Are you planning to start your own Study Abroad Consultancy?
If yes, you are about to enter a booming sector with lucrative business prospects. If things go well, the income of your Study Abroad Consultancy can skyrocket in a matter of few months. Most businesses require years of hard work before they start generating a decent revenue. Comparatively, education agents can expect good returns on investment much sooner.
But the new entrants into the consultancy business must be prepared to survive the fierce competition.
In this blog, we discuss things you need to consider for setting up a study abroad consultancy. We’ve also shared some insights on what you can do to make your agency stand out from the competition.
Get Formal & Informal Approvals
Before setting up your business, find out what legal requirements you need to comply with. It may be compulsory to take a license or register your agency with local bodies. It might be easier to operate if you have professional certifications and membership from associations of consultancy business professionals at home and abroad. If you want to work with US universities, get the membership of American International Recruitment Council (AIRC). Canada Course for Education Agents (CCEA) will make it easy for you to establish good relations with Canadian universities. British Council Training For Agents is designed to help Agents guide students eager to pursue higher education in UK universities. Prospective students and partners are more likely to trust you if you have legal and professional certifications. They help to enhance credibility of your study abroad consultancy.
Go For The Best Possible Location
Take your time to find the right location for your study abroad consultancy. If you found the site of your office unfit after moving in, you might have to relocate. Shifting to a new place is time-consuming, costly, tedious and risky. So doing some research about location right at the beginning will spare you a headache and unnecessary costs later on.
Your Study Abroad Consultancy should be located at a place that is easily accessible to your clients, prospects, and staff. The location should be good enough that when representatives from partner institutions visit, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to show them your office.
Another thing: don’t let the presence of rival agencies scare you. Believe it or not, setting up your study abroad consultancy at a place full of rival agencies will increase the chance of visitors dropping in at your office. Normally, prospects arrive at a decision only after consulting at least a few agents. That’s why you wouldn’t have any difficulty getting clients if you set up your business in an area populated by rival agencies.
Make a business plan
A business plan is a document that contains the future plans for your Study Abroad Consultancy and how you intend to achieve them. It acts as a roadmap for you and your team. It helps you plan and control your growth. The plan can also help you clearly communicate with your team and will help everyone stay on the same page.
Build a Symbiotic Network
A newly established study abroad agency will not be able to win the trust of good universities at the beginning itself. But, you do not have to panic just yet! You can still cater your clients without having a direct link with the universities. For this, you need to start networking with other consultancies. Your competition can also be your accomplice, your super-agent. Consequently, you do not lose clients and your super-agent will also get commision. This type of reciprocal relationship helps foster the study abroad industry itself.
Establish Tie-ups With Universities
Having an affiliation or a working relationship with universities will have several benefits. Prospective international students would be willing to trust you more if you have a working relationship with foreign institutions. You would be able to deal with clients more confidently as you would have access to resources and senior officials of the partner institutions. Having at least a few partner institutions willing to trust you also means that you will never have to worry about your income drying up.
Have Right People Around You
American motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once famously said: “You don’t build a business, you build people, and then people build the business.” The people you hire and the relationships you build will determine whether your business will succeed or fail.
If you don’t know the business or the area where you want to set up your office, find a business partner who does. Your partner should be able to connect you with people related to immigration and study abroad sector. It is important to attend industry events as much as possible to broaden your network and gain new insights from professionals.
Most importantly, hire qualified and confident staff. Train them and keep them motivated.
Make Good Use Of Technological Tools
Businesses are increasingly relying on technology to execute tasks. That’s partly because the clients themselves are so used to speedy service and fast-paced communication that has been made possible by technology. Study Abroad Consultancy must also find appropriate technology to support their business operations. There are many specialized education agency CRM applications that are suitable for running agency operations. Agentcis is one of the good education agency management applications out there. The good news is there is no shortage of free tools that can help you communicate and deliver services faster.
Develop & Refine Consulting Strategy, Stick To It
Consulting process is the most critical part of the Study Abroad Consultancy business. It can make or break a deal as well as your agency’s impression.
Prospective students are full of questions. You need to be able to clear all their queries related to universities, enrollment process, fees, and other related queries. Costs, scholarships, work rights are major factors that students consider before arriving at a decision. Clear their suspicion about hidden costs, exorbitant commission fee. Using university brochures and websites will convince the client that you are not manipulating the prices or fees.
You shouldn’t push clients to sign up for your courses as that will make you look desperate. Be patient and give them time to decide.
Have A Marketing Plan
There are too many players in the Study Abroad Consultancy business. A new entrant will find it difficult to get even noticed, much less getting ahead of the competition. Depending on your budget, you should make proper use of all available media to create visibility of your agency and the services you offer. Your marketing strategy should cover all types of medium. Create appropriate content for TV, radio and print media and advertise based on the number of the target audience.
You can also advertise those contents through social media. But you need to be aware of the factors that make social media ads click.
The formula that works on Facebook may not work on Twitter. And there are hosts of other social networking sites that have gained popularity such as SnapChat, Pinterest, among others.
A strong presence on the web in a wide variety of channels will definitely ensure your company’s brand visibility. As people are more likely to engage with familiar brands, longstanding and continued web presence will help you build that familiarity.
Word of mouth publicity is something everybody is aware of, but very few people sincerely use it to gain trust in the market. Your Study Abroad Consultancy should also leverage word of mouth marketing. Request your clients to write testimonials. Join clubs and online forums frequented by people who fall in your target market. Promote your partner institutions by giving lectures at schools and colleges that are a good source for international students.
Conduct Constant Research & Evaluation
Study Abroad sector can be quite unpredictable. Changes to rules introduced by the universities, destination countries or the countries from where you operate will directly affect the sectors.
Political and economic changes also have severe impacts on the sector. Although you need to plan things ahead, you also need to be prepared for any sudden changes. Student preferences on where they want to pursue higher education change, universities may limit the quota of students they hire from your country or region, fees may rise prohibitively for your prospects. That is why you need to regularly evaluate your plan and strategies.
Your research and evaluation should also include close observation of the activities of your competitors. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? How are they doing it?
As a new agency rather than taking unnecessary risks by trying to do different things differently, it would be better if you just stuck to the tried and tested tricks of the trade followed by your competitors.
Try to be a One-stop consultancy
The study abroad market is full of complexities. To stay relevant and ahead of your competition, you need to build your expertise in the study abroad process. You should have a comprehensive knowledge of everything related to your industry.
Prospective students have come to expect that consultancies provide some additional services linked to study abroad consultancy. Language training, test preparations, visa document preparations, are other services that compliment your core competency. They can help you become a one-stop Study Abroad Consultancy.
Partner institutions will also be happy to deal with you if you are quick to adjust to changes related to visa or college applications. What helps you stand out is the market segment you specialize in.
You can also take courses for Agents approved by destination countries or independent professional associations, irrespective of whether they are mandatory.