Marketing an educational product or service to a school is fulfilling, knowing that you're promoting something that will help schools, its staff, and students. But, as exciting as it can be, it comes with challenges that every education and edtech marketer should be aware of when developing and executing marketing plans. In this post, we'll cover three common marketing challenges for education companies and how to overcome them.
Marketing Challenge #1: Educators are Busy People
The primary challenge when marketing to a school is that the people you need to reach are very busy people! From administration to teachers, everyone has a non-stop schedule while at school, plus many are working before and after school hours. They focus on their students, and paying attention to vendors is not a priority.
So how do you get the attention of busy educators? Start with really getting to know who you are trying to reach. What you say in your marketing and how you deliver the message will help your company stand out. Understand what challenges educators have, what might hold them back from talking with you, and what interests them.
Your marketing will get through to busy educators if you appeal to them. For example, if a science teacher sees an ad about hands-on learning, they may scan over it. They've seen "hands-on learning" from many education companies. On the other hand, if they see an ad about "saving time," they may be more apt to take a glance because it relates to a pain point they have in rushing to set up science experiments in their classroom.
Marketing Challenge #2: Schools Don't Make Purchases Quickly
Selling to a school takes time, which can be very challenging for those new to education. Your sales team may work on closing a deal for anywhere from six months to two years. Many stakeholders are involved in making a purchase for a school, especially when the product will impact many people and is expensive. A small, low-priced purchase might need approval from just a teacher and their director. A complex product might need to get approved by a principal, superintendent, and school committee.
On top of the number of people involved in the buying cycle, funding sources and timelines are a factor. For example, Q2 (April to June) is a busy time of year for education companies. Schools sometimes have money left in their budget to spend before the school year ends. In addition, many purchases are funded by grants that schools apply for. If a grant is funding your product or service, you will need to wait for the grant to be awarded and funds distributed to the school before getting paid.
For marketers, the long sales cycle means you must stay top of mind year-round. That may mean participating in regional conferences throughout the year, sending a monthly newsletter, or advertising on LinkedIn. You will want to continue sharing updates related to your product or service while being helpful. When funding finally does come through, you want to make sure your education company is on their mind to contact.
Marketing Challenge #3: Multiple People Involved in Purchases
Many edtech products are to be used by teachers or students in the classroom. However, they are not the buyers or the decision-makers. The educational technology directors, principals, or superintendents are the primary people with the buying power. But you must include the teachers in your marketing because your success is based on them using your product.
When marketing your education company, work with your sales team to outline each type of person involved in the purchase.
Who makes the decision?
Who is responsible for the budget?
Who is influential to the decision-maker?
Who will be using your product?
Outline buyer personas for each person and develop marketing strategies that cater to each of them. For example, superintendents value relationships and need to have a trusting partner. Find opportunities to meet them in person at local events. Teachers are usually resistant to change, especially seasoned teachers who will need to learn new technology. Develop training resources or offer personalized professional development, so they're not left on their own to figure out the new technology.
Every successful marketing plan is centered around a strong understanding of the market and your potential customers. That includes understanding the marketing challenges for education companies and ways to address them through various marketing strategies.