We recently had the privilege of presenting during a couple sessions at the NAFSA regional conferences in San Juan, Puerto Rico and again in St. Louis Missouri. The topic was Online Marketing – Is it Right for You. The reason for the topic is that we are finding that many schools want to market their school and programs online in an effort to reach international students, but don’t know where to start or how to do it effectively. Here are five things to consider before beginning an online marketing campaign to reach international students.
1. Know your goals and what you want to accomplish – Is your school interested in branding and getting your name out to international students? Do you have an established brand and are looking for direct student inquiries that lead to enrollments? Or both? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help determine the right online marketing strategy and help you forge better partnerships.
2. Know your limitations and available resources – So you have a goal in place. Now you must determine what resources you have to help you reach that goal. Do you have help handling student inquiries (leads) as they come in, or are you a one person shop that will handle all leads that are generated from your online campaign? If it is the latter, then you want to make sure that the campaign will generate a manageable number of inquiries on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. There is nothing worse than getting in over your head and not being able to manage the process due to an influx of inquiries. It is not a good experience for the school or the perspective student.
3. Timely follow up is a must – It is imperative that you have a plan in place that allows for timely follow up. Twenty four hours can sometimes even be too long between the time a student inquires and the time you follow up with them. When formulating your plan and considering the available resources, you have to keep this in mind. Each hour, day and week that goes by, your chances of converting the student from a lead to enrollment decreases dramatically.
4. Have an ongoing communications plan – You have the initial follow up plan in place, so now what? It is important to make sure that you have an ongoing communications plan in place to continue your follow up. If you are sending an initial email and waiting for a response and nothing else, you are wasting your own time and your schools money. You must have an ongoing plan to continue to stay in touch with the students even if you do not get a response from your initial effort.
5. Give it time – Online marketing is a slow burn. It will not produce results overnight. It takes time for these campaigns to work. Things like the SEO, content, social media and blogs take time. Other things like email marketing and banner advertising can provide immediate results. For an effective campaign, you need all of these working together. So be patient with your plan and stick to it.
Are you marketing your school online in an effort to reach international students? If so, is it working for you?