Traditional International Education Marketing
There have been criticisms for some decades regarding the effectiveness of universities’ and related education institutions’ international marketing and their ability to identity what the market needs and communicating effectively (Nicholls et al., 1995).
Anecdotal complaints from within larger institutions, whether faculty or administration, is that even with high enrolment numbers, there is little understanding of ‘how’ students came to be enrolled, let alone those prospective students who did not, with indirect or invalid KPIs (key performance indicators).
This is compounded further in large entities by organisational structures on large campuses, leading to potentially sub-optimal co-ordination between international marketing, admissions, web marketing team, suppliers or agents and students; resulting in silos impacting analysis of communication and information sharing.
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Conventional Marketing or Sales?
Marketing strategy emerging in the 1980s relied upon travel to physical recruitment events, distribution of brochures or ‘marketing materials’ by hand, appointment of agents; mostly short-term sales and ROI model or basic ‘4Ps’.
This latter financial and physical ROI method of evaluation e.g. numbers of brochures distributed, and students recruited, may not be highlighting the important factors or process leading to enrolments, or missing many factors altogether e.g. WOM (word of mouth)?
The assumed positive outcomes from such strategies may be correlated with other factors such as ongoing WOM with peers, suitable course availability or online visibility. Previous research had already highlighted critical factors of significance including need for innovation, quality staff and image, service culture, good use of information technology (IT), healthy financials, technical excellence and broad range of courses (Mazzarol, 1998). There is focus upon internal human and technical resource factors required as inputs for good marketing and communication, but not behaviour of those seeking relevant information.
Meanwhile, over ten years ago formal research recognised and confirmed in decision making of a student sample, it’s course first, over reputation and destination, along with creating awareness through search engine optimised (SEO) visible websites to be found directly and easily (Gomes & Murphy, 2003).
This latter study is one of the few formal research articles related to international student purchasing behaviour available in the public domain, yet emphasising the importance of SEO and digital over ten years ago. However, Australia’s pre-eminent and university owned student marketing and recruitment vehicle IDP, like most and according to formal job description, does not view analysis of enrolled students or other prospective students as important or essential (IDP, 2016)?
There has been little if any related or formal research on how students find information except some industry groups, mostly in Europe about ‘how’ prospective students behave and interact.
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