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Recruiting Intelligence

Insider Take: Chinese Parent/Student Priorities, Now

With Chinese student numbers in serious flux in the US, we thought we’d check in with our colleague Sally Zhu who is currently working with international students in Ningbo, China. Our goal: find out what’s working in recruitment for institutions across the Pacific.

Sally, a contributing Intead Marketing Data Analyst and US PhD aspirant, grew up in China and acquired her post-secondary degrees in the US, returning to her home country in 2020 where she landed a job with a sino-foreign university. Today she’s working as an international student support advisor there. She has a front-row seat to what is on Chinese students’ minds. 

We know this topic will be part of the hallway and session chatter throughout the NAFSA regional conferences coming up this fall. Intead will be discussing a range of student recruitment and marketing topics at Nafsa Region XI in Manchester, NH in October. If you will be there, be in touch to set up a coffee date with Ben or Iliana. We can also meet folks in California in December when AIRC and ICEF fire up. Look for some big news very soon about the learning opportunities coming up.

A couple of weeks ago, Sally sat down (virtually) with the Intead team to give her boots-on-the-ground account of how Chinese students and parents are evaluating their options today. Read on for some valuable perspective on the student recruitment market everyone is fretting about.

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Get Started with Instagram Marketing Strategies to Boost Enrollment

The last time we wrote about Instagram marketing was in 2016. A lot has changed since then. But not everything. It resolutely remains a visual communication tool. But is it still relevant? (It is.) Aren’t kids these days on TikTok? (Yes, that’s true, too.)

Here are the facts: 57% of Americans aged 12 to 17 use Instagram each week, and 63% use TikTok according to Forrester. Just as important are the 48% of 30-49 year-olds and 29% of 50-64 year-olds – many of whom are your prospective parents – who use the platform. Anyone still wondering if it’s relevant for student recruitment and enrollment? Didn’t think so.

If your institution is only doing organic posts to Instagram, or your Instagram paid campaigns haven’t reaped the return you’d hoped, read on for a look at how your team can use this platform to boost enrollment. This post will be beneficial for those ideating and managing your campaigns. That means, pass it on to others on your team responsible for this stuff if that's not you.

As with any social platform, there are two ways to work it: the free way or the pay-to-play way. We’ll take a look at both.

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Getting Started With Building an Audience

In the higher education space, your institution is competing with so many options that prospective students have. We know that most students attend a university within 50 miles of their home while large state institutions and the elite options have a stronger draw from coast to coast and beyond.

With these realities in mind, today we consider a foundational marketing goal: building a receptive audience so you can nurture prospective students from the point of awareness and inquiry to enrollment, no matter where they reside.

To state the obvious: virtual tours and informational webinars have taken on a bigger role (fewer campus visits), so a robust and engaging digital presence has never been more important to your recruitment process. Has your team evaluated and adjusted your approach to the student journey? Meeting them where they are in each step of their decision-making process?

We’ve offered a number of educational posts on student journey mapping processes you may want to read (for reference: our recent series Tracing the Student Journey Part 1 and Part 2).

We'll be talking about these enrollment management and student recruiting approaches and so much more at #NAFSA22 in just a few weeks. Let us know if you'd like to schedule a coffee with one of our team. We are leading 4 NAFSA sessions this year and one of them received the honor of being selected for live broadcast. Watch this space for details and we hope you can join us.

For now, read on for our top recommendations on how to build an audience online.

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Marketing Culture. What’s Yours?

We’ve all heard about how company culture eats company strategy for lunch, yeah?

Last week, we wrote about how folks often confuse strategy and tactics. And we gave a little side eye to those colleagues among us who use the word “strategy” to appear smart and make others feel less than.

The cheat sheet on that one: replace the word “strategy” or “strategic” with “different” or “differentiation” and you’ll be able to get to the nub of the discussion topic quickly. Strategy has everything to do with position in the marketplace, which means how you stand out and leverage your differences against the competition. Tactics are all about the marketing tools and channels you use to make your institution’s valuable differences shine, be heard, and understood.

But in academic marketing (and virtually every other operation we can think of), how we achieve our strategic differentiation, how we meet our institutional goals, has everything to do with the team we have to do the work (the team that creates and delivers the product).

An interesting observation here: academic institutions really are all the same, right? Sure, there is R1 and R2, public and private, not-for-profit and for-profit, 4-year and 2-year, but these categorizations, when you get down to it, are not that significant, at least at the undergraduate level, right? They are all producing the same thing and in the eyes of the consumer, what is really different? They all have the same administrative and academic departments. And the rankings are a sham anyway, right?

Read on for how to counter that sad and ineffective point of view.

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So That’s Your Strategy?

People look smart when they reference strategy. It elevates any discussion to greater importance as soon as the word strategy enters. Often, it gets others in the room thinking, “Right, maybe I’m not thinking about this strategically.” Followed by the thought, “What exactly would a strategic version of this discussion look like?”

The idea of strategy is often misunderstood. I fully admit, it really can be difficult. I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve been in where people describe their tactical execution plan as the strategy. 

A simple example of why folks get confused, and I’ll use what we know best, the world of marketing: Your marketing strategy to enroll more students requires great marketing content. Content is a tactic you will employ to achieve your strategic goal. Yet, you will need a content strategy to be successful. So, content is not a tactic. It is a strategy, right? No, it is a tactic in this scenario. A tactic that needs its own strategy.

Oy vey.

Our team, of course, lives in the world of marketing strategy, planning, and execution. Today's post shares some insights into how to simplify the discussion and confirm when you are employing a strategy vs. discussing the tactical execution of any given initiative.

Read on and maybe we can shed some light on how to actually be smart in the discussion, not just look smart.

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Hey Academic Marketers: Did Apple just bite into your audience?

You’ve got to hand it to Apple – everyone’s paying attention to their iOS 14.5 update. At least, those of us in marketing.

This typically benign move (yawn…another update) has Facebook screaming, “Alert: The sky is falling!” In our experience, most marketers have had their Chicken Little moments over the years. Some more than others. Remember when the movie industry thought VCRs were going to decimate their revenue stream? Or how about Y2K?

But what exactly is it that’s got everyone crying foul (er, fowl)? In short, data. Or, lack thereof.

The new update aims to add transparency to user data tracking. All App Store apps are now required to ask users for permission to access the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a unique tracking code for mobile devices. So, each time an iPhone user downloads an app from the Apple Store, they must actively opt-in to be tracked. If they don’t, the policy prohibits certain data collection and sharing. Apple is positioning the move as protecting the consumer.

Early word from Flurry has it that 94% are opting out. That number is a big deal to businesses who’ve come to rely on this data to optimize, target, and report on tracking pixels, the bits of code that detail user behavior. It’s certainly a big deal to Facebook and Google and to those of us who rely on their insights.

Truthfully, prior to this iOS change, iPhone users already had the ability to opt-out of IDFA, but this move by Apple prompts and forces a user decision and almost everyone is opting out.

While the change only affects Apple’s mobile audience (leaving desktop and Android users alone), that’s still 1 billion active iPhones worldwide, one-fifth of which are in the US. (iOS has notable but significantly less presence in key international student recruiting markets with 44% market share in Saudi Arabia, 36% in Vietnam, 27% in South Korea, 22% in China, 13% in Brazil, 8% in Nigeria, and just 3% in India, per Statcounter GlobalStats.)

As this policy takes hold, academic marketers will have much less insight into the iOS users who are clicking on apps. That inhibits the ability to micro-target, which is a problem.

To know for sure the significance of the iOS update on your campaigns, institutions should compare the percent of traffic that engages through mobile, then the percentage of those who use iOS. This is all readily available through your Google Analytics. The higher the number, the greater the impact the iOS update will have on you. Your lead generation efforts will be affected, but we imagine less so than say e-commerce businesses (think Amazon, Etsy, Target, Best Buy, etc.).

Of course, this isn’t just about privacy. It’s also about money. The big tech players are competing with one another for your ad spend. Remember, Google makes over 80% of its money on advertising, as does Facebook. They want to maintain control. Can we blame them? (Yes, of course we can, and do. Nevertheless…).

And that’s the bigger picture. Marketers who feel like the sky is falling feel that way because they are losing some control over the crux of their campaigns: their audience and their ability to define and target them. The risk the Apple update poses to your institution is your diminishing ability to reach desired audiences accurately and affordably through paid digital channels – primarily in the US. 

So, while the sky may not be falling, do read on to learn how your academic marketing team should respond…

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3 Tactics to Refresh Your Student Marketing Approach, Right Now

You don’t need to be a CMO to know that there’s more to attracting students than coming up with a pithy headline for your Instagram ads and postcard mailers.

And yet, what we often see are institutions full of creative minds doing the same marketing initiatives year after year, not really realizing how they appear to their target audiences.

At the end of the day you want your institution to stand out in a field of sameness, ubiquitous blather, and endless repeats of campus images and smiling students with backpacks and laptops. You want to highlight your institution’s differentiators and deliver the right message to a targeted audience at the right time.

But we get it — whether it’s lack of budget, time, or most likely, both, swapping out last year’s campaign photos, shuffling around your headlines, and hitting a few buttons in Facebook Ads Manager are sometimes the only levers that are in scope. And establishing a feedback loop of performance analysis for continuous campaign iteration and optimization? An even more distant goal state.

So, before you reach for that updated “smiling student with backpack” image to juice your Fall 2021 recruitment campaigns, turn your attention to today’s post: 3 recruitment marketing ideas to help you reach students where they are right now.

We’re talking specifics on topics, audience, tone, and dissemination channels for campaigns that can set your institution apart and attract and nurture those high-quality leads you’re looking for. And what would an Intead blog post be without an insight on  how to use your data better?

Throw these ideas to your creative team and see if something valuable emerges from the brainstorm session. Something that truly fits your institution. 

Read on.

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Quick Hit Digital Campaigns: Performance Benchmarks (3)

We can’t dive into our digital marketing insights this week without first acknowledging where we are right now here in the US. As human beings, we share an acute craving for security. Such a strong desire for a return to “normal”.

This desire for safety cannot stand in the way of our need for change. We, as a community, stand for diversity of thought, culture, and expression. We stand for academic exploration and shared knowledge.

Our team brings the fortitude and commitment to stand day after day and stare straight ahead. We will continue to embrace opportunities to be in this community together, with each other and for each other.

Remember where to look when you need support and encouragement. Courage grows with numbers. We will be here, standing up for our shared ideals for as long as we are able.

And with that weighty and heartfelt commitment to all of you, we will turn to the business of the day with a much lighter tone—

We don’t usually endorse cheating off your neighbor’s paper, but today, we’re making an exception in the spirit of moving us all forward.

We’re excited to share this work with you: actual digital marketing campaign results from a campaign we recently ran for a US institution targeting international student prospects in Colombia and South Africa. We’re offering you a case study with real, granular detail straight from our marketing dashboards to help you answer digital marketing’s most common questions:

  • Am I doing this right?
  • What should I measure?
  • What does success look like?

Read on for a case study snapshot and to download the full version for yourself. We’re talking real performance data here, including top performing creative assets, actual CPC, CPM, and conversion data, and more.

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Step-by-Step Digital Marketing with Intead Plus

Today we’re taking you behind the scenes of some of our most valuable Intead Plus tools.

Our Digital Marketing Worksheets.

Yep, you read that correctly. Good, old-fashioned pen-to-paper worksheets. Although if you decide to fill them out on your computer, we promise we won’t tell. After all, learning is moving online these days, haven’t ya heard?

Looking to engage a new market? Develop a new content strategy and dissemination plan? Get your new hires thinking through the international student recruitment process?


Last Chance: For our colleagues leading private high schools we are offering a free webinar today at 3pm (Eastern) with TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) all about how student recruiting must be reimagined given the loss of recruitment travel. Register Here.


It’s all about the framework.

The Intead Digital Marketing Worksheets will guide you every step of the way forward — and ask the difficult questions. These are the worksheets we take folks through when we run our full-day global marketing workshops at AIRC and our International Student Recruitment Bootcamps. So, really helpful during those new recruitment season kickoff meetings.

All of the worksheets mentioned in today’s post are available to Intead Plus members and are tried and tested. Intead Plus members receive full access to an extensive (and exclusive) library of marketing intelligence materials (including our seminal eBook, 88 Ways to Recruit International Students, now an industry standard in its second edition), podcasts, webinars, and more, with new market research being released each year.

Read on for a sneak peek at these valuable resources to kickstart your global approach and your digital marketing strategy. Whether you’re just in the early stages of a new initiative or in the process of developing a digital campaign this content is going to be helpful. And if you want these tools at your fingertips 24/7, you know what to do.

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Do You Speak Gen Z? Part 2

Today's focus? Gen Z career aspirations and values. According to a recent study, over 50% of Gen Zers have their sights set on one single career plan.

Any guesses?

Let's just say, there are certain practical skill-building programs that might deserve more of your investment. More on that in a moment.


Boarding High Schools Take Note

Intead will be presenting tips and best practices for online recruiting along with TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools). "Recruitment Reimagined: Lessons from Higher Ed" -- online tools, digital campaign case studies, concrete results, great forum discussion. Specifically for private high school administrators. Wed, 10/28/20 at 3pm Eastern Time. Register HERE.


Last week we shared three key Gen Z traits to guide your recruitment marketing strategy.

This week we're diving a little deeper into the messaging part of enrollment management and student recruitment marketing. 

As usual, if any of the following insights get those marketing gears turning, we're here to talk. This is all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to engaging and converting this new audience, and we'd love to learn about how your institution is evolving to meet the unique needs of Gen Z.

Plus, if you want to learn even more from us at the AIRC Conference, read on for the scoop. 

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