Developing Good Digital or e-Marketing Strategy in International Education
An optimal marketing and communications strategy, especially when developed in a digital environment, should reflect how information is sought, along with process of purchase decisions, but also promotional channels and availability of deeper analytics for feedback. Like any system and MIS theory explains; systems and strategy now relying upon digital platforms, must be actively informed and tested by prospective users, then evaluated by users e.g. personnel and target market.
Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
This is exemplified by the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) in Figure 1 used in software development which has ‘widespread application in practice’ through its cyclical nature starting with needs analysis, design or development, testing, application and review or needs analysis again (McMurtrey, 2013). Any obstacle to good ‘needs analysis’, avoidance or ignorance of analysing student information seeking behaviour, can lead to invalid and sub-optimal marketing and communications strategy, precluding desired outcomes.
Systems Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
- Analysis & Review
- Maintenance, Analysis & Review (start again)
Google Analytics in Digital or e-Marketing Evaluation
A deeper understanding of how well a marketing and communications strategy is working and which information seeking factors are important, can be learnt from students, especially recently enrolled students who have been on the information seeking journey. Conversely, Google Analytics can inform marketing well about existing traffic and enrolled students for key words and phrases, but does not explain prospective customers who are not aware, and have not found the product or website?
Skilled Human Resources and Effective Marketing
in Digital Environment
When all personnel and stakeholders represent a brand or product, optimal human resources are needed with soft skills in communication, cross cultural, personal presentation, social research, data literacy, digital literacy and analysis. Although many enterprises, institutions or businesses invest in digital resources and marketing, internet-based marketing expenditure needs more valid analysis and measurement of ROI, but there has been little (Epstein & Yuthas, 2007). Like any optimal marketing and communication strategy or MIS, end users e.g. prospective and existing students, need to be consulted to learn where they interact and how.
However, even when equipped with related skills, they can be compromised by sub-optimal soft skills, organisational culture and internal management led strategies. For example, any organisation or business lacking joined up, bottom-up and lateral communication by empowered personnel and customers, can be stymied in any digital based marketing and communications strategy including SEO, if strategy is developed technically and enforced ‘top down’, without consultation.
Search Engine Optimisation SEO and Marketing Content
Search engine optimisation methods, via common keywords and phrases, are needed to ensure course information can be found on first page of generic web search results, along with destination information and social media engagement, i.e. in research process from enquiry through to enrolment (ICEF Monitor, 2014). Students often start discovery process with no brand preference and expect fast responses and peer reviews from other students (ICEF Monitor, 2016e). However, conversations with admissions or marketing officers are not so important for students, although the perception of officers is otherwise (ICEF Monitor, 2016d).
Earlier research seems to confirm the above and has shown that decisions by study candidates are based upon visible course content early in decision process, WOM, communication access at time of application and during the preceding discovery process (Moogan, 2011). Issue is that much of this significant digital based activity may not be recognised, despite marketing and communication strategies with MIS or designated KPIs?
Not only are students well suited for testing SEO, they are essential to inform good SEO and SM strategy through feedback and using students’ language(s) for keyword phrases, plus developing and disseminating relevant marketing content to other prospective students.
Epstein M. & Yuthas K. (2007) Evaluating the Effectiveness of Internet Marketing Initiatives. The Society of Management Accountants of Canada (CMA Canada), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc. (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). Available at: http://www.cimaglobal.com/Documents/ImportedDocuments/Tech_MAG_Evaluating_Internet_Marketing_April06.pdf (Accessed: 10/01/2017).
ICEF Monitor (2014) New survey highlights international students’ top priorities when considering where to study abroad. Available at: http://monitor.icef.com/2014/05/new-survey-highlights-international-students-top-priorities-when-considering-where-to-study-abroad/ (Accessed on 03/01/2017).
ICEF Monitor (2016d) Points of contact: The most influential channels for prospective students. Available at: http://monitor.icef.com/2016/01/points-of-contact-the-most-influential-channels-for-prospective-students/ (Accessed on: 03/01/2017).
ICEF Monitor (2016e) Reaching millennials: Make it fast but keep it real. Available at: http://monitor.icef.com/2016/03/reaching-millennials-make-it-fast-but-keep-it-real/ (Accessed on: 03/01/2017).
McCurtrey, M. (2013) A Case Study of the Systems Development Lifecycle in the 21st Century Health Care: Something Old Something New? Journal for the Southern Association for Information Systems. 1(1) Available at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jsais/11880084.0001.103/–case-study-of-the-application-of-the-systems-development?rgn=main;view=fulltext (Accessed 17/05/2017).
Moogan, Y. (2011) Can a higher education institution’s marketing strategy improve the student institution match? International Journal of Educational Management. 25(6) pp. 570 – 589. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513541111159068 (Accessed 21/12/2016).