Interview with Aaron Peltoniemi
Today, we’re taking you to Japan to present this November’s “Student Recruitment Team of the Month”! We want to share the experiences iCLA delivers to their students and share with you how they managed to recruit 50% of their cohort of students internationally.
To start, could you give us an outline of your student recruitment team and tell us more about your main responsibilities?
We are a small recruitment team. We have four team members covering the international market, and two team members who are in charge of the domestic market. My role is to assist the full team. I personally do not travel as much as the other two team members since I mainly focus on marketing and communication. I do a lot of online and email communication and I am also using social media platforms such as Goodwall or Facebook to respond to students’ enquiries. As for the domestic market, sometimes I visit high schools, here in Japan, or attend fairs where I can represent our college.
You mentioned that you have two teams, one focusing on domestic markets and the other on international markets. What are your ambitions for these markets?
Since we are an international college, we try our best to pull in an equal number of domestic and international students. Currently, we have 50 percent of students who are international and 50 percent Japanese. As for the International, we are trying to reach different countries, including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Students want to fully know their future university before enrolling. What do you think are the most effective touchpoints to engage with prospective students along their enrollment journey to better increase conversion?
Of course it’s important to be clear. To be able to communicate what you can offer students, such as main majors or scholarships, in a short and simple way. As most of us in our team have studied and worked in different countries and that our international students come from varying different countries, sometimes it’s difficult for them to imagine studying and living in Japan. So what I think is useful to talk about our own experience and really humanize the connection with students in referring back to our academic journey abroad. This also allows students to imagine their life at iCLA, particularly for those who have not yet made their decision and need more than digital content on a website to portray what their future student life can be.
With the student enrollment journey happening more and more online, universities essentially have only a few minutes to impress prospective students. How is iCLA succeeding in impressing prospective students and what role has Goodwall played to help you achieve this goal?
Long-lasting first impressions are very important. One thing that’s actually nice about Goodwall is that we can customize the messages that are sent to students. What I personally like is the chat layout so it removes any kind of formality. I think it’s very easy and natural for the students to chat and just ask questions about the university without typing out an email. Email takes time, you have to change settings, but Goodwall is very simple. You just type the message and enter. If I can respond quickly, I think it has a good impression because it shows that I care, it also helps them remember iCLA.
In the online aspect, something like Goodwall is very valuable. Facebook is useful too. When we physically meet students, we try to bring an emblem or symbol from Japan like a Samurai so students can see and feel a little bit of the traditional Japanese culture. We also like to share events and what’s going on in iCLA or to show what students are doing here. Again, it helps people imagine how it would be to study in iCLA.
Technology has become a critical element in order to reach, engage and recruit students globally. What do you think about integrating online student recruitment channels with offline channels? What impact has it had on your international student recruitment?
Integration is essential as it provides a more comprehensive understanding of the students we can find. With online activities we can see what I call the “digital self” of students and get some useful information about them before we meet them. However, when you meet students some of them might seem different compared to their “digital self,” so integrating both online and offline channels allows us to understand each student better; this is critical for us as we are doing a lot of recruiting activities.
We don’t need to recruit that many students every semester as we are a relatively small college. But we want well-rounded students both in academics and sports along with students who have understanding of other cultures. So integrating both channels helps us see students’ “digital self” and their “real-self” together, it’s really useful for us.
This semester, there are a few students who I originally started contacting only online. Later, when their family was traveling in Japan they stopped by to visit our school, which is a really nice way to connect with students. Now they are one of our students.
What are the factors that should be kept in mind to build a modern student recruitment strategy that delivers both great customer experience and enrollment.
I think there are 3 main factors.
The first factor that I think is the most important is “Considering the Audience”. The presentation (when you are meeting a person) and communication style (when it is online).
The next factor is “Knowing your Market”. What this really means is understanding a little bit about the language, culture, history and understanding the use of social media of a specific country. For instance in China, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all blocked. Google is blocked. So if you want to use social media, you need to know the Chinese culture as China is very strict in controlling the internet, so you use their forms of social media that they create in their country.
So the third factor would be “to be concise and provide relevant information” when sending information out by email or through digital advertising. The main reason for this is that there is so much information out there that it’s hard for people to remember. As a result you need to be very clear in your speech and summarize the USP of your university in a very short way while sounding attractive for students, so that it is easier for them to remember.
What are your predictions about international student recruitment for the next three to five years?
Based on people who have been working in student recruitment over the last 10 years and talking with them, I personally think there will be greater emphasis on using social media platforms and providing digital content. Updating content regularly with relevant information will, in my opinion, become really important for student recruitment in the next 3 years. Having video content about life at the university; students’ testimonies or even professors explaining the life at universities can be of great asset to attract students.