Chelsea Samantha

Segmenting and targeting international students


With so much diversity in interests, goals and needs across students around the world, higher education institutions (HEI) are faced with the challenge of effectively engaging thousands of students at scale.  

Segmentation lies at the heart of every successful marketing initiatives by allowing higher education institutions to gain a deep understanding of their prospective students and tailor their messaging accordingly.  

Creating content that is relevant for international students is critical during the consideration stage of their journey. ‘We are no longer looking to randomly expose or gain impressions in our marketing strategy, but how to answer the right questions of the right target audience. How to get in the minds of prospective students and micro-target them’ said Omid Feyli, Head of Marketing and Recruitment at Tilburg University. 

 Importance of student personas 

One exercise that can be helpful in developing such personalised communication strategy is the student persona, where students are grouped based on their behavioural, demographic and psychological characteristics. Creating these fictional representations of different student groups can allow institutions to deepen their understanding of their students’ motivations and behaviours as well as improving target their marketing efforts. 

Universities can create realistic student personas by gathering information through surveys and interviews on various factors such as academic background, degree level, location, discipline of interest, discipline-making style and financial resources. Aside from that, knowing the different challenges and ambitions that students have can help strengthen the personas. 

Through surveys and interviews, universities can create realistic student personas by answering questions related to the students’ academic background, degree level, geographic, discipline of interest, decision-making style and financial resources. Aside from those, survey questions can also include those surrounding students’ challenges, ambitions, and information channels.  

Under our intelligence reports, you can find a more in-depth guide on how to build student personas and download a free template to create your first one.  

Impact of segmenting & targeting international students  

Segmentation and targeting can be especially powerful strategies in achieving not just geographic diversification, but also academic diversification. After the audience has been segmented, institutions can target students by using various tools such as CRM and automated email campaigns.  

Precisely segmenting and targeting students can help universities increase the conversion rate of their marketing campaigns by catering to their identified specific market segments with the right messaging. It could also potentially save a lot of wasted marketing efforts.  

Robert Balan, Web Content Manager at Studyportals, says that moving away from a one-size-fits-all communication style can go a long way in building engagement with prospective students throughout various touchpoints of their journey: “International students are very enthusiastic about their plans to study abroad, but many of them face various challenges, limitations, or doubts along the way. To address these issues properly and offer the right support, universities need to remain open-minded and experiment with different methods and tools in order to better understand their future alumni.” 


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