How to target Chinese students for your online MBA in the new normal world?

The aftermath of the global Covid-19 pandemic is expected to be felt well into 2021 and beyond – which spells good news for providers of online MBAs from quality HE institutions in the West. So if you offer the sought-after MBA qualification online, how can you target Chinese students to your program? Market Me China has rich experience in this field, and our team of online digital professionals recommend the following steps:

Check your brand

Before launching your digital marketing campaign, check that your HE and MBA brand is designed to appeal to your Chinese audience. This may mean adjusting your brand assets slightly – considering the logo, colour usage and any graphical elements that encapsulate your offer. Remember that what works in the West will not automatically work in China!

Define your offer

Yes, you deliver an online MBA – but so do many institutions. How does yours stand out? Do you have better employment progressions? Do you offer the chance for digital students to come together to network at physical events periodically? Do you offer enhanced services or career-focused content that takes the course further? Do you incorporate the opportunity for work placements and facilitate these? Research what Chinese MBA students really want and seek to deliver it.

Define your USPs

Quality is a key attribute here – Chinese students (and their parents) want to know that they are obtaining an MBA from a well-known institution with an excellent reputation in the field. To support your USPs focus on quality marks, results, alumni, onward employment destinations and other quality indicators which prove your standing in the field.

Specifically for an online MBA, talk about the quality of your technology and digital infrastructure, the experience that students receive, the ways that you create a sense of student community online, and the value of this type of online learning in order to achieve an MBA in a flexible way. A defined set of USPs will also enhance your content and communications plan.

Win over parents!

In the West, many students may choose their preferred course or university independently, but in China, a student’s parents are likely to be involved in the decision-making process. With this in mind, focus on dual messaging which appeals to parental interests as well as student needs. An example of this would include content which demonstrates the ROI of an online MBA (particularly to parents who may be funding the qualification), and which describes the key benefits of studying online (perhaps the ability to study whilst working and likely employment outcomes.) It is also important to show that customer service professionals, student support services, work placement facilitators and other university staff are on hand digitally to help provide that all-important experience – and post-study employment progressions.

Don’t skimp on information

The choice of online MBA isn’t one that Chinese students will take lightly, so provide plenty of information about the course, noting that Chinese consumers appreciate in-depth information and carry out significant research before undertaking a purchase decision. Anticipate questions that your Chinese target audience are likely to have, and provide answers in written and video format – always ensuring that content is optimised for mobile. Provide contact routes too and consider adding features such as chatbots or online agent pop-ups throughout your website to further guide prospects along the funnel.

Work your content!

Use your key messages to create cross-platform and multi-media content – from press releases and static website content, through to videos, online adverts, sharable influencer content and so forth. Repurpose your content where possible for economies of scale and to extend the reach and impact of what you produce.

Focus on your digital hub

Whether your existing website has been localised for China or made bespoke for your audience, now is the time to check that everything works as it should. From local hosting to smartphone optimisation, your website must operate quickly, be SEO optimised, and have the right user journeys for Chinese readers – with clear CTAs and full integration with your social channels. A Chinese digital marketing agency can help you with this, starting with an assessment of your digital assets and helping you to create an impactful, effective digital hub that meets your goals.

Invest in your social media

Most Western HE institutions will want to have WeChat, Weibo and DouYin accounts, but other emerging platforms may also be appropriate, and your research will help to reveal where your target audience are – and how you should reach them. Bespoke customer research can identify factors that go beyond basic age and status demographics and which include city tiers, income and other key criteria that help to define your target audience. With this insight in place, you can engage with the right Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) who can present your MBA offer to their own followers, via sponsorship, placement or direct promotion. Again, the key to success on social media is to create inspiring, meaningful and engaging content which will position the prestige, value and convenience of your online MBA to your target audience and create that all-important feeling of desire and action to find out more.

Leverage your online advertising

Baidu PPC is the key route to rapidly gaining qualified traffic in a short amount of time. Remember that Chinese consumers find online advertising useful and a sign of quality and reputation. To keep a handle on your budget, especially when competing against other Western online MBA providers, work carefully to really pin down targeted keywords and to ensure your offer is highly visible for relevant searches. Equally, ensure that your adverts are converting relevant traffic by measuring their performance throughout the campaign, and check that they are pointing to the correct landing page. As Baidu is a Chinese website, it’s easy to make an error if you don’t have native language skills!

Use ePR

Your online MBA gives Chinese students the chance to enjoy the same quality course, student experience and tutor access as they would studying in-person – but without the time, cost and travel commitments of a physical course. An eMBA is likely to appeal even more in the post-Covid world where travel restrictions may well continue and interrupt physical learning. Online MBAs also represent a modern, digitally-enabled way of learning for a new generation. The right ePR strategy can help you to promote your course in a highly engaging, pre-qualified way through reputable media channels, portals and websites that Chinese audience value. You can build brand recognition, trust and word-of-mouth marketing with this channel.

Provide a taster

Think creatively to provide appealing incentives to your prospective audience. For example, you could offer free trial access to an MBA course module, deliver an interactive lecture with a tutor to a group of prospective sign-ups, follow an alumni member from graduation to that all-important career outcome and so forth.

Get the help that you need

Market Me China has rich experience in the education field and can help Western institutions to effectively market their online MBAs in the Post-Covid, ‘new normal’ world. Our professionals deliver effective, integrated digital marketing strategies that deliver clear results for our clients. Please contact us in the first instance for a no-obligation chat about your needs.