Education Marketing Strategy

4 Steps for Brand Differentiation When Every Education Company is “In It For The Kids”

By May 3, 2024No Comments

One of the most rewarding parts of working in the education industry is that companies are mission-driven. This also means that it can be challenging to identify a unique value proposition (UVP). 

When all education companies are “in it for the students,” what makes you unique? How can you stand out against your competitors?

Educators and administrators need to know why you’re a better fit than your competitors when they’re seeking solutions, so a clearly defined UVP is vital.

Here are four tips for positioning your education company to stand out in a marketplace full of good companies trying to do good.

1. Research your education business’s competitors, review your customer insights, and connect with colleagues

Insightful research is the first step in defining a UVP. Even if you have a grasp on who you are and what makes your organization different from others, you can always unearth new insights when you do your homework.

Learn how your competitors are positioning themselves

By scrutinizing your competition, you can articulate a more compelling UVP for your education brand. For example, if both your education company and your competitors claim to improve student achievement, you have an opportunity to differentiate yourself by articulating the specific, measurable impact your product delivers. 

Compared to your competitors, you may use more rigorous research to shape your product and features. Or, your platform’s ability to personalize learning pathways based on individual student needs may set you apart from one-size-fits-all solutions. Once you deeply understand your competitors, you can make more thoughtful decisions about how to differentiate your education company.

Talk to your education sales team

Your sales team has a unique vantage point for understanding education buyers and their priorities. Ask them:

  • How do customers and prospects view our education company? 
  • Which motivated customers should our company partner with for case studies? 
  • What are typical objections prospects have to using our product or service? 

The answers your sales team provides can give you a clue as to how the market views your education brand, particularly when measured against similar companies your prospects might also be considering.

Interview internal thought leaders to hear what they feel makes you stand out

Learning which qualities make your brand stand out according to your colleagues can clarify positioning priorities. Compare their thoughts with other research, like customer surveys, to determine which differentiators consistently come up across your messaging. This also presents an opportunity to identify any disconnect with existing positioning. For example, if you think that you’re an AI thought leader, but your team and prospects don’t mention it, perhaps you need to do some education or strengthen that differentiator.

Survey your customers

Your customers provide a valuable source of insight about what draws prospects to your company. Of all the education companies they could have partnered with, there are certain  factors that made yours rise above the rest. Ask them why they decided to work with you.

Another helpful question to ask them is what they might Google to find your education product or service. Their answer will help you gain a more comprehensive understanding of the problem you’re solving for your target audience, which helps strengthen your messaging and marketing strategy.

Attend education industry events

Saying “yes” to conferences, roundtables, and Q&As hosted by education leaders and peers will help you keep an ear to the ground to better understand your target audience’s perspective. You’ll learn what their priorities and needs are, which can help you shape your unique value proposition.

2. Identify your UVP

As you sift through your research, list and identify consistent patterns you see in your findings. Overlapping feedback reveals brand qualities that can help you craft a compelling UVP. Remember that being mission-driven is expected. You must dig deeper to understand the specifics of your UVP that differentiate you from your competitors.

The insights you gathered from your internal team can inform this deep dive. Just keep in mind that internal stakeholders typically have different takeaways compared to customer and competitor research. Or they may favor one group’s feedback over another’s. Working with an agency like CB&A, A FINN Partners Company, can provide an impartial, expert perspective as you hone your UVP.

After you identify your UVP, ask yourself these important questions:

  • If you did a blind test of your UVP versus a competitor’s UVP, would they feel too similar?
  • Does your UVP resonate with district priorities or classroom experiences?
  • Does your UVP oversell or overpromise the solution your business provides?

3. Tell the story of your UVP — internally and externally

Your distribution strategy for your UVP should take into account all internal and external channels, including your:

Your UVP is your company’s DNA. Everyone in your organization should be able to articulate it and use it for any major decision-making. When you live out your UVP, it rings authentic to your education buyers. 

How you articulate your UVP depends on the channel

Your messaging tactics will vary slightly according to the channel. For instance, on your website you should directly state how your mission-driven education brand stands out from competitors. However, earned media requires a bit more “showing” instead of telling. Leverage your customer stories and testimonials to demonstrate what makes you different without asserting your brand’s superiority.

4. Test and validate your UVP

If you’re not sure whether your UVP is elevating your brand beyond its mission, you can always ask. Focus groups with a few VIP customers can point out what’s working about your UVP — and what isn’t. Be sure to solicit feedback from educators and education leaders. A/B tests of different value propositions on your website can also clarify which UVP stands out.

An education marketing and PR agency can ensure your mission-driven brand outshines competitors

While being a mission-driven education company is a solid starting point, it takes more than good intentions to truly compel buyers. By conducting diligent research, pinpointing your unique strengths, and consistently promoting an authentic value proposition across channels, you can rise above mission-driven competitors.

CB&A has over three decades of experience in education marketing and PR. We can help you position your education company as a standout in a marketplace full of altruistic competitors. Reach out to our team.