Post-secondary institutions across Canada want to attract students from a wide range of countries, both to ensure a diverse student population and reduce the risk of relying on a single nation.

However, there’s a huge challenge for university international marketing teams: How do you tap a number of markets in a cost-effective way?

For Karlee Jones, Manager of International Strategy at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, the answer is to combine on-campus marketing expertise with the country-specific knowledge offered by HEM Education Marketing Solutions.

The result is a partnership that has increased the number of leads generated through paid advertising campaigns in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the UAE, Vietnam, Jamaica, Ghana and Nigeria.

Laurier has about 21,000 students – with about six percent being international. Jones says international students are critical to the institution’s thriving community and strategic goals of creating a culture of engagement and reciprocal community relationships. This makes each international student enrolment important.

Laurier places ads on Meta platforms in the target countries. Leveraging HEM’s expert knowledge of international markets, the ads can even be narrowed to focus on specific cities to ensure the biggest bang for the buck. In addition to social media, Laurier advertises on Google – its ads appear when a student searches for “university study in Canada” or a similar phrase.

HEM offers comprehensive knowledge to help Laurier attract students. This can include advice on building a campaign, choosing advertising channels and which educational programs to pitch in each country.

Currently, international students are most interested in studying business and science at Laurier. In the last couple of years, health-related programs are generating an uptick in applications.

Jones has been international marketing manager for the past year, but the HEM partnership has been in full swing for five years.

“I inherited this partnership, and I am very grateful for HEM because of their vast expertise in the international marketing space,” Karlee Jones says.

Most importantly, the HEM and Laurier teams work together to ensure that the campaigns are generating results.

“We meet online every two weeks to evaluate the campaigns and to see if any sectors are not performing to expectations. If so, we look at what adjustments should be made or whether we can redirect those advertising funds elsewhere.”

“It’s essential that we keep our fingers on the pulse of the campaigns,” Jones says. “We want to be continuously monitoring and making changes – rather than a ‘set it and forget it’ approach.”

HEM provides Laurier with a dashboard chock full of analytics. It tells Jones the number of clicks, cost per click and the number of conversions, defined by Laurier as leads where a student provides their contact information so that staff can start a conversation with them.

“There are a lot of steps between lead generation and actually enrolling in university – we regard these campaigns as vital first steps,” Jones says.

The university plans to continue working with HEM Education Marketing Solutions. “We receive excellent value-added and the HEM team always responds to our questions within 24 hours,” Jones says.

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