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Part 1: How education marketers can set realistic goals for their China digital recruitment and marketing strategy

June 22, 2021 |   Jasper Gill

International education marketers and recruitment teams face a lot of pressure to meet their institution’s overall international student intake goals. The pandemic has further intensified this pressure as reduced mobility and global economic uncertainty have changed international student needs and demands.

In this context, it can be tempting to set wildly ambitious goals for your China digital strategy right from the get-go. After all, you have big targets to meet and your student acquisition at the top of the funnel needs to deliver accordingly. Yet, while we’re all for aiming high, setting unrealistic goals can actually have adverse effects on your results and return on investment. It’s not only demotivating for your team, but it will also make it more difficult for you to manage expectations internally if your digital marketing initiatives in China are off to a slow start. 

Setting challenging, but realistic goals for your digital student marketing strategy for China depends on two main factors:

  1. Knowing where you are starting out
  2. Having quantitative goals for Chinese student acquisition for the next 3 year

To help you set your goals at the right level, let’s unpack these two factors in more detail.

Knowing where you are starting out

When you’re first developing your digital marketing strategy for China, it pays to spend some time auditing your current setup for this market. Setting realistic goals for your digital strategy will depend on how much foundational work you will need to do in the beginning. Here are some questions you should consider as part of your audit.

Do you already have a digital presence in China?

This may seem obvious, but whether or not you already have a digital presence in China will be a key determinant for how quickly you can start driving traffic and leads for your institution.

At the very minimum, your Chinese digital presence should include a fast-loading Chinese website that is optimised for the local digital ecosystem and audience needs and a verified WeChat official account. As we mentioned previously on this blog, there are quite a few things that can go wrong in the initial setup of your Chinese digital channels. The good news is that all of these typical issues are fixable, so it’s best to address them before you are spending more time and resources on driving more traffic and generating leads. If you do need to sort out some problems in your legacy setup, it will inevitably delay any performance improvements you’re looking to implement, so be sure to factor this into your goal setting.

Likewise, if you currently do not own and manage any digital channels in China, give yourself some time to establish your foundations. Depending on your budget and internal resources, it usually takes around six months to build a Chinese website as well as go through the application process for a verified WeChat official account.

You can fast-track the process to three months if you’re choosing Sinorbis as your China digital marketing partner. Our software and partnership with Tencent allow us to deliver much faster than a traditional agency model. What’s more, our digital marketing platform gives you full ownership and control over your website and WeChat content,  meaning that performance optimisation is 100% in your hands. 

How is your current Chinese digital presence performing? 

If you do already have a Chinese digital presence, spend some time analysing its performance to inform your goal setting. The metrics below give you some idea of what you should be measuring and why.

Monthly website traffic 

Your monthly website traffic gives you an indication of the effectiveness of all your marketing and recruitment efforts combined. While there are always some seasonal fluctuations, you should see some steady growth in your monthly website traffic year over year.

Use your current website traffic data to set growth goals.

For example: Increase your average monthly website traffic by 10% over the next 12 months.

Organic search ranking for tracked keywords

One of the key benefits of managing your own website for China is that you can attract relevant organic traffic through search engine optimisation (SEO). Through consistent effort, this portion of your website traffic should grow steadily over time. To understand the impact that your optimisations are having, you need to be able to track the ranking of your branded and unbranded keywords.

Based on your current ranking, you can set goals for your SEO efforts.

For example: Get our top 5 most important course pages to rank within the top 25 results for relevant keyword phrases within the next 12 months.

Number of website leads per month 

The number of monthly leads you’re receiving is an indication of the relevance of your website traffic. And, of course, generating leads is one of the main aims for most universities that are managing their own digital presence in China.

Once you have your average monthly website visitors and your average number of website leads, you can use a simple formula to work out your website conversion rate:

Monthly conversions / total monthly visitors * 100.

Example: 30 / 3500 * 100 = 0.85%

Ideally, you should aim for a conversion rate between 1% and 3% and set a goal that is based on your current performance.

For example: Lift website conversion from 0.85% to 1.5% over the next 12 months.

Monthly WeChat follower growth 

While tracking the number of WeChat followers can sometimes be seen as a vanity metric, steady account follower growth is an important indicator for the relevance of your content. What’s more, you need to reach a certain threshold of followers to be able to reap the full benefits of WeChat and drive engagement.

Set your Wechat follower growth goal based on your current month-over-month average.

For example: Achieve an average month-over-month WeChat follower growth rate of 3% by December 31 this year.

WeChat post engagement 

As with any social media account, it takes time to build an engaged following. When you’re first starting to post on a new WeChat official account, most of the ‘likes’, ‘wows’, and ‘shares’ you will receive are going to be from your own team and, if you manage the publishing process well, your current students.

However, it’s still important to analyse your current engagement levels to be able to improve on them and set goals. Additionally, if you’re seeing a steady growth in followers, but no improvement on the engagement side, it’s a good indication that your content needs to be better aligned with the needs of your target student demographic.

Set your WeChat post engagement goal based on your current engagement levels, no matter how small they maybe.

For example: Double the average number of post shares every six months.

If you want to learn more about developing an effective digital strategy to support your Chinese student recruitment goals, download our latest guide.

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