Make difference with magical marketing tools
We will remember the year 2020, thanks to the fact that we have got our whole life digitalized. Indeed, no one has been left apart from digital services, either voluntarily or on purpose. It has all happened very fast. As we get awakened from a stupor, we start noticing that in a certain sense, the conventional way of living has changed — and in some moments, the new reality is not so scary while it is even more comfortable and interesting in others.

From a professional perspective, we have to give credit to everyone involved in Russian education. Their proper decisions and dedicated work allowed for a breath-taking leap into the Online and successfully completed the previous academic year. I don't know if I am allowed to compare its significance to a lunar mission but whole education has been wholly and virtually transferred to the Online.

But we cannot stop the development and application of digital innovations as the new academic year has already started. And we have entered it without conventional freedom of travel — facing loads of digital solutions, though.
Let's talk about international student recruitment. It is all complicated for international officers of universities — together, we are looking for new forms of drawing attention and communication with prospective students and new channels of marketing information delivery, trying to modify our arsenal of marketing tools. We are at the stage of gaining experience that requires evaluation through mistakes and achievements classification and sharing best practices within expert groups.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center
The most unbiased way of marketing evaluation is a measurement of marketing-related costs per 1 attracted student. Amazingly, this simple arithmetic operation is not done at every Russian university to evaluate its marketing activity. However, since we recruit international students on the global education market, we should not neglect market principles, including one postulating that any activity should be aimed at the constant increase of economic viability (i. e., efficiency).

This can completely be assigned to the use of different marketing channels. All channels have different efficiency, while the same channel can demonstrate different efficiency when applied in different countries or regions. Therefore, it will be fair to say that the efficiency of using marketing channels is an applied indicator that should be measured and benchmarked depending on the strategic plans of a university in terms of geographic diversification of student recruitment.

To achieve an honest and fair evaluation of marketing efficiency, it is required to sum up all direct marketing-related costs, i.e.:
  • Development, production, and placement of marketing materials (separately for offline and online placement)
  • Fees related to participation in different events like exhibitions, presentations, etc. including travel expenses
  • Salary of staff involved in international student recruitment including cash bonuses (for secondary job employees it is required to quote their actual workload)
  • Agency commission
The overall amount should be divided by the number of international enrollees after this year's campaign and thus, you will find out the evaluation of your marketing efficiency.

For you not to think about this quotation as a theory, we suggest you do the same for your marketing campaign for the last 2–3 years to get your marketing efficiency year by year. This will allow you to analyze which actions positively and negatively influence this indicator, thus giving you a tool to administer your expenses on international student recruitment.

Now let's get back to our days — November 2020 — and ask ourselves some questions related to the new normal of our lives:
  • In which events will we take part in the 2020/21 academic year?
  • Are we able to master instruments of digital promotion and recruitment on our own?
  • Do we need to make the optimization of our staff?
  • How are our traditional agents doing? Did they survive the hardship or should we look for new agents?

But I think that the main question that a manager should post is: how is it possible to build a model, plan, and allocate the costs applicable to every marketing component while getting actual reports and manage at the same time? At the end of the day, economic viability rules the show. And there is no way that you can go without CRM — customer relationship management system.
Only a handful of Russian universities use CRM systems while their international counterparts have been using them for a long time, leading to hundreds of proposals from big and small developers available on the market including ones that are oriented on educational institutes. Why a Russian university may require a CRM system already now? First, a CRM system is required in order not to miss a single prospective student because from the marketing point of view, every lost lead is considered as a waste of marketing budget. Second, the new normal restricts personal contacts with potential students and makes us use an online environment (online expos, online presentations, etc.), agent services, improve relatively conventional Internet-based promotion.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center
In October, Education Export Center had a poll in its Telegram- channel asking university professionals and experts on which international student recruitment channel became the most important in 2020. We received the following results:
  • Student recruitment companies — 35%
  • Alumni references — 27%
  • Internet-based advertising — 27%
  • Conventional exhibitions — 11%
If we leave aside the significant share of students referenced by universities' alumni (which has always been a case), we will notice the overwhelming advantage of relatively new recruitment channels (student recruitment companies and Internet-based advertising) over conventional exhibitions, which sets a new trend.

What's good about conventional exhibitions? Every country has run several exhibitions and a university has only had to choose the country and events. A university has paid a fee and sent its representatives to work at the university's booth while the event organizer has been responsible for bringing potential students to the event and — honestly speaking — the reality often did not meet expectations. Moreover, from year to year, potential students cross referenced information that they got at the expo with universities' websites, looked up reviews and searched for actual students of the universities of their interest.
We have an open sea of opportunities that we get through digital space. Its significant advantage is that we can administer marketing and promotion costs on a daily basis, constantly looking for the most effective ways of allocating of marketing budget. And in order to start making the right decisions, try using a CRM system.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center
Автор: Dmitri Nersesyan, CEO, Education Export Center.