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Recruiting Intelligence

Micro-Student Recruitment Markets in China

China is the second market in our series on niche or micro-markets in student recruiting. Last week, we covered the Indian market as presented by Lakshmi Iyer, today we are sharing with you the insights from Kim Morrison from GrokGlobal on the Chinese market. Kim gave a great presentation at the annual AIEA conference in Washington, D.C., in February 2014.

We recommend that you download the presentation which contains many more fascinating slides than we can present here (registration required - Please note that the actual presentation starts on slide 5).  

The key concepts presented by Kim Morrison and Lakshmi Iyer are about refining recruitment outcomes through a better understanding of various international student niche markets. We love the focus on this more refined thinking and what Kim calls "second generation goals."

We might consdier calling this approach "third generation," since in our view:

  • Phase 1 is about adjusting from the U.S. market to an international market;
  • Phase 2 is when universities start differentiating between international markets (Asia vs. India vs. Latin America);
  • Phase 3 is when the real segmenting begins as insitutions adjust their marketing to niche markets within a single country (ex: China or India) or within a region (Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil).  

In addition to geography there are many other dimensions to consider. As Kim's first slide shows, the importance of various student decision making factors based on the chosen subject of study. She contrasts in her presentation STEM students versus Humanities/Social Science students (displayed in Chart 1).

Kim's research outcomes identify very different priorities that are important to how you develop and target your marketing messages to the type of student most attracted to your particular campus and programs. 

Chart 2 provides a concrete example of how to take these learnings and adjust your print and digital material to reach specific market segments. 

Chart 1


Here are additonal suggestions and tactics about how to adjust your marketing mix in China based on the audience niches we believe are important to academic marketing efforts: 

• Establish different agent commissions based on program and market niches 
• Establish intensive partnerships with specialized “key” high schools and universities 
• Use social media to strengthen the association between your institution's brand and a specific field of study – both specialized campaigns and ongoing message broadcasting 
• Create a targeted e-mail marketing/landing page/registration form conversion campaign for desirable applicants 
• Create targeted programs that build brand and can lead to recruitment – science summer camps, national science competition, faculty change in social sciences 
• Adopt a regional focus – social science students are more likely to come from primary cities while STEM students are slightly more likely to come from secondary cities

Lastly, the presenter shared a few thoughts on how to increase the quality of enrolled Chinese students over time:  

• Assess the level of student you can realistically convert and be sure your communications “speak” to that audience 
• Implement a more sophisticated program of agent tracking and management over time – track student outcomes over the long run, tied to each agent coupled with a tiered structure that rewards conformity with your institutional goals 
• Credential checking, even on a spot check basis – tie that in to your tiered management structure of agents 
• Raise admission standards or use enhanced screening for specific programs
• Build your institutional profile for specific programs with “key” high schools and universities in China 
• Use social media to raise the perception of your institution’s rigor 
• Conversion campaign (emails, landing pages, registration forms) for desirable applicants

As we said at the outset, we love this thinking. We know that the implementation is hard work -- at Intead we are sweating it every day for ourselves and our clients. Many universities still lack the digital infrastructure to implement such refined digital segmentations and targeting. Still, we are convinced that higher education institutions will become sophisticated digital marketers over the next few years.

Bottom Line: As has happened in many other industries (newspapers, films, retail), those in the field without the competitive skill sets will fall behind in their ability to entice and satisfy customers. For academic institutions, without the infrastructure in place to segment and target your marketing efforts, your enrollment process won't be able to recruit at competitive costs.

Chart 2