2021 Marketing Trends for Growing EdTech Companies
2020 was the year that catapulted the edtech industry to the forefront. From record-breaking investments to spikes in user adoption to pivots in traditional education. The dire need and demand for learning remotely accelerated the edtech market that had been steadily gaining ground. Now that remote learning is here, part of educator and learner behavior, some form of it will stay for the decades ahead. For edtech companies that want to continue to thrive and grow in 2021 and beyond, marketing is an important part of that growth. In 2020, we saw shifts in marketing activities that helped edtech companies flourish, which will continue to be seen in the year ahead:
At the onset of the pandemic, many edtech companies realized the immediate needs for remote learning and promoted free usage, trial periods, and discounts in order to help educators and learners, while also raising awareness for the company and product adoption. Those are not sustainable strategies for companies that need to be raising revenue and positive cash flow. In 2021, we will see a shift towards edtech companies zeroing in on the value they provide instead of solely price. By pinpointing the pain points their products help to overcome, they will express their value, bringing in new paying customers.
BetterLesson, an edtech company providing professional development to educators, does a great job of communicating their value across their marketing communications: their website, content, blog, social media. They lead with a customer-led value proposition: “empowering educators to prepare students for success in a rapidly changing world” and they highlight social proof to justify their value, like stats from third-parties and customer testimonials. They also nicely communicate their story, mission, and impact on their website to further emphasize their value.
Video for Multiple Uses
Video has been becoming increasingly popular over the last couple years in marketing and this year has really validated it’s benefits. With in-person meetings, conferences, and networking shut-down with an unclear timeline for re-opening, videos have become the replacement for making connections with people. In 2021, video will become increasingly popular and accessible for edtech companies to incorporate into their marketing throughout the buyer’s journey across a variety of uses:
Brightwheel, an edtech company that provides software for child care management, has invested in a variety of video types that help stay in touch with prospects and customers. Their homepage features a brand video that showcases the essence of their product. Their YouTube channel is packed with “how-to” related videos about how to use the software and app. They also have a robust series of webinars, mostly offering helpful tips to child care directors related to running a child care business under the new covid restrictions, including topics like “Increasing your child care center’s enrollment and revenue during covid-19.” They incorporate a few webinars that are product-specific related to their product roadmap and deep-dives into product features.
Targeting with Marketing Automation
Every edtech company should invest in marketing automation by the time they reach the stage in their startup growth of transitioning from excel sheets to a CRM. Marketing automation has many benefits including:
Sending personalized messages to segmented contacts
Keeping in touch with prospects and customers at scale
Tracking which contacts are engaging the most in order to focus automated or sales team follow-up
In 2021, using technology to stay in contact with prospects and customers will continue to be necessary for growing edtech companies.
Outschool, an edtech company offering online K-12 classes, uses marketing automation for new customers, sending them a series of emails covering FAQs, tips, and links to resources to connect with other parents after purchasing the first class. They continue to stay in touch with customers and work to increase sales by sending automated emails including a discount for a second purchase and lists of upcoming courses catered to the child’s age and interests.
Versatile Marketing Teams
Growing edtech companies need to run lean and it’s not just the founder of the company who needs to wear a lot of hats. Employees across functions must be capable and willing to stretch across job responsibilities. Within marketing, this will be critical for edtech companies in 2021. For companies who had success in 2020, determining where to focus funding will be stretched between engineering, sales and customer success, and marketing. For companies ready to launch or scale, being strategic about who to hire first will set an important foundation.
There are many facets to a solid marketing department, from branding to digital marketing to operations and technology. Large enterprises have the benefit of hiring marketing specialists who have deep expertise in those marketing domains. For smaller growing companies who don’t have that capital support, it is beneficial to hire or partner with external vendors who can serve as strong marketing generalists in key areas. For example, bringing on someone who can stretch between big-picture strategic planning and execution or someone who can provide content strategy plus writing and social media community management. It might take time to find these people, but they do exist and the search is worthwhile!
The edtech industry will continue to accelerate in the year ahead, even when the world “re-opens.” Being really thoughtful about how to approach marketing will help these companies see continuous returns from marketing investments and set them up for enduring success.