China is the largest market for education in the world. The number of young people studying English and ultimately wanting to study abroad is staggering.
Even with talks of a global economic slowdown, the number of Chinese studying abroad is only projected to increase with a middle class that is expected to grow by 200 million people within the next 4 years according to Global Insight.
These past few years Higher Education institutions have seen an opportunity in China and are seeking to enter or strengthen their presence in China whether for recruitment, development and fundraising or industry thought leadership. And even with so many outbound Chinese, China can still seem confusing and walled-offed from the rest of the world.
Over the past five years PingPong Digital has assisted over 60 Higher Education institutions from around the world in the US, UK and Australia. In that time, we have learned several important...
DO have a plan. The first step for any undertaking like this is to make a plan. Assess what your goals are and how you plan to get there. Leaping without looking can cause headaches further down the line.
DON’T assume West is best. This trend is not just in Higher Education but almost every industry. There is an assumption that how it’s done in the West will work for China. I think the professionals working in education are smarter than that, and we are here to ensure you adopt the right kind of localization strategy for China.
DO your research. The Internet is a valuable tool. Yes, China can seem mysterious with language and cultural barriers, but there is a lot of useful information online. Alternatively, consult an expert, we often field calls from people curious to dip their toe in the water. Do speak to experts who work in the industry.
Do speak to experts who work in the industry.
DO use the right channels. China’s Great Firewall makes normal communication channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail challenging to access and the majority of Mainland Chinese doesn’t use them. Your website might not even load, and interested Chinese won’t find it on Google, which is banned, but likely Baidu, China’s biggest search engine.
DON’T forget social media. It turns out that the best channels for effective communication in China are social media channels. We help universities get set up and manage accounts on WeChat and Weibo because these are the two largest social media platforms in China and they work. WeChat has over a Billion active users; that’s 3 times the population of the US.
Switching the lever on doesn’t result in a tidal wave
DON’T do it alone. Yes, investing in social media or a Chinese website comes with an expense, but this can pay off significantly in the long term, just a few students will cover a year's worth of marketing activities. Our experience has shown that the right investment, on the right channels with a solid strategy will usually yield results. If you think China is important, you’re probably not alone in your institution; it’s about finding these like-minded individuals and working together.
DON’T hire an intern. You wouldn’t hire an intern to manage your brand’s reputation through your school’s Facebook, Twitter or other important digital channels, you would hire a professional, so why should the world’s most competitive international student market be any different? However, we see this time and time again and constantly hear about the problems that have arisen from this; whether it's mishandling of the account, irregular posting, the selling of student details, the horror stories are there. Please invest properly.
Chinese middle class is expected to grow by 200 million within the next few years
DON’T rely on agents. Education agents can be great at getting you students, but they don’t care about your brand. Whoever pays the most fees to the agent will usually always full their quota, and time and time again we hear about students who applied for one University only to be convinced to go somewhere else. It would be best if you took control of your brand, 1.4 Billion people are watching and listening.
DO manage your expectations. Switching the lever on doesn’t result in a tidal wave. Going into this market with unrealistic expectations can set your overall strategy back, but with the right plan in place, you will begin to see an increase in interest from this market. Just avoid leaving it too late as this gives your competitors a more significant advantage, and it could mean your success may take longer to materialize.
These are just some of the DOs and DONTs for Higher Education institutions seeking to enter China and this list is not compressive. So, I would love to hear what are some of your do’s and don’ts for China?