Are you in my position at the moment? Slightly at a loss as to what this term will bring on the international marketing front? Usually, we would all be ferociously planning our non-stop travelling schedule for the Michaelmas term, but this year this is not the case.

I am certainly feeling a little bereft. Although we are looking at virtual fairs and at our first trip/ event in October, in areas outside of Asia, it is a far cry from my usual meet with the governors mid-September at the end of the year and then a hop, skip and a jump over to the Americas for mid-September for two weeks.

It is not the same feeling of busy-ness and planning that we usually go through. At the moment, we are looking at the Lent term for the vast amount of our travel, recruitment fairs and relationship building with agents. Michaelmas term can start slower  — so what does this mean?

For me, relationship building has always been about working with key agents across the world who consistently send good candidates to you on an annual basis. Usually we only go to fairs of these loyal agents more as a thank you because it is not the fairs that usually bring you the customers. It’s the knowledge and experience of good agents in country.

"Agents are a mixed breed and vary unbelievably."

I have been known to say that in the long run it would be good to get to a stage whereby we would not have to rely on agents so much, but for me this is dependent on country and the agent. Agents are a mixed breed and vary unbelievably, so here is my review of them:

The Good Ones: these agents handle everything and vet every candidate, organise testing, support with documentation, some even support you on visits (you know who you are). They don’t just see it as their job to send you an enquiry and take their commission. No, they support clients over the long haul. They are efficient, usually experienced and most importantly helpful with client information and do their research. You don’t usually get questions that have been answered by the Agent Handbook that is sent out of the latest update. They read your information, digest it and impart to the team. These are your A* agents and these are the agents you cultivate.

My advice on how to keep them engaged this term: excellent digital communications including meetings via Zoom.

The Bad ones: these agents send you an enquiry and demand instant answers, do not read your literature, ask you questions that can be found on the website and from your latest communication, and are not there for the long haul. My advice on how to keep them engaged this term: organise a Zoom meeting with these agents to try to answer those questions that they ask a lot. Why not send out your Agents Handbook with a note to follow up with a Zoom meeting to go over it for the new academic year?

"There are ways around this term’s dormant travelling situation."

The Ugly ones: they send you an enquiry and that is it. They demand instant answers to clients’ questions and don’t answer you for ages. They generally start by asking you what your commission is and seem to care more about money that the education of their clients; there has to be a balance. My advice on how to keep them engaged this term: don’t, and if you can nicely suggest that the partnership is not working, then that might help.

In conclusion, this term might all be about the digital meeting. It’s not all doom and gloom. When I look at the numbers of pupils recruited over the lockdown through digital meetings and presentations in which we worked to mirror a visit with a three-step presentation process for instance, I know that there are ways around this term’s dormant travelling situation. It is a chance to really revamp that overseas literature before 2021, organise Zoom meetings to keep relationships going until exhibitions start to happen more frequently and ensure we keep sending the videos and digital communications to our agents.