International Education Marketing – Conventional versus Digital

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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.

International Students - Digital Marketing

International Education Digital Marketing

(Image copyright Pexels)

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.

 

For more articles or blogs on education, training, marketing and society, click through to Academia profile of Andrew J. Smith.

Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business – Instructional Design

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Topic:  Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing

for Small Business

 

Goal:

Small business owners and/or managers understand the concepts, resources and actions for a digital or e-marketing strategy.

Subject Matter Expert and/or Target Market:

Have the SME covered personally, however I would potentially approach a local business chamber of commerce looking to support local businesses in their marketing and sales.  It could also target a specific sector, like has already been done below, i.e. travel and tourism, or international education sector.

 

Rationale:

Worked in education and training small business related to study abroad in Australia developing a digital marketing strategy covering Central Europe, Turkey, UK and Australia; conventional marketing was too expensive, not transparent and ineffective.

Self-taught using available online resources, became familiar with many techniques and actions, with formalisation of learning through recent MBA course subject ‘e-Marketing’.

In my professional experience, in addition to state university and vocation school marketing managers, many small private colleges precluded any effective digital marketing strategy in favour of expensive conventional advertising and promotion via travel to one off events for international student recruitment; not financially viable in new markets nor medium term market development.

Generally Australia has low very digital literacy amongst managers and owners, including small business, due to legacy industries preferring existing processes, sub-optimal education curricula, demand for immediate simple solutions and lack of innovation.

However, the travel and tourism industry, with state agency support, have had access for over 10 years to an e-Marketing kit, designed for small travel operators to leverage their marketing and sales digitally, both locally in Australia and internationally with global network; it’s been quite successful as world’s best practice.

The advantage is that small businesses with good digital strategy can increase their target market, analyse well, work with their and gain insight into their own customer base and have more significant profile than physically larger organisations.

 

Content Delivery &/or Presentation:

Can be introduced, presented, learnt and assessed via basic understandable steps, requiring participants to bridge differences between conventional marketing or sales, with digital.

 

 The design would include:

 

  1. What is marketing? How do your customers find you? What do they say about you?
  2. Website appearance, design and management and content management systems (CMS)
  3. Social Media how does it work? Which blog and social media?
  4. SEO/SEM How to reach new audiences and markets?
  5. How to evaluate any strategy or system?

 

Teaching and learning resources would include examples of good (and bad) practice via following or analysing a business from its website (social media, blogs, customer feedback etc.), feedback from participants relating to their own business examples.

This should be leading to them being able to assess needs, develop strategy, implement and evaluate, continually.

Outcomes are assessed by learner input, producing a strategy or approach, resources and media e.g. how to create a Facebook page, open a Twitter account, find useful resources etc.; using own PC, laptop, tablet or mobile.

After this overview, e.g. even presenting to actual target audience, could lead to being commissioned for more of the same, and higher-level training courses.

International Student Information Seeking Journey – Overview

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

 

Background and Overview

 

‘We have all these enrolled international students on campus showing success in our marketing, communications and financial ROI, yet we don’t know how they got here and what they think of their study experience?’ (Paraphrasing an anonymous university Marketing Manager, 2008).

Significant research has been conducted regarding international student marketing and recruitment identifying ‘why’ students make study purchase decisions, and return on investment (ROI) but not ‘how’ they reached their decision, or what was their information seeking behaviour?  Knowing and understanding this behavioural dimension can inform and improve marketing and communication strategies in the digital era.

 

Research Proposition:

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

The international education and related service industries, generally know and understand the factors of ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind purchase decisions, but not the actual information seeking behaviour in a now digital environment.

 

However, by learning and knowing ‘how’ on consumer or student behaviour, a model or a template can be developed for marketing and communications strategy, and skills required to access prospective students in a digital age.  This can lead to more informed and effective marketing practices, strategies, and evaluation of ROI based upon deeper understanding of the information seeking phase and value of related channels or media.

 

International Students and Customers – Important Marketing Resources

All students and stakeholders have much market intelligence and expertise through their experience with education, accordingly they are an active, informed and valid source for research and feedback on the sector, to offer insight into not just what latent factors help students make decisions, but how, in a dynamic environment.

Further, a previous research study led to a cyclical marketing paradigm representing the process for students and stakeholders, from information gathering through the education experience.  Then students and alumni becoming ‘influencers’ as peers to attract new students at start of the cycle again, through both ‘word of mouth’ WOM and online.

This cyclical construct also resonates with the research literature in marketing, consumer behaviour and information seeking, represented by a process or time line of interaction and communication.

 

Adult Learning – Andragogy not Pedagogy

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Adult Learning in Context for English Teaching and Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business

How to teach English as a Foreign Language in the UK, teacher trainers designed a good quality program with right mix of theoretical input, teaching, learning and assessment activities, discussion, observations of practice, lesson plan design and observed practice lessons with immediate feedback.

The issues were then going onto work in the English teaching sector in Turkey for over a year, but missed the essential post course development from qualified native speaking DELTA director of studies e.g. expert  and/or peer observations.

Adult training and learning with andragogy

Andragogy for Adult Learning

Image Copyright Pexels.com

  1. Adult Learning Theory:

Andragogy includes need for knowledge, motivation, willingness, experience, self-direction and task based learning.  Transformational Learning is exemplified by identification of an issue, personally relevant and application of critical thinking or reflection. Experiential learning, via Kolb, revolves round concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (Gutierrez, 2016 & Pappas, 2013).

CELTA trainee teachers are motivated, must be self-managing after training when they may not have expert support.  Teaching adults, one can use their input to guide lessons for local needs and ‘personalise’.  Kolb’s experiential learning theory is most relevant in English language learners taking on new language structures or functions in the classroom through presentation, practice and production or fluency, then applying outside the class room.

  1. Principles of Andragogy:

In the (Australian) international education sector marketing, need for ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing’; few if any related personnel are motivated to learn.  Many international education marketing managers dismiss digital marketing as ‘technical’ for web team, in favour of ‘approved’ travel to international student events.

The solution is to find a senior institution leader who can support the same CPD in digital marketing with marketing managers i.e. motivated marketing managers being involved in planning and evaluation, informed by experience, relevant and problem centred, which can then be applied in the field (Ibid.).

 

Reference List:

Gutierrez, K. (2016) Adult Learning Theories Every Instructional Designer Must Know. Available at: https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/adult-learning-theories-instructional-design (Accessed on: 20 November 2017).

Pappas, C. (2013) Instructional Design: The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy of Malcolm Knowles. Available at: https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles (Accessed on: 20 November 2017).