Why Chinese parents matter when marketing your education offer

When Western universities market their offers locally, they tend to focus heavily on their core target audience; students. Yes, parents may have a say in the final choice of university or school, but in the majority of cases, students will heavily influence their own intended course and place of study.

However, when marketing a Western education offer to China, the situation is very different, and parents become a key audience. In this article, we’ll look at the reasons behind this and consider some effective approaches.

Why do Chinese parents matter in education marketing?

In China, parents are heavily committed to securing the best university education for their children, and the preparation for higher-level education usually takes place over a period of years, meaning that the final decision is made with great care and involvement.

Not only are Chinese parents dedicated to finding the best choices for their children, but they will tend to finance it, with many Chinese parents having dedicated savings plans for their child’s further education.

Interestingly, Chinese parents are also increasingly behind the decision to study abroad. This means that they will influence the final choice of university and also guide the destination as a whole; recognising that an international career requires first-hand experience of Western life. These parents know that they need to invest heavily in their children’s future careers, and this means paying for a quality Western education and cultural experience that will provide later success, influence and useful networks for career opportunities.

Let’s not forget too that a good Western education is a fantastic mark of success for Chinese families and a source of great pride and prestige within their wider families and communities. All of these factors should be considered when formulating a Chinese digital marketing campaign for your education offer.

How to market your Western education offer to Chinese parents

The first thing to know is that your marketing campaign should include Chinese parents as a distinct target audience, alongside prospective Chinese students. Parents will need different messaging and information, although there will be a high degree of convergence and overlap at times on the content itself. It’s important to target messages in different ways and respond to the different needs of each audience so that each has the information needed to collaboratively make a decision.

Changing needs of Chinese parents

Previously, many Western institutions focused on simply highlighting their performance rankings in a bid to sell their offer to Chinese parents. But this approach has evolved and doesn’t take into account the years of preparation that families will make before sending their children abroad. Chinese parents now look for a broad spectrum of relevant data before making a decision, and the information they seek will go far beyond simple rankings (although these are still important.)

Chinese parents want to assess a potential institution against a range of criteria. These include:

– Opportunities for positive exposure to the local culture
– Future employability
– Personal development opportunities
– Safety and welfare
– Access to networks

For some Chinese families, particularly high-net-worth families, the ultimate selection may also include factors that relate to property, investment decisions and immigration.

How Western universities can market to Chinese parents

Western educational establishments can market their offer successfully by taking the time to craft a well-structured, targeted marketing campaign that makes use of a range of channels, answers the variety of questions that Chinese parents have, and demonstrates the quality and breadth of their offer. Here are some tips for success:

  1. Treat parents as a standalone target audience and market to them differently from prospective Chinese students.
  2. For the parent audience, begin with hard data such as institution rankings, grades, employment destinations and general performance statistics, but seek to go beyond this with a rich storytelling approach.
  3. Talk about the local culture, history of your establishment, local employment prospects, links with employers and commercial opportunities within the geographic footprint. Explain the cultural and development opportunities on offer for Chinese students and the safety and welfare that will be provided.
  4. Consider potential pain points for Chinese parents. Safety and welfare are big issues – so highlight the services that you offer to incoming Chinese students to help them settle. These might include access to Chinese language services (including medical services), English language lessons, Chinese-language orientation, Chinese student services and on-site accommodation.
  5. Invest in virtual tours of your establishment and the surrounding geography to show the depth and ‘feel’ of the cultural experience. 3D tours and videos can really bring the feel of a campus to life.
  6. Promote plenty of case studies from Chinese graduates and alumni, promoting their positive experiences and talking about their employment destinations.
  7. Talk about the opportunities for onward travel; using the education institution as a base for broader cultural experience and Western travel. This a key requirement for many Chinese families, so it can be helpful to adopt a tourist mindset!
  8. Use a variety of digital channels to engage with Chinese parents, including Baidu PPC, ePR, Chinese social media, localised Chinese websites, but focus on providing the chance for them to chat directly with representatives from the university – in Chinese. Parents will want to discuss their queries and make a considered decision, so this level of care and consideration towards their needs will go a long way,
  9. Provide information about business enterprise opportunities for Chinese families who may be considering property and business investment in the local area, with the university course acting as a springboard for further family opportunities, including immigration.
  10. Pick out rich and interesting bits of information that bring your academic institution to life. For example, you might have a particular professor who is well-known in the Chinese professional community or a particular link with a large and interesting local employer. You might have department specialisms that offer enhanced employment opportunities to graduates or you may be particularly well known for your legacy and history – offering a strong sense of ‘face’ to graduates.

Expert help with Chinese digital marketing

At Market Me China, we help Western universities, schools and other types of educational establishments to successfully market their offer to Chinese parents and students alike. Our team of native language speakers has the digital marketing skills needed to operate effectively in this vast, complex and lucrative market, and we work flexibly around our clients’ needs; whether you simply need a strategy and support with content, or require a full Chinese digital marketing management service. Please contact us in the first instance for a no-obligation chat and we will be delighted to discuss how we might help you succeed in this exciting growth area.