Austrade is an Australian Government agency that helps Australian businesses to expand overseas. It has a particular focus on international education, which is one of Australia’s biggest export industries.
Recently the Austrade office in Tokyo held a roundtable discussion with Japanese education agents to get their views on how Australian educational institutions can succeed in the Japanese market.
Scott Morriss, Trade Commissioner in Tokyo, released a short video summarising the outcomes. While his feedback is pitched at Australian educational institutions, it’s relevant to institutions in any of the main English speaking destination markets:
Top tips for working with Japanese education agents
The main tips and recommendations coming out of the roundtable meeting are relevant to all educational institutions that are looking to use education agents as a pathway into the Japanese market:
1. Frequent contact is critical.
- It is important to maintain frequent and effective contact with your education agents in Japan.
- Most Japanese education agents work with hundreds of education institutions around the world, so they need to understand your unique offerings and be motivated to continue a partnership with you.
- Engagement is best conducted face to face, at least twice per year.
- Participation in government or agent organised education exhibitions should be a priority. Face-to-face events are an important part of the marketing mix in Japan, particularly for promoting longer term courses.
The point about maintaining regular contact with agents is spot on. Without a rhythm of regular contact your education agent strategy is almost guaranteed to fail. Sure, face-to-face in-country visits with agents are important, but you also need a plan for engaging with your agents day-to-day so that your agents feel supported and, as a result, your institution stays top of mind.
Many educational institutions get the balance wrong. They invest a huge amount of money, time and effort to recruit new agents, without fully considering how to engage with those agents over the long term to build the relationship. Often the result is disappointment on both sides. The institution wonders why its new agents don’t send any students, and the agents wonder why the institution does not support them properly to promote its courses to potential students.
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2. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Value the relationship with your Japanese education agents and take a long term approach to developing relationships, including collaborative work on local promotional activities. Some agents mentioned that Australian institutions have a reputation of being transactional in nature, which fails to recognise the highly-competitive nature of the market.
3. Move beyond rankings.
- It is important for institutions to demonstrate a value proposition that goes beyond rankings. Agents mentioned that Australian universities rely too much on rankings-based value propositions.
- Agents said that their best partners are those that provide information that makes it easier to explain to students their institution’s point of difference – including positive stories about their placed students or alumni.
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