How to target Chinese students for your online courses in the post Covid-19 world

Although the immediate threat of Covid-19 has been brought under control, it is clear that social distancing will need to remain in place for some time; particularly to avoid further outbreaks.

One way that Higher Education institutions are responding to this change is to offer a greater range of online courses. HE institutions across the West are still extremely keen to attract Chinese students, and can now offer many of their programmes online, including eMBA courses.

How how can those colleges and universities promote their online courses, including the prestigious MBA as an eMBA, to Chinese students?

Think about your offer

The delivery may be online – but the quality is still 100% in place. This matters greatly to the Chinese market, which views Western brands as being high-quality. Now is the time to really reinforce the message of prestige and value, and demonstrate that the online qualification is worth just the same to a graduate’s CV.

Remember your dual audience

When you market a university to a Chinese audience, it isn’t just the students you need to get on board; it’s their parents too! With this in mind, choose channels and messages which parents will respond to. For example, a Chinese student may want to know about the course content and how they can enjoy the social experience of being at university without being physically present. A parent may want to know about the likely employment outcomes and the prestige of the institution.

Plan content

With this in mind, create a plan of regular and cross-channel Chinese content which resonates with each audience. For parents, present plenty of high-quality content in Chinese. For students, there will be more flexibility over language presentation as courses will be delivered in English. But it’s still important to present some information in Chinese to show that you are welcoming and culturally sensitive.

Consider other local factors too. Chinese customers love to do their research and value recommendations from their peers. They are also naturally risk-averse. So respond to this with the use of visible trust marks and accreditations, case studies, partner information, alumni stories and recommendations, employment prospects and so forth. Consider being present and active in online forums so that students and parents can ask questions, and allow your trusted alumni to act as ambassadors on your institution’s behalf.

Optimise your digital hub

If you don’t yet have a Chinese localised – or bespoke Chinese – website, then now is the time to take this forward. Ensure your website is smartphone optimised and locally hosted. Check that it is responsive and operates quickly, with correct meta descriptions, tags and keyword-rich language so that Baidu can rank your new online courses correctly for your target audience. Check that the user journeys work for your Chinese users.

Think about social media

Check that you have the right social media accounts in place for your target audience. The obvious ones may be WeChat, Weibo and DouYin, but there are multiple other growing social platforms which are more appropriate to your HE institution and offer. Do your research to see where your potential customers are, and what they are using. Consider not just age, but factors such as regional demographics and city tiers. Look at Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) who might have relevance for your offer, and who may be able to offer an appropriate form of sponsorship and promotion of your e-courses to their own followers. Create engaging, beautiful content which displays the calibre and prestige of your institution, the campus itself, the students, the employment outcomes and so forth. Use beautiful imagery, engaging stories, inspiring facts and a blend of content that brings the university to life. Display the high-tech nature of your courses, the excellent online experience and the value of e-learning to achieve that all-important qualification.

Set up your Baidu PPC campaign

The right online advertising campaign will rapidly give you qualified leads – especially when you remember that online advertising in China is viewed as useful and positive, rather than a distracting irritation, as it is in the West! A Chinese digital marketing agency can help you to create your campaigns on Baidu using the right keywords and parameters, to maximise the return on your budget.

Check your Chinese SEO

Search will take longer to build for your online courses, but work on the existing SEO gains you have made in China for your institution and add in rich keywords for your online courses. This will build over time, as your relevant keywords are incorporated into your content and advertising.

Use ePR

Now is a great time to really promote the benefits of your online courses. For example, when students take your eMBA or other higher institution qualifications, they can access the same high-quality course, tutors, lectures and student experience – without needing to travel to the West. This can be a safer option in the post-Covid world, and a less expensive one too, without the need to move away from home. Promote benefits such as flexibility of learning and the ability to still be part of a vibrant social and educational network via the university’s digital platforms, and promote the level of support and help that students will receive via digital means. This is a fantastic opportunity to really sell the benefits of digital learning to a new generation.

Test the offer

Allow potential students to really get a sense of your online offer. Give demos of the e-course learning experience, allow students to dial into example lectures and 121s with tutors. Display the technologies and platforms on offer. Provide a superb online customer experience at every turn, with online chat, email and phone options to reassure students and parents alike that the online course will offer the same ability to succeed and to gain a valuable qualification, as the physical alternative.

Get help

A Chinese digital marketing agency can greatly help you with your online marketing strategy for Chinese students and parents. At Market Me China, we work with HE institutions across the West to effectively reach the Chinese market and to win new customers. Our team of experts works flexibly with your brand to provide digital marketing services, evidenced at every turn to demonstrate ROI. Now is the perfect time to plan your campaign, before the main summer period. Please contact us to find out more, and to see how we can help you.