Running a digital campaign in India may sometimes prove to be an uphill task. Getting things right is important in a populous market; the classic ‘more quantity less quality’ outcome is what some universities encounter.
In this first part of the blog post, you’ll find five tips to craft successful series of campaigns. Stay alert for part 2, in which you will get tips regarding more granular points like targeting approaches, ad formats, platforms, and more.
1. India is the land of ‘many markets’
India is geographically vast. It is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world and home to 19500+ languages and dialects. Indians reside in 29 states, each with its unique languages, traditions, and religions. It’s no wonder then that student choice and behavior vary, as you move across the length and breadth of India.
Regional variations exist for aspects like student behavior, motivation, aspirations and mindsets.
2. Segmenting the market correctly is critical to your success
There are several approaches you can follow to segment India. For the sake of this discussion let us plot universities on a two-by-two matrix. On one axis we can differentiate in terms of the popularity of the study destination for Indian students. On the other, we can look at the absolute flow of international students from India to a specific university as either high or low.
Market Segmentation Approaches
Geo-based segmentation: Segment India into four zones, namely, North, South, East and West.
This method can be suitable for universities in Quadrant 1.
It is interesting to take note of the regional variations in India when it comes to ‘what drives India students.’ Please see the image below.
Students in North India are driven by prestige. Students in the South, by academic excellence. Students in East India are driven by art and culture whereas students in West India, are driven by value for money. Indian students pay a lot of emphasis to the program structure and the overall quality of the education offered. A few drivers like safety, affordability, and career support, cut across regions.
‘Home-based’ segmentation: Segment India to tier 1 cities, tier 2 cities and towns. This method would be suitable for universities in Quadrant 4. In this approach tier 1 cities would include metros across India.
‘Application-intensity-based’ segmentation: Segment India into zones based on the inflow of applications and students. Zones can be demarcated as either ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. This approach is suitable for universities in Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 3 (as both quadrants attract a good number of students). Applying this approach can be tedious and time-intensive, but the rewards may be well worth the effort.
Promote less popular programs in ‘hot’ cities, or market popular programs in ‘cold’ cities.
Should you mix and match different approaches and create a unique hybrid approach that works best for your university and status quo?
Are other universities in your region or location faring considerably better than you? What can you do differently?
3. Assisted Decision Making
Undergraduate students rely on their parents and financial sponsors way more than young adults in other markets. Parents have an exceptionally high degree of involvement in the education decisions their children make. Whilst they rely on the university shortlist their children assemble; the final choice is seldom made by children alone.
Are you crafting campaigns that are directed at parents?
If yes, are you communicating the points they value the most? (i.e., return on investment, safety, quality of the overall experience)
Post application, are you nurturing parents via targeted communication and community initiatives?
4. Using the ‘Less is More’ approach does not always work
We are bombarded with communication and expert advice that tells us – keep things brief, attention spans are limited, students will not take the effort to read long ad copies, students will not fill in lengthy lead forms.
When you follow the ‘less is more’ approach you may generate more leads and get a lower cost per lead. But that may not always work in your favor. What happens is that you contact students who may not remember taking a specific action or students who are just fishing for information at the surface level. Finding just about any student is easier than finding ones who can afford your program or students who are motivated to enroll for the right reasons.
Focus on actual outcomes – the number of meaningful conversations and the lead-to-application ratio. When you see things in that light, any measure you take to attract serious, engaged students, will work to your advantage.
I was speaking to the DreamApply team recently. They explained how DreamApply offers universities with a marketing toolset that allows users to make data-based decisions. To name a few, uni staff can manage leads, tag applicants coming from various marketing channels and analyse their efficacy, engage with students via customized bulk email campaigns, monitor campaign statistics, and much more.
Using relatively longer ad copies and asking users to submit one to two more data points in a lead form attracts more serious candidates. This approach may increase your cost per lead (CPL) but is likely to have a positive impact on the ‘cost per meaningful conversion (CPMC) and ultimately, the final campaign outcome.
In the awareness phase, can you use longer ad copies and ask users to submit more data points?
What would you communicate if you were not restricted by a short ad copy?
Should crisper ad copies and shorter lead forms be used for retargeting campaigns?
5. Improve lead quality by NOT highlighting scholarships
Do you communicate benefits like scholarships upfront? If yes, you are likely to attract many leads. The lead quality, however, may not be as good. The number of meaningful conversations from that lead pool is likely to be low.
Focus on outcomes and benefits in your ads instead (i.e., program structure, study outcomes, career outcomes, student life, grad employability, career support and the overall environment). Connect with the leads that come in and figure which ones are more engaged, more interested. Drive closure and conversion with scholarships and other tools at your disposal.
Which USPs are you highlighting in your digital campaigns?
Can you leverage scholarships more strategically?