A common response when we ask new clients, “What is the biggest misperception consumers have about your brand?” is: “Educators don’t know enough about us to have misperceptions.”
If this sounds like your education company, you likely have a positioning and messaging issue. There’s a high level of brand saturation in the education market. In addition to limited funding and complicated procurement processes, it’s a challenge to succeed in this industry. However, your ability to make headway in education sales improves significantly when you have an authentic and recognizable brand identity.
Discovering your brand’s positioning to establish a foothold in the education marketplace takes time, patience, and above all — listening. The way you view your product or service may not align with your customer’s needs and perceptions. And it certainly won’t resonate if dozens of other companies offer the same value. To understand your differentiator as a business, you need to adopt an objective, “outside looking in” approach to your brand.
Here we provide a framework for establishing a distinct brand identity.
3 ways to achieve brand differentiation
No matter what your positioning is, authenticity is key. The more you work toward authenticity in your brand messaging, the more you’re able to uncover your differentiator.
Your customer has to believe in your mission and your values. For example, if your product’s positioning statement sounds like some version of “We help students unlock their fullest potential,” it’s time to dig deeper. In the education industry, it’s easy to talk about helping students succeed, or unlocking potential. Of course you want that — you and thousands
of other education companies. The mission doesn’t stand out to a customer if they’re hearing it everywhere. To differentiate yourself, you need to get to the bottom of the specific values your organization upholds.
But it’s not enough to merely claim authenticity. The values expressed in your messaging must be validated by research and customer testimonials. An efficacy report can serve as a critical cornerstone asset to your marketing strategy because it validates that your company doesn’t just talk the talk. With this report, you can demonstrate with evidence how your product or service adds measurable value to teaching and learning. You can also break up the pieces of the report into smaller assets and promote them through your paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels.
Balance your audience’s practical needs with their emotional motivations
Branding is as much an exercise in articulating practicality as it is one in establishing emotional connections. If you’re on a product team, you’re understandably more preoccupied with features in your product or service. While those bells and whistles serve a practical purpose to your target audience, there’s an emotional component to your value proposition that you may be omitting in your messaging.
Let’s say you’re selling audio enhancements for the classroom that benefits ESL students and those with hearing disabilities. Certainly your product helps those students improve their performance. But what does that moment actually look and feel like within the classroom?
It’s moving to see a struggling student, previously inhibited by audio issues, suddenly participating more in class discussions, or genuinely connecting with the teacher. It’s an intangible part of your value proposition that you need to articulate just as well as the tangible. Because when a customer makes a purchase, they must believe both in the product’s mission (the “why”) and the evidence (the “how”). It’s that balance in storytelling that makes successful education brands transcendent.
Uncover key insights that uniquely position your brand
Without insight into the education landscape, it’s hard to know exactly where your brand fits in among all the education companies in the industry. In order to determine how best to stand out, you must have a clear view of what other companies are offering — how educators are actually using other solutions — and how your value proposition and claims compare.
You also need to listen to and engage with your target audience. Know what trade publications they’re reading, where they’re spending time on social media, which podcasts they listen to, and which events they care about. When you meet them in these venues and channels, you can establish a meaningful connection with them and better understand what messages will resonate.
Discovering your unique positioning and messaging is easier with a trusted expert
It’s trite but true: most companies are trying to read the label while sitting inside the jar.
Unless you have expertise in the full education industry and its key players, it’s a challenge to uncover distinctive positioning and messaging that establishes your foothold in the marketplace. An education marketing and PR firm like CB&A has seen all manner of education companies over the course of 30 years, across every subcategory. And, we speak with educators nearly every day for the purpose of storytelling – not selling. We analyze inputs from the education landscape and the classroom, your organization’s core values, and your customers’ perceptions to distill your brand’s fundamental truths.
Ready to discover your differentiator with us? Reach out.