China is a very huge marketplace with a lot of opportunities. The country is big and people of different areas have not the same habits and expectations. To be effective in this market, you need to think big and to have an in-depth knowledge of the education market and the Chinese students.
This knowledge will allow you to set up a good approach to touch your student target and also their parents, who have more impact in the education life of their kid than in other countries all over the world. Chinese parents are the real buyers. Chinese students are only the purchase prescribers and have not a lot of power in the decision when it’s a question of study in a country.
From my experience of the Chinese education market, for few years, abroad studies and international schools gain in awareness and reputation. We are in front of a huge change in Chinese society and Chinese lifestyle. China is opening the door of globalization and more and more people decided to cross this unknown bridge to see what’s going on abroad.
MARKETING TO CHINA AGENCY
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It’s now your turn to take your piece of the cake and develop the visibility and the reputation of your school in China. This guide is here to help you to understand the education market in China and also to give you some keys of understanding to be effective.
Do not hesitate to consult our experts on the education market in China. They can help you to solve the issues you can meet and define together the good strategy to adopt to attract the attention of your potential students.
CHINESE EDUCATION MARKET
UNDERSTAND THE VALUES AND ISSUES OF CHINESE EDUCATION SYSTEM
The Chinese education system is very different than the others. Chinese children start school at 6 years old. They have 6 years of primary school and then three years of junior middle school. After these 9 years, they can continue for 3 more years of senior middle school to complete their education.
The Chinese education system is the most reputed in the world. It’s also the highest-ranked education system. Many western countries want to introduce a part of this system in their own academic system.
However, if this system leads to students with a high level of knowledge, it’s also a very competitive and demanding system that meets more and more troubles and starts to be called into question.
A HEAVY WORKLOAD
In average, Chinese students spend 8.5 hours in class. They start the day at 7:30 am and finished at 4 pm with two hours of lunch break and naptime. I know that you are thinking that it’s similar to your own education system. But unfortunately, that’s not all… After class, Chinese students have also tutoring hours class. Nothing mandatory, but, very poorly looked if your child doesn’t attend to this tutoring class. In addition, it’s better if you want to give all the chance of success to your lovely only child.
The school program in China is really heavy. It is impossible for teachers to cover all the program published by the Chinese government during the class hours. That’s why most of the students have tutoring class in mathematics, literature, English, chemistry, and physics in order to reduce the lack of time. The day of the Chinese students is not finished, they also have a lot of homework to do.
A student day in China starts at 6 am and finishes really between 10 pm and 11 pm, even for young children. During all day, they work at school and after, they have to do their homework for the next day.
They have only 2 periods of holidays: 4 weeks off in winter and 7 weeks off in summer.
If it were necessary to summarize the Chinese education system in a few words, it could be: Work, Work, Work.
Do all these hours of work are really effective or not? If you ask a former Chinese student, each time, you can observe that their smile fade only by evocating this years of studies.
No times are scheduled for Chinese students to do another thing than working.
They don’t have time to do other activities such as sports, spend time with friends or family, play games, watch movies or do social activities.
Analyses show that Chinese students are the best when it comes to theory and knowledge but when it comes to application and experiments, western students are more efficient.
Finally, after 9 years of school such hard, lots of students drop out school because they no longer can bear the school pressing.
ACADEMIC SUCCESS BEFORE ALL
Chinese students have to be competitive on all fields of study. In China, ranking and academic success are an obsession. You have to be the first and the best, in order to make your country and your parents proud. Best students are greatly congratulated, they have priced and acknowledgment whereas, the students in difficulty are left out.
The achievement is really an obsession in China. Students learn many things but without understanding anything. The only goal: be the first.
A SYSTEM WITH A BIG LACK OF CREATIVITY
The Chinese education system doesn’t encourage creativity. The program is so heavy that teachers don’t encourage creativity and don’t let the students ask questions. Anyhow, Chinese students have so many things to learn that they don’t try to be creative, they only try to remember all for the next tests.
Even if they will be allowed to ask question, none Chinese students will ask something. It’s a cultural fact, ask question in China is considered like a lack of knowledge. None student wants to show his lack of knowledge.
A SOCIETY IN FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION
Now with a growing middle class, important disposable incomes and higher standards of living, China is making the transition to a more mature development model. The Chinese state is focusing more on creative innovation, domestic business, services and skilled labor. The wealthier families investing in education to meet this new future perspective.
Due to the long-term effects of the «one-child policy», China is struggling with an aging population. However, to counter this, the laws have been changed, parents can now have two children without incurring any state fines. Out of the 1.37 billion citizens in China, 17% are between the age of 0 and 14, this equates to approximately 230 million requiring education. The parents of almost a quarter of a billion children are on average significantly wealthier than 10-20 years ago, spending on education has therefore increased to become the most precious commodity in a fiercely competitive market.
The « one child policy » also acted as an incentive for parents to invest heavily in their children’s education. The official party slogan was “one child but of better quality”. The culture of pooling together family resources for their children’s educational development remains prevalent.
NEW WEALTH BUT BETTER INVESTED
Chinese families prioritize spending in education ahead of any other area, even above real estate and retirement savings. The McKinsey Global Institute projects the country to spend 12.5% of its overall consumption growth on education for those under 30 over the next 15 years.
In addition to these figures according to ICEF Monitor, almost half of a Chinese 20-year-old’s per capita consumption is spent on education, to put this into perspective for an American student this is less than a quarter. These expenditures are significant and set to continue to rise with the burgeoning Chinese middle class.
CHANGING SCHOOL STANDARDS AND SCHOOL EXPECTATIONS
The Chinese education system is very hard. Lots of frustration born of that education system where children have no time to share moments with family or friends, do sports or activities. Also due to the « one-child policy » and the increase of incomes, parents want better for their children and also want to preserve them of a system of which they suffered.
The Chinese education system is called into question, that’s why abroad studies are more and more chosen in China.
THE CHINESE EDUCATION MARKET: A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR FOREIGN SCHOOLS
As stated above, more and more Chinese parents prefer send their children abroad to study. The Western education system is also very reputed in China, that’s why it attracts Chinese parents.
The Western education system is known to generate more accomplish students who are more creative and independent thinkers whereas most Chinese students are considered to be hard-working, persistent, and deep thinkers but without creative spirits.
If you are an international school, you can offer a whole system with Chinese qualifications combine with western values to succeed in the Chinese market.
I will explain to you why Chinese parents and Chinese students now prioritize foreign studies. Some criteria became very important for Chinese people when we talk about studies and skills. China is changing and the job market too, Chinese students need to be prepared.
THE EMPHASIS ON ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING
Today, speak English is paramount. English is now compulsory in all schools in China, which has generated the increase of further private English schools and classes. It has also acted as a conduit for the connection with native-speaking schools, establishments, and courses. The English tutoring business, both online and in terms of face-to-face lessons is currently in vogue with the Chinese looking to ‘top up’ their English skills.
For Chinese people, English language learning became the priority, that’s why Chinese students study more and more in English-speaking countries.
AN ABROAD EDUCATION IS BETTER FOR YOUR RESUME
Parents know that on the resume of their children, an abroad experience will make the resume better. Besides, Chineses want to experience western cultures.
Before Chinese students preferred English-speaking countries such as Australia, the United States, United Kingdom but today, other non-English-speaking countries are also appreciated like France, Italy, Spain, Germany…
ABROAD STUDIES LEAD TO MANY GOOD JOB OPPORTUNITIES
After graduation in a foreign country, Chinese students have more chances to be employed abroad. Abroad studies create a lot of new job opportunities. Students can have a better lifestyle and make more money than if they stay in China.
EDUCATION REFLECTS STATUS
International educations, particularly European, American and Australian are considered to be more innovative and creative than their Chinese counterpart. It is also part of a general trend. The Chinese have become more open-minded to foreign services.
Chinese society is highly competitive and education has become a key way to mark one’s status and level of achievement in a society obsessed with the Chinese notion of ‘face’. That is important placed on being seen as accomplishing by a social group.
An international education reflects this status and is fundamentally associated with quality. The discerning Chinese citizen has often been let down by poorer Chinese standards by their eyes, a foreign education is increasingly the answer to this new expectation.
MORE YOUNG LEARNERS
The Chinese state last year lifted the « one-child policy », parents can now have two children without being penalized. This could effectively double the number of young learners in a wealthier society preoccupied with quality education.
Estimates suggest in the next two years 150 million children will be born.
The phenomenon of the « little emperor » is worth mentioning. As a result of the «single child policy» two sets of grandparents and parents, all focused their attention on a single baby. As a result, you have a whole generation growing up with more funds invested into their education and a focus on the famous slogan: «one child but of better quality». This has helped the education market grow with whole families investing collectively into their children’s future.
I hope you understand better why the Chinese education market is a good opportunity for your foreign schools. You need to highlight some criteria in order to convince your future students. Some points are more important for Chinese parents and students when they are choosing a school.
THE REPUTATION OF YOUR SCHOOL
If you want to attract Chinese students, your school has to be popular and well know. When they start looking for a school, the Chinese spend a lot of time doing research on Baidu to find the best school. In China, more than in other countries, information is crucial. It’s a requirement. All your information has to be clear, easy to find, and visible.
If your school is not really famous, you need to make sure to have a perfect e-reputation. Trust is important for Chinese consumers.
YOUR COUNTRY IS ALSO CONSTITUTING AN ADHESION CRITERIA
Some destinations are more appreciated by Chinese students. This is the case of the United States, one of the most popular destinations in the world. Why? Because, if you look at rankings, American schools are the most reputed in the world.
Chinese parents also foster countries where they have family because they are more reassured. Your school has to be in a safe country because China is a very safe country. People are not used to have safe troubles. Parents will reject to send their children to a dangerous country. That’s also why they prefer countries where they have family members.
A COUNTRY WITH A CHINESE COMMUNITY CAN BE A PLUS
After looking where your school is located, Chinese people will focus on your city. Some cities are more popular because they have lots of very good schools. But Chinese families also prefer cities where a Chinese community life.
America is the favorite destination of Chinese students with San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver… These cities are really appreciated because of their huge Chinese communities. Parents are less anxious if their children can live in a Chinese community.
Parents are very anxious about western students who are reputed to do a lot of parties, drink, and smoke a lot. They want to preserve their children of this bad penchant.
But, some students, contrary, don’t want to go to schools where you have already a lot of Chinese. They want to improve their English and to integrate a new culture.
THE RANKING OBSESSION IN CHINA
In China, ranking is one of the most important criteria. Your school has to appear in the first places of international school ranking if you want to attract Chinese students.
Before starting any procedure, they will search on international rankings if your school is on the top.
SCHOOL FEES ARE NOT REALLY A PROBLEM IN CHINA
Many Chinese students study abroad because their families have more income than 10 or 20 years before.
Today, Chinese families are able to pay more for better studies. They want to invest their money in a good place. In fact, money is not really a problem for these families who can send their children abroad.
They will first look to find the best ranking school and after they will think about school fees question.
Besides, students are often able to apply for scholarships or financial aids.
HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR FOREIGN SCHOOL IN CHINA
How can you capitalize on these changing attitudes?
You need to develop a positive reputation and increase your visibility on the Chinese internet. It is a very different market because of the « Great Chinese firewall », this has basically cut the online sphere in China off from the rest of the web.
Therefore in order to be successful and generate student leads you to need to be active online and use the best Chinese platforms. Adaptation is the key.
THE EQUATION IS A SIMPLE ONE :
VISIBILITY + REPUTATION
STUDENT RECRUITMENT BEGINS ONLINE
China now boasts a 65% online penetration rate with some 900 million « netizens » online. Chinese society has embraced digital and the web with a fervor rarely found anywhere else. Users are spending on average 3 hours per day browsing online and will research extensively for abroad education opportunities.
The « Great Chinese Firewall » had resulted in a completely unique online eco-system when it comes to student recruitment. Activities have to be tailored to Chinese-specific platforms.
A QUALITY CHINESE WEB PAGE
A quality mandarin version of your website is necessary. Have a mandarin website allows you to optimize your SEO for search engines. For a better SEO and a faster loading, your website also needs to be hosted on a local server in China (.cn).
The site also needs to be optimized for Mandarin character searches and should include QR links to your WeChat page.
All sites in China need to be optimized for mobile as the vast majority of online users browse on their smartphones, there are now 550 million smartphones in China. Mobile content can also be optimized for Wechat China’s largest social network (more on this later..)
Content on the site needs to be created in Mandarin within the mind that you are talking to a Chinese reader.
Ask yourself some key questions:
- How do you cater to the Chinese student?
- What sets you apart as an institution that involves and integrates international students?
- How will the Chinese boost their opportunities by studying with you internationally?
INFLUENCING THE RANKING OF YOUR FOREIGN INSTITUTION
China’s « Google » is Baidu. A giant that presides over 75% of the search engine market. It is thus vital to increase the ranking of your school on this platform.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that works to rank a University or College’s official website in the natural search results over time. This is where the highest quality student prospects are found. Parents (often the decision-makers) will extensively browse through Baidu results based on keyword searches.
The other 25% are mainly through Sogou & So.com. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is one of the best tools to recruit Chinese students.
You can also complete this approach with PPC (Pay Per Click) ads which appear at the top of the news feed. However, the most serious student prospects will contact you through the natural search results.
Do SEO and be effective it’s not easy. It’s better to work with an agency specialized in SEO. SEO can be expensive and very long if you don’t know how to do it.
GROWING YOUR ACADEMIC REPUTATION & COMMUNICATION ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Coverage on China’s top social media platforms is vital for attracting Chinese students. There are over 850 million users on Wechat (an amazing Chinese mix between Facebook and Whatsapp) and over 300 million on Weibo (akin to Twitter but better).
Social Media in China are arguably the most active in the world with an average use of 50 minutes per day browsing.
Your institution needs to be present on social media with an Official Account set up that can be linked to a « microsite ». Having an Official Account is essential in China. When you will start to create your Official Account on social media platforms, they will ask you for a lot of information. This information allows the social media platform to confirm that you are the original brand and no an impostor. When you, finally are accepted, Chinese users know that you are the real one and they can trust you.
WeChat fondly called the « WeChat Times » because so much information is sourced via this app whilst Weibo is the most « open network » in China and great for high visibility posts, users can see content posted from anyone. It’s not necessary to be connected first to follow content.
For example, on Wechat you can add parents and students into group chats to answer academic or student life-related queries. Offering these kinds of services to Chinese students will set you apart. This communication line would typically be managed by a Chinese student liaison officer internally.
The key with social networks is to have daily interaction with prospective students and parents, share content and grow your following. Ad campaigns drive growth and quality content results in prospective students contacting you. The demographic of Wechat is generally older so more for your students’ parents (i.e the Decision Makers) who are active here.
BE PRESENT FOR YOUR FUTURE STUDENTS ON FORUMS
Educational forums are popular in China, people will visit research education options and discuss with others, the Chinese still have this more collective mindset, they need to validate their choices with other like-minded prospects.
In addition, they trust more the advice of their peers than the schools.
The best forums for education are Baidu Tieba, Zhozhui, and QQ.
Another interesting point is that these forums are very visible in China. This is important as forums will often appear before an official website in the natural results of Baidu.
In western countries, we think that forums as outdated but in China, they are still very important for online research and decision-making.
MANAGE YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION TO GAIN IN TRUST
Reputation is an important criteria in China. Chinese students and parents will pay attention to your e-reputation. The good attitude is to promote positive comments and threads on social platforms and forums in order to manage the reputation of your business.
The institutions regarded as the best amongst Chinese students are the ones in which their friends, family, and web users have experienced first-hand. Ensuring the delivery of good quality education will result in positive feedback amongst social circles thus bolstering and strengthening the reputation of your institution.
EDUCATION INFLUENCERS CAN HELP YOU
Usually, call KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) in China, these are people who have built up a significant following online and are highly influential. Recruiting an influencer to represent your institution from a prestigious academic background in China is expensive but allows you to tap into a large base of followers. Key Opinion Leaders are more effective in China because users tend to be more impressionable, they highly value the status of such individuals.
WHO WE ARE & HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
Devising the right strategy for this market is therefore the key. We are a specialist agency with a wealth of experience in Student Recruitment. We worked with a lot of foreign schools to develop their attraction in China.
WE ARE SEO EXPERTS
Did you find our competitors on Google? Yes, I know. You only find our agency. We are experts in SEO and it’s easy to demonstrate to you that.
On all topics we deal with, we are the first on the Google and Baidu pages and only with natural search results.
We never paid for Google advertising. The sponsored links (SEM) are the links you can find on the top of the research or on the right side. This website paid Google to be here.
We don’t need to pay because we know how to tame Google’s algorithm. We can help you to find natural solutions without spending all your money on SEO.
WE ARE PROFESSIONALS OF THE LEAD GENERATION
We are the only agency in Shanghai that doesn’t need to prospect. We don’t call clients and try to convince them to work with us. Clients call us.
Because they find a lot of information about our services and know that we have a lot of solutions to offer. We worked with a lot of schools and colleges, we have a lot of case studies that demonstrate our expertise.
WE UNDERSTAND THE FINAL CUSTOMER
After more than 8 years dedicated to the improvement of many brands in China, yes, we know the final customers of all markets. We understand the expectation of Chinese consumers. What kind of platforms they use and why. This knowledge makes the difference between an expert agency and a basic one.
WE SPECIALIZE IN
- Website Creation, Development & Auditing
- Baidu Search Engine Optimization
- WeChat & Weibo Content Marketing
- Reputation Management & Alumni Community Development.
- Public Relations & Exposure in Chinese E-Media.
- Analytics, monthly reports & analysis from our team of experts.
We are a digital agency, which means that we are specialized in digital. We don’t do everything, but the things we do are very good.
We are also a result oriented agency. Our goal is to meet our objectives and push them to be better than the average.
A DYNAMIQUE AND NATIVE TEAM
We are a young, vibrant, and creative team of 42 people. We are Chinese natives and foreigners.
That’s why we are effective because we understand the Chinese consumers and this complex market where everybody wants to introduce his business.
And we also understand the foreign brand’s needs and their difficulties. That’s why you can trust in our expertise.
We are a friendly team, we offer coffee if you come to discuss your project in China.
And trust me… our coffee is really good 🙂
I know that you can think we are a bit too self-confident.
We have proofs to demonstrate our honesty and expertise, we are transparent with our clients because we think it’s the key of a successful business relationship.
For the education market, we worked for many schools, to help them promote their reputation in China.
Lots of our competitors decided to launch their agency on the Chinese market because it’s a lucrative market, but they don’t really understand the final customers.
We are here for more than 8 years and passionate about the Chinese market, we are experts in marketing in China, that why we are competitive.
OUR EXPERIENCE: OUR CASE STUDY
ACCADEMIA DEL LUSSO
Accademia Del Lusso (ADL) is the School of Fashion & Design, located at Monte Napoleone, in the heart of Milan’s fashion district. It’s courses in Fashion, Design, and Luxury Style are delivered to students ranging from high school graduates to career professionals. The institute received the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ and ‘Prestigious Fashion Profession’ awards in 2007 in Milan.
The school in Milan called on our agency to attract Chinese students because they wanted to expand internationally into China, the most interesting student market in the world.
THE INSTITUTIONS OBJECTIVES IN CHINA
Accademia Del Lusso was set to open its first branch in China and sought to grow its reputation both as a new fashion school in the country and as an overseas option for international students.
Their passion is to find and nurture top talent in Fashion and Design through exporting their rigorous academic style and high standards to their new China branch. Their goal was to apply the fashion-conscious focus of their Milan base to this new location in the orient.
They needed a local partner in China who understood the student lead generation market. That’s why they started a business relationship with Gentlemen because of our years of experience and successful projects in attracting Chinese students.
WHAT WERE THE RESULTS?
We generated 50 leads per month of interested students requesting more information about the school’s new branch in China as well as courses at their Milan flagship location. This is a significant result considering the school was largely invisible in this market before they began this digital marketing campaign.
Accademia Del Lusso also became a top search result on Baidu with 10 000 visitors per month driven to their website. This was highly qualified traffic and led to a large ‘buzz’ about the opening of their China branch, establishing the school as the leading Italian Fashion & Design institution in China.
GET IN TOUCH
Devising the right strategy for this market is therefore the key.
We are a specialist agency with a wealth of experience in Student Recruitment.
For information please contact our experts for an in-depth discussion.