social Media.

Social nodes can be valuable when used as a tool for discovery. What are my prospects talking about? What kind of content is being shared and what kind of interaction are the students having with your posts? Filtering unqualified prospects based on language proficiency and brand perception present an opportunity to reinforce your marketing strategy with strong candidates.

 

CONVERTING LATAM STUDENT LEADS

The Latin culture has developed a unique sympathetic dynamic among individuals in their domestic day to day interactions and they expect nothing less from any internationally. They expect a fast but thorough response accompanied with helpful links and a warmth conversation.

Take longer that the competition and you would loose a perfectly qualified prospect in a matter of minutes. Literally.

Some of the best practices are always to address the student by name, answer questions promptly in a personal and formal tone and in great detail. (They will laugh, make jokes and invite you for a coffee next time you visit the country.) Provide helpful information and include relevant links and URLs to Social Media channels.

Email drips campaigns with Marketing Automation (Autoresponders) can also tilt the balance towards an effective conversion when used in tandem with personal interactions. Handling and tracking large quantities of information and inquiries during a normal decision-making cycles can easily get out of hand.

Making sure your brand is always present and top of mind is achieved can really help to push for that enrollment. Email campaigns excel at this sole purpose. Just make sure you don’t gamble on templated responses to drive your conversations or you will be disappointed. The fuzzy and warm interaction really is appreciated among Latinos.

Webinars and Hangouts for Latam Recruitment is a big part of a solid strategy. Providing the medium to enable them to envision their future can really help the decision process. Rarely the students have the opportunity to visit the campus beforehand and have a taste of their next 4 years of life.

Bridging the GAP with digital alternatives like Webinars and hangouts emphasizing in the school’s strongest features provide a glimpse of the campus life that they wouldn’t get otherwise. Google Map Street View and virtual tours can be leveraged using the power of NEW Oculus and VR gadgets to enhance the experience.

Digital Tools like these clarify questions, provide scenarios for discussion and can also support replay options for future engagements. They also provide insight with quick polls, surveys and analytics helping you qualify further your attendees. To make the most from these powerful gizmos admissions personnel should craft a script to work from and test continuously beforehand.

 

Directories for student recruitment strategy
Directories are a great to improve SERP Rankings

 

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

Digital Marketing is always evolving providing tools for schools seeking a competitive edge in engaging students in Latin America. Below, is a list of creative and powerful ideas currently used by Schools like yours looking to tap into the Latam Market.

Latinamerican Students enrollment solutions
Latinamerican Students enrollment solutions

Regardless of the initiatives you decide to pursue, improving your International outreach in Latin America can be best accomplished when you have a clear idea of your web and digital capabilities, your media outlets and advertising channels.

Developing a system to monitor your current progress is crucial for success.

Software and tools can help if you have the bandwidth for this sort of daily chores or you can rely on Digital Experts in Latam Recruitment to make it all happen for you.