Chaired by Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine, the panel featured a range of digital marketing experts: Richard Bradford, Managing Director of Disquiet Dog; Walter Denz, Owner of Liden & Denz Intercultural Institute of Languages; Vitaly Radsky, Account Manager at Studyportals; and Benjamin Waxman, CEO of International Education Advantage.
Walter advised how Liden & Denz has used students and interns to produce digital content to keep the school's website optimised and make content authentic and readable. He said more than 1,000 blogs had been written by 35 interns.
On digital relations with agents, Walter advised that schools should integrate channel partners when students arrive at the school, and said that Liden & Denz produces exclusive co-branded content for agents to push through their own websites and social media channels.
Content is key was the message from Richard of Disquiet Dog, a digital consultancy focused on the international education industry, and staff should be used to create this.
He advised that content is the way that language travel companies can create alignment with the search landscape of what clients are looking for and how they look for it. He also emphasised that the website should remain at the core of digital strategies, as this is where the majority of content is accessed and transactions take place, and said that it shouldn't necessarily matter what channel bookings come from, as long as schools are generating interest and business with their content.
He also encouraged language schools to work with agents that had a high google ranking in their own territories.
Vitaly Radsky of search platform Studyportals urged schools and agents to utilise analytics to track site visitors all the way through to conversion into a sale. He also urged providers to check their platforms through the eyes of a student to ensure information is provided at the right time and that there is a clear path towards the booking decision.
Creating individual personas for customers works effectively in the highly targeted digital world, said Benjamin Waxman of International Education Advantage, a digital strategy consultancy, urging companies to then create a scene to make those clients interested.
He also advised agents to develop a client relationship plan for each language school that they represent, in order to help them understand programmes and target their digital marketing accordingly.
Haitam Giat, CEO and Founder of Yes Atlas agency in Turkey, was unable to attend the session, but provided tips for schools from the agency perspective, including building strong relationships with agency counsellors through social media, and adapting to mobile technology as around 80 per cent of students from the Arab region search for courses on their phones initially.
Prior to the tips and panel discussions, Matthew presented data on recruitment channels from the language school, agency and student perspectives, based on StudyTravel Magazine's regular surveys.
He reported that in the last six years, the share of students recruited directly via websites had increased in six of 13 language destinations, but agents remained the largest channel in almost all destinations. Spain, France and Italy had the highest ratios of direct recruitment, he said.
From regular surveys of language students in 12 major destinations, the number of students booking a course through an agent is 13 per cent higher on average than those that initially find a course through an agent, he added.
In terms of agents sourcing clients, Matthew advised that Germany, Korea and Japan were the only source countries that reported websites as the most successful recruitment method, based on StudyTravel Magazine's agency surveys over the last four years, with most others citing 'word-of-mouth' as the largest channel.
Jan Capper, Executive Director of IALC, said, "This was one of two seminars at IALC 2017 that overran because everyone in language travel wants to understand the key drivers of change in our sector. There's huge interest in digital marketing and online booking platforms, and we'll have more talks and discussions on these topics at future IALC Workshops."
She added, "Our five digital specialists made online marketing clearer and more accessible to language travel businesses of all sizes."
By Matthew Knott