I thought I’d use this first blog to explain something of the background that created Market Ed China.
I joined the University of Exeter as Head of Marketing in 2011 – which turned out to be brilliant timing. In 2012, Exeter joined the UK’s Russell Group, rose to number seven in ‘The Times’ league table and was selected as their University of the Year. We marketed the hell out of this of course. Web traffic went up 80% in one week and stayed there for the next 12 months. During the next cycle, UK UG applications rose 35%.
Exeter had become a very hot brand in the HE market. Well a more accurate statement would be that it had become a very hot brand within the UK. Making it hot globally would take a longer and more sustained effort.
Around two years later, Exeter rationalized its international operations, separating ‘partnerships’ from student recruitment, and Marketing was given the responsibility of raising our profile in major international markets – China being by far the single most important – boosting student numbers in the process.
It seemed obvious to me that we knew very little about the Chinese market – and equally as we subsequently discovered, Chinese students knew very little about Exeter. What we did know was that the Chinese customer was becoming increasingly sophisticated, that competition was increasingly coming from the USA, Canada and Australia as well as other prestigeous UK universities – and that we would have to seriously raise our game in China if we were to grow our student numbers.
Exeters’ Chinese Marketing
Two years on, and Exeter has a Chinese website, hosted in Hong Kong for fast download, an active presence on all the major Chinese social media, including Wechat, Weibo and Youku, a full-time Chinese Social Media Officer (with an MSc in Marketing from Exeter of course) and a much clearer understanding of what it takes to succeed in the PRC.
The business partners who helped us put this program together were Fenghua Mo (aka Sammi) and Darren Stevens who ran a general Chinese digital marketing company called Market Me China. They built the website. They ran our China online PR campaign. They ran the pay per click campaign on Baidu. Their skills, knowledge and standards of customer service were outstanding. So when I approached them with the idea of setting up a new company, dedicated to helping Western universities build their businesses in China, I was delighted that they agreed with enthusiasm.
Boosting International Student Numbers
Every university in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia want to boost its international student numbers. The urgency of this goal is no more acute than in the UK, which post-Brexit is going to lose most if not all of its continental European students.
Having spent five wonderful years at Exeter, it seems once again that I may have got the timing right. We understand higher education. We understand China. We understand how to build university brands online in China. And most of all, we know how to build brand preference with Chinese students, giving our university clients a real edge over their competition.
What I don’t understand is why no-one else has spotted the marketing opportunity. Yet.