Why Higher Education institutions can market to Chinese students and parents alike

If you are responsible for marketing a Western Higher Education institution to Chinese students, it’s helpful to know that you can target your efforts to students and their parents alike.

This is because Chinese parents take a key role in the decision-making process for their children’s higher education; far more so than they may do in the West. They are extremely dedicated to their children’s education and financially committed to ensuring they receive the best possible results. Studies suggest that around 71% of Chinese parents guide university choices, and 43% have education savings plans in place for their children (compared to 5% of UK parents).

Interestingly, Chinese parents tend to drive the choice of overseas study as well as the eventual choice of institution. This is because they are keen to see their children develop international careers, or to learn from experiences abroad in order to do better in a domestic business environment and to strengthen their CVs. They also hope that overseas study will help their children to create useful networks and to become comfortable with western culture and lifestyles.

What does this mean for Western HE marketers?

HE marketers must recognise the influence of Chinese parents and ensure their marketing efforts go beyond the basic promotion of academic grades and course content. They must also take steps to communicate to Chinese parents in a direct and targeted way, rather than hoping their general marketing will appeal to both audiences.

Why ranking performance isn’t enough

Many HE institutes still focus on their academic results and ranking performance. This has the appeal of being simple, but it ignores the fact that preparations for overseas study are made within families for years beforehand.

Chinese parents and students will consider a wide range of selection criteria that go far beyond rankings and course content. These include factors such as:

– Personal development and cultural exposure, leading to a beneficial ‘whole life’ experience
– Future employability
– Welfare and safety
– Immigration considerations for future employment
And for high net worth Chinese families, factors such as properties and investment and global asset allocation, particularly where accommodation decisions are being made – both immediately during the course, and for later property purchases.

How Western HE institutions can respond

Western university marketers can respond to Chinese information needs by promoting a holistic package of information that includes history, culture, employment, commerce and property factors within their geography. For example, Chinese parents and students alike want to know:

– Whether a certain university location could be a good location for future holidays and for buying property in general
– What the immigration prospects are locally
– What the opportunities are for travel in the area (think of destinations, ease of airport access etc.)
– What services are in place for welfare and safety – such as welfare programmes and support for overseas students.

Key takeaways for Western HE marketers

1. Mentally broaden your remit

When it comes to HE marketing, consider your role to include tourism marketing and business enterprise promotion as well as core HE marketing. Chinese families want to know about the travel opportunities that a university location offers so that students can use it as a base for local and world travel. Push your international travel connections if they are good.

2. Focus heavily on well-being concerns

Chinese families worry about the mental and physical burden that may be placed on their children when they study abroad. Their concerns include the risks of depression, drug or alcohol abuse and threats of terrorism. Universities can address these risks in a subtle but objective way, by providing context and reality. This provides a foil to media headlines and rumours about risks. It is also smart for Western universities to have comprehensive welfare and wellbeing services and support in place for Chinese students, including access to Chinese speaking staff, communications, orientation, and so forth.

3. Prioritise digital for parents as well as students

Chinese parents are highly digital and they visit news portals, social media and information sites daily. Universities can use targeted Baidu PPC advertising, Baidu SEO, social media strategies, KOLs and other digital marketing tactics to share the right messages about their HE institutions and the benefits to potential students. The low-cost acquisition and high click-through rates of online advertising, placed on portals and sites that parents use, often generate a better ROI than direct marketing to the students. Interestingly, many Western universities are not yet following this approach.

Similarly, HE institutions can target parents via social media, and look at ways to speak with them – via message and by person. The investment in Chinese-speaking HE marketing or support staff is a wise one. Provide and promote plenty of opportunities and means for Chinese parents to engage and speak with HE institutions. This might also include offline promotion such as university careers fairs.

4. Get expert support

Market Me China offers highly-targeted and effective Chinese digital marketing services for Western HE institutions. We can help you to create an impactful digital marketing campaign that will complement any offline activity and maximise your results. Chinese customers are digital-first and both parents and students are primed and ready to engage with top-quality, engaging content. This includes the production of university video tours, the creation of social media mini-groups for engagement and conversation, direct communication and discussion, digital prospectus creation, online advertising campaigns, SEO and more.

The key takeaway is to place Chinese parents at the heart of your HE institution’s marketing strategy and to get the expert help you need to impress this influential and sophisticated audience – who will ultimately make the decision about where their children’s education investment is made. Remember that Chinese parents will have been saving for their children’s education for years, will have been planning and considering the right options for this time, and they intend to take a key role in deciding the best institution for their goals. By wooing Chinese parents with the quality of your institution and the holistic nature of its offer, from results to wellbeing support, you have a far better chance of converting your Chinese student prospects into enrolments.

Get in touch

Market Me China is here to help you successfully market your HE institution to Chinese parents and students alike. Our team of experienced digital marketing professionals have the native language skills, experience and technical knowledge needed to craft impactful marketing strategies, with the results you need. Please contact us in the first instance to find out more, and to discuss how we might help you to achieve your goals.