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.