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Recruiting Intelligence

Email Marketing is Still Not Dead


We don’t know who needs to hear this, but email is still alive and well. Thriving, in fact. And while all things social media are the marketing darlings of the moment, email, like the quintessential, foundational website, is an indispensable tool for your student recruitment. Some of you don’t believe us, we know. 

Consider this statistic: by the end of 2024, there will be nearly 4.5 billion email users worldwide—that's over half the planet's population. Chances are your target markets are among this crowd. What’s more, four out of 10 emails are opened through mobile apps (per Statista), putting your highly connected prospects just a notification away from your next message. 

“Sure,” you say, “But you’ve provided no age breakdown with those stats.” Mmm-hmmm. We hear you. 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024
  • GMAC 2024 Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 19-21, 2024
  • 2024 EducationUSA Forum in Washington, DC, July 30 - August 01, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 

Why should you place bets on email campaigns when prospective students are so enamored with hugely popular social media platforms and never (never?!?) check their email? For one, email has an unparalleled direct line to your audience. And, unlike other more entertainment-focused social platforms, messages delivered via email are not competing with a third-party algorithm – you send them, they receive them. Plus, emails tend to be easier for your audience to hang on to than say a TikTok post, giving these messages a longer shelf life.   

Essential to this discussion: at what point in your recruitment comms do you use email? To be clear, use email as part of your lead nurturing strategy, NOT as an initial attraction effort. Capture their attention and inquiry using other channels (fairs, social media, counselor referral, etc.). Email is just one element of your effort to deepen the engagement.  

Interestingly, 58% of Gen Z check their email multiple times a day, 23% check it at least once a day, 12% a couple times a week, and 5% once a week, per Campaign Monitor. So, the idea that email is a vintage, washed-up medium is truly a nonstarter. Email is mainstream and will be for the foreseeable future. Including it as part of your recruitment efforts just makes sense.  

Yes, social media is a must-have recruitment tactic. Should anyone on your team need a refresher on the importance of taking an omnichannel approach to marketing, check out this post. 

In the meantime, read on for actionable tips on how to improve your email marketing game to boost, and prove, your student recruitment metrics. It has SO much to do with your content choices... 

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Did you say something?...I’ve already scrolled on


With the amount of time prospective students spend online, you’d think connecting with them would be easier.  

The average US teen spends 7 hours 22 minutes each day looking at a screen, or 43% of their waking hours, per Exploding Topics. And that’s being conservative – Common Sense stats show teens on screens 8 ½ hours per day outside of school-related screen time. Need confirmation? Just look around your campus at all the students not looking at you, but rather their screens. (Reality check: the rest of us aren’t off the hook as the average person clocks 6 hours 58 minutes of screen time per day, just so you know. So yes, that is where all the time goes!) 

Do you know the average number of phone notifications a US teenager receives each day? We answer that below. Make sure you are sitting down when you read it.

Yet, despite all their screen time, or perhaps because of it, your prospective students are discerning consumers of marketing. If they’ve seen one university ad, they’ve seen a thousand. We’re certain you can relate. We all can. But some messages clearly do get through, and it almost always comes down to creativity, cultural nuance, and an appetite for taking a little risk.

Fun fact for the risk takers: Humor is a tough marketing message to achieve with a broad and diverse audience, but when you get it, it REALLY works. 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, April 30 - May 3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024
  • GMAC 2024 Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 19-21, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 

Take fintech, an increasingly rising "it" program in the eyes of so many STEM-degree seekers, especially those with a bent toward accounting and money-making in general. And rightly so as financial services operations around the world increasingly rely on new technologies to do business. (Shout out to Worcester Polytechnic Institute on its recent fintech doctoral program launch giving students a full-stack (BA>MS>PhD) option in this coveted field. Talk about reading the market!!!)  

Fintech is a huge, booming industry and one that universities with fintech programs are leveraging to draw the attention of prospects. The same can be said for Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, AI, and other “sexy” programs that now drive global and local economies. 

Important note: the counsel that follows here applies to how you message your programs even if you computer sciences are oversubscribed and you are trying to attract students to other options.

We want to promote programs that will draw eyes and pique interest. Highlighting them in your recruitment efforts makes sense. Of course, you know this. And yet somehow marketing that ultimately makes it onto the screen in front of your prospective students’ gaze is so often watered down, generalized speak about “great programs in computer science” or “practical business degrees” or the now far overused, “advance your career.” Ugh. Your prospect just scrolled on.

We know you know exactly what we’re talking about. So often there is a fear of getting too specific. Why mention one computer science program and ignore the others when students need to know there are many amazing degrees from which they can choose?  

Here’s why: you need their attention, and the coveted, interesting, or unusual programs will get it. Not the generalized track that simply prompts the finger flick and scroll right by. 

It’s not just your message you need to consider, it’s also the medium.

95% of US teens now own or have access to a phone per Pew Research. Worldwide, the stats vary (China has the most active smartphone users, followed by India, the US, Indonesia, and Brazil), but it’s safe to say many of your prospective students living outside of the US are on their phones, too. In Sub-Saharan Africa, affordability and access is improving such that there will be 692 million unique mobile users by 2030, 88% of whom will be using smartphones according to lobby group GSMA.

Many of your prospective students will not only be accessing information about your institution via smartphone, but will be completing the entire application process on it as well. Something your international team knows but your domestic team might not be thinking about. 

Marketers and message makers read on for our tips on phone screen engagement tips. Like all good listicles, we’ve got 5 steps to push your team to create effectively... 

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New to WhatsApp Business? Yup, we got you! - Part 2


If you’re on the fence about WhatsApp, know this: Meta’s goal is to make WhatsApp a household name, whether it is to shop, chat, or stay on top of news and events. That from a recent New York Times article. In it, Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp confirms what we are already seeing, that the conversation has moved from ‘WhatsApp is the app I use outside the US when I travel,’ to something much more mainstream in the US. Below, we get detailed and actionable about what this means to you.

Word from Apptopia confirms as much. Its numbers show WhatsApp’s daily active users grew by 9% in the US last year, with 50% of these users chatting daily on the app, 78% weekly. Aside from Meta’s interest in cementing this app as the singular messaging tool among consumers worldwide, pundits point to a variety of reasons for the uptick in the US – the preference for messaging versus emailing, the preference for closed-group messaging rather than social media blasts, the increase in post-pandemic international travel, and the app’s ease of use for business communication just to name a few. 

Events you won’t want to miss:

Let’s talk international student enrollment at the upcoming AIRC Spring Symposium on April 30. Intead will be presenting on student recruitment marketing budgets – we've got some great new insights to share. Register today!

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations at: 

  • ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, May 1-3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024
  • GMAC 2024 Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 19-21, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com)

Those who read last week’s post know how we feel. (Get to it!). It just makes so much sense for universities to have a Business WhatsApp account, especially those who work with international students. And now, we believe, for domestic markets, too. Check out our handy, quick-hit, 11-step check list.

Just like last week, this post is the kind of thing you might want to share with your enrollment team and prompt a discussion at the next team meeting. How would you adapt our recommendations to your particular situation (CRM, staff structure, enrollment pipeline, etc.)?

If you are going to be using WhatsApp, we strongly recommend you puppeteer these communications from a WhatsApp Business account. We got into the meat and potatoes of setting these accounts up last week. Now, let’s get to dessert, aka best use practices. Read on… 

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New to WhatsApp Business? Yup, we got you! - Part 1


What’s up with WhatsApp is a question we find ourselves answering a lot lately, especially when talking about student recruitment. And it is a bit more for international students than domestic, though this blog is useful intel for both. As a teaser, more than 100 billion messages are sent each day on WhatsApp. Yes, that was 100 billion per day! We have more eye popping stats below. 

An important messaging tool because it works across countries, many institutions have been using personal WhatsApp accounts that are attached to a single phone number. That works, but as far as standard operating procedures go, that’s a bit flimsy.  

WhatsApp, a Meta company for 10 years now, has an answer called WhatsApp Business. That too has been around awhile (WhatsApp Business launched in 2018), but it’s just been a bit cumbersome for many overly busy international offices to onboard. And many of their domestic student recruitment counterparts have taken a why-bother approach. 

Our take: it’s time to bite the bullet – it’s easier than you think – and set up a WhatsApp Business account that can be managed from a desktop (see our quick hit 11-step process). We concede that it can be time consuming, but there are just so many benefits to having a verified account on behalf of your institution that we think it’s worth your while.   

Events you won’t want to miss:

Let’s talk international student enrollment at the upcoming AIRC Spring Symposium on April 30. Intead will be presenting on student recruitment marketing budgets – we've got some great new insights to share. Register today!

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations at: 

  • ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, May 1-3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024
  • GMAC 2024 Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 19-21, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 

This is exactly the kind of stuff so many of you read our blog for, right? What is the time investment? What is the upside? How do I set my enrollment management systems up for success?   

So, let’s get right to it. Read on to learn why WhatsApp is proving to be a good tool for many student recruiters right now – international and domestic – and how to go about setting up your business account. We’ll make it easy for you, as always. And yes, this is one of those posts you’ll want to share with your team (link at bottom) and discuss in the next team meeting. 

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Required: Cultural Nuance in Edu Marketing - 3 Helpful Examples


Cultural nuance is no “nice to have.” It’s a must. Does your current marketing team understand this? Do they have the deep consumer insights needed to attract, recruit, and convert different cultural cohorts? Let’s get into it.  

When we talk about audience segmentation – the customization of content by region or country or academic interest AND country/region – what we’re talking about is the language and metaphors, images, and offers that resonate. We’re talking about deep consumer insight research that enables marketing efforts to move the needle in a competitive marketplace. Without these insights, your colorful examples, imagery, phrases, and language can only take a campaign so far.  

Non-marketers you can roll your eyes if you like. We suggest you take a look at our 3 examples below for a quick look under the hood at how deep market research informs the creative process and produces stronger results. 

Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • The Forum on Education Abroad in Boston, March 21, 2024
  • AIRC Spring Symposium and ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, April 30 - May 3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 

As we develop approaches to attract and recruit students to institutions, we carefully consider what they will find relatable and help them make wise decisions. What will capture their attention among the many ads and posts they see online? What phrases will resonate with them as they consider their options – at each point in the decision process (the marketing funnel)?

Essentially, we are trying to figure out what will pause their scroll and prompt the smart click.

Prospects can only follow up with so many offers. In the end, they will apply to somewhere between 5 and 20 institutions. Most will receive 3 to 7 acceptance letters, sometimes more. What will help them make a wise decision for their particular situation? Will the content you create and disseminate influence them to apply and then enroll? 

So many institutions believe their own marketing and put out the most generic messaging because they think the great pool of prospective students will simply find them and connect with them. Some faculty and administrative leaders still believe that "marketing" is unnecessary (or worse) because their institutions are clearly excellent and students will simply find and select them. This point of view persists within the academic community -- marketing as snake oil sales. And hey, there are plenty of marketers out here lacking integrity in their approach, so, we understand the disdain for the marketing field.

To be clear, effective marketing is communication with integrity. Effective marketing helps consumers make wise decisions. Full stop.

Read on to explore the use of motivational language, colorful metaphors, and local language to create marketing campaigns that will attract attention, resonate, inform, and recruit. 

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Intead’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2023: Chosen by Readers


2023 ushered in some much-needed numbers. Enrollment rose among undergraduate (+2.1%) and graduate (+0.7%) students. And while freshmen enrollment trended downward (-3.6%), interest in shorter-term credentials was on the rise (+9.9%). All this per National Student Clearinghouse figures. 

Likewise, IIE Open Doors data showed a 12% increase of incoming international students in 2022-23. And the more up-to-date SEVIS data indicated 2023 fall enrollment maintained this welcomed momentum. All good news in aggregate. As we parse all these data sets, there are interesting findings and nuanced opportunities to be sure. 

Yet, all news was not good. The chaos of the world at large continued to make its way onto campuses across the nation. Safety continues to be a growing concern, and your prospective students and their families are unsure what to make of it. More admissions inquiries shift from campus life to safety and mental health support services. Also important to note: social justice activities influence an increasing number of applicants. 

In the midst of it all, we do our best to use this blog to weigh in on topics that matter to enrollment teams like yours. So, it’s always interesting for us to look back and see which posts were your faves for most valuable content from the year. There are always a few surprises. 

In 2023, there was a ton of interest in all things internationalization – especially around how student activity in India and China is changing. But that’s not all.

We were told our posts on student career prep, social media trends, and budgeting framework were also really helpful. So, with that, we share our top 10 posts from 2023, as chosen by you, our readers. Plus our staff pick for the most valuable post of 2023. If you missed any of these top pieces, you’ll want to read on…  

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Listen Up--New EdUp–Int'l Podcast with NAFSA Chair Dr. LaNitra Berger

We may have found your next best way to get you through your commute. And yes, it’s a podcast. You’re likely familiar with the EdUp Experience Podcast, and if not, then it’s time you check it out. Available via the usual lineup of streaming services, EdUp Experience ranks in the top 2% of all podcasts worldwide per Listen Notes. And now they’ve launched a new offshoot that we think is worth a listen.

Called EdUp—International, this new niche series is poised to offer interesting business perspectives on all things international education—a topic we know is as important to you as it is to us. Its host is the talented and always engaging James (Jim) Shafer, director of international student recruitment and enrollment at Touro University. The inaugural episode aired Oct. 22, 2023.

And, when you do tune in, you’ll hear another familiar voice (hint: it’s Ben!). We were thrilled when they asked us to be part of the inaugural episode. We were even more excited when we learned we’d get to spend 45 minutes talking with special guest Dr. LaNitra Berger, president and chair of the board of directors of NAFSA and associate professor at George Mason University. What an awesome honor.

In this premier episode, Dr. Berger offers valuable insights about the evolution of international education, including:

  • How universities are responding to the significant crises hitting enrollment offices today
  • Differing challenges of small-shop international recruitment teams vs the different yet similar challenges faced by larger, well-staffed operations
  • Why giving international educators space to dream and ask “what if” is so important
  • …And how playing with The (yes, THE!) Temptations helped build Dr. Berger’s interest in international education 

If any of that sounds interesting, even helpful, then read on for the link to this brand-new podcast…

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Getting Started with Hootsuite for Student Recruiting

Your prospective students spend nearly 6 hours a day on social media. Doubt their usage will dwindle anytime soon. The good news is you know where you can find your audience. It’s just that wrangling their preferred platforms can feel like a lot.

That’s why we look to social media management tools to help organize our many, many social campaigns. The OG being Hootsuite. A global platform for all platforms, helping you and your team manage accounts from a single dashboard. It’s a really great shepherd for your flock of content. What Hootsuite brings for large institutions ranges from:

  1. Monitoring all social accounts
  2. Scheduling posts in advance
  3. Team Collaboration
  4. Analyzing social media performance  
  5. Targeted Ads
  6. Campaigns 

This Hootsuite primer is a great read for the members of your team tasked with managing all the details. Be sure to pass it along. And do take a minute to check it out for yourself. It’s a quick, practical read. 

This is one of our "Getting Started With..." series to help your team make the most of the student enrollment tech tools out there. Share our glossary of these popular posts with your digital team. And... 

Read on.

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Having Data ≠ Using Data Part 2

Last week’s blog post helped define the data use problem (find Part 1 here). This week, taking us further into what to do about it.

Trust us, you’re not the only team whose data is not living up to its potential. It’s fairly common within teams and business units. It’s an issue of lack of time and/or lack of skills, but a problem worth solving. 

Because, without well-played data, your team is making decisions based on gut reactions and are more likely to participate in group think. That route is often poorly informed and heavily biased. Data informs and confirms. 

Data also drives curiosity. When your brain (or your team) has one of those aha! moments based on data, it craves more. New  market opportunities start to unveil themselves. New approaches to doing the work (operations) emerge. Prospective student enrollment pain-points will become more apparent – and the ramifications of leaving those pain points unresolved. 

Sure, data won’t solve these problems – that’s up to you – but it will help ensure the problems you’re solving are the ones worth pursuing. Data should be the foundation to most of the decisions you make.

Now, we don’t want to overstate it. Data is not magic (though what our data gurus pull out of the hat can feel like it!). It’s simply math. It’s what you do with that math – that’s the magic.  And that’s why every team needs access to digestible data and why self-service data analytics should be a priority for you. It certainly is for us.

This week we offer a process for helping you do just that. It’s a practical 5-step approach that starts with goal-setting and collaboration. Read on.

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Having Data ≠ Using Data Part 1

You only thought you were using data to make smart decisions.

Understanding how to use data to support institutional planning and growth requires talents and skills that are learned and practiced and honed over time. All these tech companies selling tools and platforms into our systems want leadership to believe that all is simple, clear, and that their dashboards will transform your operational planning and decision making. Wondrous growth is just a click or two ahead. If only.

You’ve tried to create a self-serve data buffet for your leadership team so that they can dive in on their own and make informed decisions.

But…what if they’re not?

We mean, you gave your full team access to the tools with loads of features and data reporting. In the realm of marketing, your CRM captures and reports on email open rates, click through rates, conversion rates, and so much more. Your marketing dashboard tools pull data from Facebook’s Business Manager and Google Analytics (with updates to GA4 that your team is scrambling to implement and fine tune as you read this).

We all want to eke every last drop of data from the platforms available to us now.

Truth is, in the battle of data informed decisions vs human nature, human nature usually wins. Reality: creating, viewing, and understanding reports is not as simple as the tech vendors tell you it is.

Many of your leadership team are simply not data people. They may grab some of the data that supports their ideas, but ignore relevant data that would add more insight, nuance, or might even negate their suppositions.

What we have seen over the last decade is that many organizations are assuming their team’s new access to data dashboards and tools will naturally result in effective use of those tools. Often leaders simply don’t prioritize learning the necessary bells and whistles in the midst of other important deadlines. Still others can’t wrap their heads around it. They have other skills that your institution values and data analysis/interpretation is simply not one of them.

Simple test: Your marketing dashboard provides you with your email open rate monthly average. Among your other standard emails last month, on the 10th your team sent a mass email to a newly purchased, cold email list. What is worth reporting on to your leadership team? How can the data available inform your decisions and actions?

Read on to learn more about what self-service data is, why it can be useful, and how to actually make it work for you. (Oh, and we answer the question about the email open rates).

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