Mastering the Russian market: common mistakes and practical advice

Russia is a country of big opportunities for educational institutions all over the world due to its size, variety of cultures and traditions, and growing interest in study abroad. When entering the Russian market, what should education providers expect? What common mistakes should they avoid and how they can they effectively tackle this burgeoning market?

These issues were addressed at the recent ICEF Moscow Workshop, where hundreds of educators from approximately 30 countries around the world met quality student recruitment agents from Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus. During one of the market intelligence sessions that preceded the Workshop meetings, the Association of Russian Educational Advisors (AREA) presented research conducted among reputable agencies and foreign institutions that have experience recruiting in Russia. The research results and proposed marketing tips reveal the trends of the educational market and offer suggestions for future development.

AREA was founded in 2007 and has 23 member agencies from six different cities, the majority of which have more than nine years of experience in the industry and send more than 200 students abroad each year (see our video below with Dr. Anna Ryzhova, AREA Board Member, for additional background on AREA’s activities and the benefits for both agencies and education providers).

Andrei Arsentev, AREA Board Member and Marketing Director/Co-owner of Intellectual Education Abroad Consultancy, explained, “The Russian market is quite different and you need to work out a strategy specific to it… it’s different from other markets and requires its own unique approach and dedicated personnel. You must be prepared, and gain plenty of market knowledge in advance.”

Russia is the largest country in the world and home to over 143 million people. “There is so much competition here; it’s a huge market. And because of its size there are plenty of opportunities for providers to gain business here, but you must stand out,” Arsentev noted.

“When presenting to agents or potential students, stick to the key selling points that your school is offering. Don’t try to stress it all, choose your key strengths.”

How agencies choose foreign institutions

AREA also presented findings from recent surveys which revealed key factors agencies consider when partnering with schools. Results revealed the following (in order of importance):

  • feedback from previous clients
  • membership in professional associations
  • level of commission
  • location of the centre
  • recommendations from colleagues
  • safety
  • accreditation of the study programmes
  • employment rating
  • price of the programme(s) for the clients
  • entrance requirements and their flexibility, possibility of credits transfer
  • diversity of the programmes

Stay on track with good marketing practices

When marketing in Russia, AREA cautions new entrants to avoid some of these common mistakes:

  • Slow replies to agent or student enquiries
  • Not learning or adjusting to Russian market peculiarities
  • Asking for students straight away
  • Aggressive or poor quality marketing
  • Lack of technology in marketing efforts (i.e. no YouTube, Twitter, Facebook accounts)
  • Lack of flexibility when solving clients’ problems
  • Lack of flexibility when adjusting the course for the student
  • Lack of availability and course updates
  • Not coming to Russia or when coming to Russia, not visiting the office
  • Mistakes in visa support documents

Achieving student recruitment goals

Arsentev ran through several key things providers need to do in order to increase the number of students a school receives. Above all he says, “Flexibility is essential.”

Furthermore, when building and maintaining the relationship with agent(s), Arsentev suggests to go beyond the norm. The agent is the voice of a school, so providers should not forget that the more open their communication channels are with agents, the better they can represent that school to potential customers. He stressed that schools must be open and honest with agents, and maintain frequent communication.

Some additional advice includes:

  • Provide more marketing support to the agency (giving brochures in English, sharing videos and students’ testimonials, participating in promotions, events, etc.)
  • Have a full understanding of the visa procedures and payment policies
  • Quick response times to enquiries and applications
  • Implement full use of online booking and acceptance of electronic documents
  • Produce an Agent Manual with programmes offered, fees, detailed information on host families, scholarships/bursary schemes, etc.
  • Perform availability and courses updates on a regular basis

AREA benefits

Watch our video below with Dr. Anna Ryzhova, AREA Board Member, for additional background on AREA’s activities and the benefits for both agencies and education providers.

The session was given during last week’s ICEF Moscow Workshop – the region’s premier annual student recruitment networking event that provides international educators with the opportunity to meet quality agents from all parts of Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus.



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