How to Market to Schools
Determining how to market to schools involves knowing what to say to be relevant and catch educators' attention, plus finding where to reach your buyers and end users. Marketing to schools is unique, and typical B2B marketing strategies are not effective. Schools don't all function the same way; therefore, the most successful marketing plans demonstrate that you understand the school you're marketing to. Here are three tips to remember as you create a marketing plan for your education company marketing to schools.
How to Market to Schools: 3 Tips
1. Segment to Start
Schools' strategic priorities, their communities, and their purchasing process vary across the country, and those all play a role in marketing to schools.
Start your marketing efforts by determining which types of schools you want to go after based on your goals and your product offering. After you know the type of school, the next step is to break it down further by region. Each state, school district, and school has its unique needs. Group schools by type and region to create segments to organize your marketing. Here's more detail on how to segment your market:
For education or edtech startups just entering the market, consider segmenting based on schools you already have a relationship with: schools where you live or where you have met staff. If you're an existing business with a customer base or launching a new product, you can segment by schools with the most potential need for your solution. For example, an education company that sells outdoor furniture will have the most potential with schools in warmer climates, or an edtech company might have a solution that best serves schools with low math scores.
After you know what type of schools you're segmenting by, it's time to get to know the schools better. Further segment into states and school districts. Look at the state's Department of Education website, school district profiles, and strategic plans. This research will give you ideas about what the schools and districts care about, what potential problems you can help solve, and what type of language you can incorporate into your marketing to relate to them and increase your chances of getting their attention.
2. Trust is Paramount
Purchases for public schools are very different from purchases for private companies. Many stakeholders are involved in purchasing decisions for schools, especially for products with a high cost that impact many students. The purchasing process will vary by state and district, but could range from the principal approving purchases to involving school committees or state boards of education. In addition, in most cases, the people deciding on the purchase differ from those using the product. It will benefit your company to involve teachers and parents, especially if it's a product that will change how teachers teach or involves data privacy for parents' children.
Educators need to know that you are sincere about helping them and their students. They want a trusted partner, not just someone who is selling them. Building trust is paramount for an education company, which is accomplished through a combined effort between sales and marketing. Your sales team will have the most critical role in building individual relationships. Educators value face-to-face time and referrals, led by your sales team and the product experience after purchase.
Marketing supports and amplifies the sales team by finding ways to demonstrate how others trust the education company. This is done by finding conferences or local events to attend, producing helpful content like blog posts or videos, winning industry awards, collecting testimonials and case studies, or managing communities of like-minded educators.
3. Consistency is Key
Educators are busy, and many are resistant to change. In most cases, buying a new product or technology is not a priority. Teachers and school administrators are focused on their students, the school, and the community. Therefore in marketing, you have the tough job of getting their attention. Consistency is key in this case—in what you are saying and how you are reaching them.
First, revisit the research you did when you were prioritizing your segments. Incorporate words those schools use into your marketing communications and consistently emphasize how your solution will help them. Increase your chances of being noticed by an educator by relating to them in your marketing.
Next, be consistent in how you reach them. Sending a couple of emails or running ads for one month and then giving up won't help you. Develop a full-funnel marketing approach to reach all educators involved in the purchasing process in multiple ways. Keep in mind that they may need to see your messages seven to twelve times before even noticing.
Plan your marketing ahead of time so you can be consistent enough around school budget cycles. If your company runs on the calendar year, starting your marketing in September to close business and bring in revenue by the end of December will be a challenge in the education market. By the fall, schools have mostly already allocated their budgets for the school year. Instead, start your marketing in the fall to impact revenue for the following calendar year. School budgets for the next fall school year are typically finalized by the spring. Also, in some cases, schools have extra money to spend by the end of the school year in June. Education companies that are heavily marketing in the fall and winter will benefit from revenue later in the year.
Marketing Activities for Marketing to Schools
Leaders of education companies are always wondering which marketing activities they should be using to market their products to schools. They ask if they should send emails, use Facebook, invest in SEO, or sponsor conferences. Typically some mix of those marketing activities puts education companies on the right track in how to market to schools. However, what helps an education company stand out in its marketing is to build a solid marketing strategy foundation that includes segmenting and understanding your marketing, building trust, and being consistent.