It is a golden era for UK universities to shine whilst the US, Canada and Australia are suffering due to political turmoil and trade and security disputes.
The UK has already seen 6,000 additional Chinese students coming to study in recent months, creating an immediate opportunity for UK universities to engage with these students for 2019 and 2020 enrolments.
Yet, for some universities, Chinese student numbers have fallen this year and others have struggled to capture the interest of these lucrative segments.
All too often when we review Universities’ Chinese marketing activities, we see outstanding establishments with widely different backgrounds making the same kinds of China marketing mistakes.
Below we have captured the 5 key points universities must address when targeting Chinese students and looking to increase student numbers:
- Know your USPs
Do you really know your point of difference in the eyes of today’s Chinese students? For example, university ranking, the longstanding basis of many universities’ marketing strategies are no longer the main deciding factor for choosing where to study. Lower ranking universities now have much more relevant USPs for attracting Chinese students.
The more targeted you are and the clearer your positioning, the easier it will be to convert Chinese offer holders.
Spend time to objectively look at your USPs and be honest about where you can compete and where you can’t.
- Segmentation & Communication Strategy
Understanding your target segment is hardly rocket science, yet so few universities invest the time necessary to analyse their Chinese student data, by talking with your current students and alumni and understanding their motivations, you are a step closer to building an accurate audience profile.
In today’s market it is critical that your messaging is relevant and engaging. All too often universities or their agencies place all the emphasis on what channels to use without any thought as to who, what and when the message is being conveyed.
Not only that but your strategy needs to be tailored to multiple audiences. It is imperative that your content appeals to prospective undergraduates as well as postgraduates, existing alumni, parents and other stakeholder groups, being adapted to the unique user behaviours of each audience member (such as preferred channel, format and timing).
- Is your web strategy compatible with the Chinese market?
Many of the services we rely on in the West are blocked by the Great Firewall. You’ll need to find alternatives to common tools including Google Analytics, YouTube video hosting, even basic WordPress websites can’t be updated with the same ease as we are used to in western countries.
Do you know what your loading speed is across key regions in China? Websites hosted overseas often struggle to load and loading times in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu can vary massively.
To publish a site in China requires an Internet Content Provider license (ICP). Without this you’ll most likely need to host in Hong Kong, and your site will need to perform well across China’s fragmented telecoms network.
You should also have a clear idea of how secure your website is. A considerable proportion of hacking activity comes from East Asia so make sure you are using well vetted suppliers throughout your web project to protect confidential data.
- Are you doing anything to improve actual student conversions?
All too often universities are focusing on offer holder numbers and basing success on the number of offers, not the number of students accepting those offers.
An average Chinese student will hold 5 offers, but only the universities that can appeal to their motivations and understand their decision-making factors will actually see students walking through their doors.
Budget agencies or local sales representative often miss out on this golden period to drive conversions, which puts your great marketing efforts to waste, so fast, impactful steps should be taken between now and May, such as launching highly targeted conversion campaigns –turning offer holders into paying students.
- Are you building advocacy and talking to existing students on campus?
Your existing students can be your biggest advocates and given the right conditions will refer you to friends and family.
However, universities often forget about existing students when planning their marketing strategy. Those that operate student ambassador programmes, on campus activations and offer additional services not only find it easier to recruit Chinese students, but also create engaging Chinese content that can be shared on social media platforms.
We have a proven track record in gaining amazing results from our universities!
For Example, as a result of our work with one UK University client, they received 11 x more applications in Q1 of this year, than they did for the whole of 2017-2018.
Contact us to find out how at [email protected]