Resources for Educators who are recruiting and enrolling students from China in the USA.
Published On: Sat, May 23rd, 2015

Marketing in China (NOT CHEAP!)

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On a recent trip to China, I could sense something was different. As China’s growth is slowing down, marketing costs are going up. Gone are the days when you can ask your guanxi from media company to do a favor, give that person a kick back to give you the front page. Big brother is watching as part of the government’s anti-corruption campaign (especially in Shanghai and Beijing). However, since this has not stopped the numerous companies competing for a piece of the Chinese market (the world’s second largest consumer market next to USA’s), the costs for advertising and Search Engine Marketing (keyword search) are soaring! Simply opening an account on Baidu (China’s Google search engine) will set you back $1000USD. Good luck competing for keywords and search terms, especially against so many people. Most Chinese who have studied in the US and used Google say that there is a huge difference. When conducting a search on Baidu, most likely, the companies who have the deepest pockets will earn the highest rankings. This is very different from Google, which has paid advertising/SEM but most searches are based on how many people have searched or viewed the company and links related to that website. Even opening a WeChat group account for your company will cost minimum of $5000 a month to maintain. If you are new to the Chinese market, you are looking at spending millions if you include advertising. Especially if you use a global ad agency, you are paying for their expat salaries and foreign prices on top of what they will be charged by local media outlets. Be prepared for shelling out a lot of money on your marketing budget.

When I worked for English First 2006-2009 during the Beijing Olympics, I had to launch my Life Club and Career Services programs quickly and efficiently covering 4 cities and 20+ locations. We have very limited budget and time was against us. However, my team and I made it work. We employ tactics that involved PR to help English First establish a household brand in the Chinese marketplace.
I am now able to find a similar way for campuses who do not have an enormous budget for recruiting and marketing abroad especially when it comes to recruiting international students/students from China. If your campus is looking towards China for long term recruitment goals, then you definitely want to employ PR. However, Big Brother is watching so you have to understand local censorship rules.

If you would like to learn more, please contact or read my article on China Branding and Brand Protection

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