Finding out how to market a study abroad program starts with getting in the mindset of your target audience—students. What is their day-to-day life? When, where, and how can you get their attention? What are their skills and interests?
Fully understanding your audience is a crucial move in marketing. Below are several overarching study abroad marketing strategies with direct examples of how to grab students’ attention.
Put a backpack on and grab your laptop…we’re going back to school!
How to market a study abroad program
1. Utilize your participants
Your participants are the key to your marketing. Students who major in journalism, design, visual communications, film production, and graphic design are perfect potential content marketing creators for your programs.
Give a current student who majors in strategic communications a chance to take over your program’s social media for the day and do a story of what “a day in the life” of a student studying abroad in Peru looks like.
You can create projects for students to submit. For example, have students submit 100 edited photos ranging from what a campus in Prague looks like, to photos of the bustling streets of Bangalore, India.
Ask students who have experience in videography to put together three 45 second videos from a fun weekend surfing in Costa Rica, to a day on campus. Reward both projects with a travel-inspired incentive like noise-canceling headphones.
Your applicants are within the generation that knows social media best. In fact, some of them have thousands of followers and have excellent skills in photo and video, but we’ll talk more about that below.
2. On-campus marketing
Here’s your second gold mine that you’re sitting on: your alumni. Your alumni are your secret recruiting weapons. One of the most effective means of marketing is WOM, or Word of Mouth Marketing, and your alumni are your WOM marketing allies.
It’s simple—humans trust humans that recommend things. How many restaurants or coffee shops have you tried because a friend posted a perfectly-framed photo of some avocado toast and a latte on Instagram?
Well, your alumni are those friends taking photos of toast that you suddenly want to try…so to speak. And they’re your powerhouse. Here are four on-campus study abroad recruitment strategies that your program alumni can spearhead.
Tabling. Incentivize alumni to set up a table and sign during campus events or bustling hours like lunch. Simply creating a relaxed environment for students to get easily accessible information is an easy and effective recruitment strategy. Signs that draw your attention such as, “WANT TO TAKE YOUR STUDIES TO ITALY? ASK ME HOW”, are a perfect way to start a conversation.
Unique pamphlets and posters. Some may say paper advertising is phasing out, but we say not when it’s appealing to current trends! Have alumni hang posters around campus and distribute pamphlets that make students laugh, take them by surprise, or grab their attention. Pro tip: A successful study abroad advertisement doesn’t look like a study abroad advertisement.
For example: Hang a poster in the library that says “Same s*** different country” with a photo of a student looking through his or her notes resting in a hammock on the beach. (This is a commonly used slang phrase by college students everywhere, and it even has its own acronym—SSDD.)
Connections. Offer connections that cater to your audience. If you have the budget, pay for alumni to take students interested in studying abroad to coffee or offer incentives. For example, start a competition among your alumni over who can market to the most potential recruits; whoever talks to the most students wins a bluetooth speaker.
Class visits. Have alumni ask professors if they can share a short video or announcement before class. Alumni can share a clip from their study abroad experience and share a personal note about how it impacted them as well as where to get more information. Oh, and of course have students follow your company on instagram!
3. Social media is your hook
Social media is the force behind how to promote study abroad after you’ve got students interested. It ties all of your strategies together—the minute you get students thinking, “hmmm should I go abroad?” hit them with your social media. That’s your hook after tabling, classroom talks, posters and pamphlets.
Once students give you a follow, it’s only a matter of time before they’re choosing a program. Surveys show that the majority of people use instagram when choosing their next travel destination, so having a high-quality Instagram is a crucial strategy of study abroad advertising.
Micro-influencers. Don’t be scared—this trending marketing concept can sound intimidating, but establishing relationships with micro-influencers can be simple and incredibly rewarding.
Do some research and find current or past participants who have between two and five thousand followers on Instagram and reach out to them. You can reward influencers with travel-related incentives like a Fujifilm Instax polaroid camera, or a gift card to Patagonia in exchange for five posts over the course of a month and 10 stories that advertise your company or a specific program.
Blogging. A lot of students already blog their experiences abroad so utilize their content! It can be a near self-sustaining platform. This provides a personal platform where students can share deep experiences they’ve had abroad.
Blogs also helps with your visibility online and are a great study abroad advertising tool. So do some research and incorporate strategic keywords.
4. Attack stereotypes and highlight the positives
Don’t be afraid of attacking the negative head on. Showcase why students don’t think studying abroad is possible and prove them wrong. Addressing the negative is a strong marketing strategy for student recruitment.
Most stereotypes are easy to attack. Disproving the common misconceptions and educating students on why study abroad is possible for everyone will open up a new realm of students.
For example, here’s the most common stereotype: “Studying abroad is way too expensive, and I don’t think I can afford it.”
Use this exact sentence and advertise the various options that make studying abroad more affordable. Create an Instagram post that says, “Studying abroad is way too expensive, and I don’t think I can afford it.” Attach the caption, “Swipe right for why studying abroad is affordable and for various solutions to the pricetag!”
The image after this one might state, “Financial aid can still be utilized when you study abroad.” The photo after that can say, “We award over a million dollars in scholarships every year.”
Make a list of the most common stereotypes, strategies, and attack them!
Also highlight what makes each program UNIQUE. Showcase cool features of each program and it will attract participants suitable for each destination. For example, highlight joining a soccer team in India, the surf club in Australia, or attending rugby games in South Africa.
Good study abroad marketing strategies will get you more students!
Study abroad recruitment strategies come down to knowing who you are speaking to and effectively communicating with them. Once you realize what students do daily, how they consume information, and what they enjoy, all you have to do is cater your message to those answers.
We’ve got you started, but keep up with trends, pay attention to the student realm, and react. That’s all it takes. So start creating some out of the box posters, and look into some of your creative-based applicants and reach out to them. Before you know it your programs will be attracting all kinds of new students!