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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

3 Important Things When Marketing To International Students

07 May 2012

written by Andrianes Pinantoan

3 Important Things When Marketing To International Students

This article was written by Andrianes Pinantoan is part of Open Colleges, an online courses provider with great business management courses. When not working, he can be found with a camera on hand. You can follow him @andreispsyched.

There are three things that must occur at the same time for people to take action, according to BJFogg, founder of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. The same is true when we try to convince teenagers to leave their comfy homes to move halfway across the world to study.

The three things are:

  1. People must have the desire or motivation to do what you want them to do.
  2. People must also have the ability to do what you want them to do.
  3. The third and most often missed factor of persuasion is the trigger – they must be reminded, essentially, of their desire.

So let’s talk about these factors a little more in-depth and how to use the model to influence international students.

1. Motivation

This is where research really comes into play. Understanding the true motivations behind an international student’s decision to choose one country over another and one school over another, and the intricacies behind it, is crucial – and many education marketers get this wrong (I should know, I was an international student).

For example, many university advertisements emphasize on “world class education”. But what does “world class” really mean? Most international students have never heard of your university’s brand and there are so many university rankings, they are often contradicting.

Instead, you might want to focus other motivations, such as:

  1. Internationally recognized qualifications (especially true for parents of students, whom I will discuss later).
  2. Are they allowed to work part-time in the country? This is not up to the university to decide, but if the local government does allow it, then use it in your advertisement!
  3. And here’s one that’s often missed… international students often want to migrate to the target country. Can your degree help with that?
  4. You can also create motivation by educating them. What makes your university stand out? How will a degree affect their wellbeing (are there any statistics you can show off?) How much does your average international graduate earn?

The more informational it is, the more comfortable the student will be when it comes to making a decision.

2. Ability

The fact that they want to study in a foreign university, however, doesn’t mean all of them can afford it. The person who usually funds the student’s education are the parents. And because of that, parents have a huge say in which university their children study in.

This is why marketing materials attempting to attract international students must also convince their parents. What are the concerns of these parents? Here are a couple:

  1. Parents accord greater concern for safety and security than do their kids.
  2. Parents are concerned about undue peer pressure and bad influence.
  3. They care about tradition and religion – is the university accepting of their practices and do they have the appropriate facilities (like a prayer room)?
  4. And finally, will the qualification their child gets be recognized in their home country?

Then there’s also the issue of living expenses. Some universities provide local accommodation at a heavily discounted rate so as to attract new students, for example. And what they found is that profits ultimately lifted – because now MORE international students can afford to move.

Once we get the parents to approve and make sure they can afford it, the next thing to make sure is that they BOTH have the ability to enrol. This is where agents come in. They help lost international students navigate the VISA process and all the documents universities need.

In my opinion, the enrolment process in most universities is archaic. The fact that they need an agent to help them fill out the form speaks volumes about it. So some innovative universities simplify the process to one simple form that students can fill out online – and they ask for more information after the student enrols.

3. Triggers

Based on BJ Fogg’s model, there are 3 ways I think we can do to innovate:

  1. Facilitate. This happens when a potential student has high motivation but low ability. Triggers for these students can be advertisements that emphasize on how easy it is to enrol, or the 24/7 support to help them out if they have issues.
  2. Spark. This happens when a potential student has high ability but low motivation. This is what most ads are designed to do: inspire, scare and/or offer hope.
  3. Signal. This happens when a potential student has high ability and high motivation. And all they needed is a little reminder. A great way to do this is get them to sign up to an email list in which you can then follow up with – if you want to deal directly.

So there. Create the motivation, make it easy and trigger them to enrol. All it takes is a bit of cultural understanding to pull it all off.

Photo Credit: On a jet plane by kennymatic

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About the author

Andrianes Pinantoan

This article was written by Andrianes Pinantoan is part of Open Colleges, an online courses provider with great business management courses. When not working, he can be found with a camera on hand. You can follow him @andreispsyched.

This post was written by Andrianes Pinantoan

  • seanwaynes


  • akashefi12

    Living expense will always be an issue. Unfortunate, but true. After just graduating, I know how it is. You have a nice website with some great content here. I have a similar website that I think you may enjoy at Review Engine ROI Review so feel free to stop by!

    Thank for the great post…

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