Seven lessons on international marketing in 2020
It is December 2020, and we can talk about new developments in the field of education export. Definitely, the education industry has changed significantly as distance technologies have overtaken every aspect. In 2020 we have had a chance to test different instruments and approaches towards international marketing. Let us draw lessons from the past admission campaign and try to anticipate what we can take with us to 2021.

When countries have started closing the borders in March, nobody has actually realized the pandemic scales keeping hope that things will turn around. But in April, it has become clear that the spring stage of the admission campaign may fail. At this point, the global academic community has started looking for new forms of educational exhibitions and student fairs. The new instruments for admission campaign and international student recruitment have turned out to be:
  • online expos;
  • online presentations;
  • search and social network advertising;
  • student recruiters' relations.
Obviously, we cannot call any of these instruments an absolutely new development as each of them existed before the pandemic. However, Russian universities used them selectively and clearly as secondary instruments to prioritize conventional exhibitions and work through the alumni network. The situation has existed for decades, but it is time to change right here and now since the new formats will stay with us forever.
Important points:
  1. Participation in online events did not guarantee positive results and was not guaranteed by conventional events. Only the meaningful and orchestrated efforts of participants and organizers of online events at every stage can take them close to it.
  2. Do not count on free services if only they are not offered by a close and trusted partner. Otherwise, you will lose time, and a contractor will not bear any responsibility for results.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 1. You need to give up stereotypes and expectations
Education Export Center has been among the pioneers who offered new ways for international recruitment events in 2020. We have spent hours talking to potential participants about new ways of organizing online events, and we have concluded that each of them has pros & cons against conventional events. We can still not choose between them, which is why it is important to understand their natural opportunities and limitations from the very beginning.

  1. All participants are aimed at studying in Russia while their overall number can be not big.
  2. Better quality of complete information dissemination concurrently to dozens of perspective students but without personal contact.
  3. Quality of leads is guaranteed.
  4. Fees are 5-10 less; ROI is 30-40 times higher.
  5. Possibility to organize another additional presentation for potential students.
  1. Exhibitions and fairs bring together universities from different countries and all perspective international students.
  2. Personal (or in small groups) work with potential students but communications may be interrupted with surrounding noise and new students coming to a booth; a university representative gets tired if there are many booth visitors.
  3. Leads are not always accurate but there is an opportunity to make impression on an emotional level and increase chances that a potential student will get back to you.
  4. Fees are higher but there is chance for a great networking.
  5. Participation is only available during designated dates.
Recommendation for 2021
  1. It is vital to take part in online events and accumulate your personal experience and best practices.
  2. Universities that abstained from conventional events due to financial reasons before can get access to the global market through online events now.
  3. We invite you to Education Exporters Club to share your experience and best practices of participation in online events.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 2. University's online resources should be customized for prospective international students, not just the translated version of the current website
Online resources are the main communication channels with potential students, and they have to be designed based on common standards and students' expectations. Let us discuss why it is worth paying attention and allocating resources for a suitable multilingual university website.

Customized website
  1. A website that has been designed for the specific region or regions of a specific linguistic group considers psychological and cultural peculiarities of perception.
  2. The website's content addresses the requirements and needs of the target audience.
  3. Information is presented in a language that is close to the one that is spoken by the target audience.
Translated website
  1. A website that has been initially designed based on a certain template will not get better after translation.
  2. A Russian university's website largely consists of standard sections and is not oriented at prospective students (specifically the international ones).
  3. The official way of a content presentation on a Russian university's website, especially in standard sections, does not facilitate communication with an international user.
The development of the university's multilingual social network will be discussed separately in coming issues.
Recommendations for 2021
  1. If you lack resources to design a new website in at least one language then you can try to launch a couple of landing pages on the top-priority study programs.
  2. It will not cost you much if you design your landing pages using templates.
  3. If you require designing a new university website or a professional landing page of international standards we recommend you to refer to a contractor that has a proper background.
  4. We invite you to Education Exporters Club to discuss all issues related to presentation of information on a university website.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 3. Student recruiters' relations should be at the core of the university's international recruitment
Whether your task is to conquer leadership on the global education market or make the first steps towards international student recruitment, you should get support from student recruitment companies and education consultants. You should note that whatever marketing efforts you put, from 60% to 80% of your prospective students will refer to local agencies for additional advice due to local cultural and historical considerations. For your benefit, you have to acquire a number of student recruitment partners, streamline your work, train their staff, and recommend them to your prospective students.
Recommendations for 2021
  1. Start active communications with Education Export Center to get advice on how to streamline your financial and legal relations with international student recruitment companies.
  2. Make use of the Register of Certified Agents that is published and updated by Education Export Center every month. All listed companies have been trained on specific issues related to recruiting for Russian universities and are ready to conclude direct contracts.
  3. Take part in the RED (Russian Education Day) online expos and presentations organized by Education Export Center across the world for Russian universities, and student recruitment companies.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 4. Hybrid marketing configurations will work best in the future
A university has to develop a marketing plan for international student recruitment (separated or as a part of its integrated marketing plan). It should contain all elements required for achieving marketing goals. They have to be interconnected in order to acquire hybrid traits.
Recommendations for 2021
  1. Always invite your partner student recruiters and prospective students to online events where you participate.
  2. Mention contact details of your partner student recruiters in your marketing materials.
  3. Assign your partner recruiters to represent your university in local student fairs.
  4. Make reposts about online events where you take part on university's social networks.
  5. Inquire to Education Export Center for comprehensive marketing strategies.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 5. Universities have to start taking marketing costs into account
Online events make universities' recruitment services work faster because it may take minutes from the time when you start your expo or presentation before you need to start responding to incoming inquiries. You cannot say that we will get back to you when we reach home anymore since online communication requires you to respond quickly. People are expecting your call, message, or email within a few minutes. If you do not respond on time — you lose the application and funds that you spent on it.
Recommendations for 2021
  1. Start taking your marketing costs into account and explaining your recruitment team the cost of delays or incomplete responses — they will start working better.
  2. Introduce promotion channels performance evaluation system in order to us only the most yielding ones.
  3. Improve your staff qualification on ethics and standards of communication with prospective students.
  4. Launch a CRM system at least to control your incoming applications and inquiries.
  5. Refer to Education Export Center for advice and opportunity to try using CRM system.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 6. Hosts of online student fairs and exhibitions have to act with more responsibility
Not only universities but also organizations that host online student fairs and exhibitions have to analyze their 2020 experience and reconsider their role critically. Now they have fewer worries comparing to conventional events. That is why they need to target extra resources to what is important for online events as the standards of online-expos and online- presentations will grow very fast.
Recommendations for 2021
  1. You have to become an expert on online presentations and expos in order to be able to critically evaluate the university's marketing materials and suggest improvements for the sake of overall efficiency.
  2. You need to share the responsibility for the collected leads and registrations with universities.
  3. Develop successful cases and share them with universities at Education Exporters Club.
  4. Thoroughly prepare every online event, even if you have dozens of them throughout a year.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Lesson 7. Universities have to start developing their marketing materials in new formats
The pandemic has had a positive impact on the demand for results of IT technological advancements. The marketing component, just like the academic one, requires new technologies that will get potential students acquainted with universities at maximum immersion and involvement.
Recommendations fo 2021
  1. Start experimenting with mobile apps, computer games, panoramic views, and so on.
  2. Technologies of 3D images look very promising as they allow designing 3D-tours that are the best known immersion technologies nowadays (before scientists invent teleportation technologies or holographic tours).
  3. The most comprehensive though highly profitable marketing materials can be designed by consortia of universities based on sectoral or regional platform.
  4. We invite you to Education Exporter Club in order to discuss available opportunities.
Dmitri Nersesyan
Director, Education Export Center, Russia
Director, Education Export Center, Russia.
Dmitri has completed his degrees from top Russian universities in International Management and Law.
Dmitri has been working in international education since 2002. He has worked in a variety of minor and senior positions in different Russian universities. He has always been focused on international business development issues of universities, international marketing of higher education, and positioning of higher education institutions on global education market.
Author: Director, Education Export Center, Russia.