Marketing to educators is very different from marketing to business customers. As a group, educators tend to be passionate about what they are doing, but discerning about the products they are researching—and distrustful of “silver bullet” solutions to complex problems. Often, they’re simply too overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands of their jobs to listen to new product pitches.
Sounds like a marketer’s dream, right? But despite these challenges, marketing to educators can be successful if you don’t come on too strong, if your products meet a real need, and if you know how—and when—to target your efforts most effectively.
Here are five keys to success when marketing to educators.
Know the market.
Are you intimately familiar with the current landscape of K-12 education, the standards-based reform movement, and the needs of educators today? Do you know what terms like CIPA, COPPA, Common Core, and NGSS mean? Do you have a clear understanding of the pain points that educators feel—and is your product well positioned to help with these?
Understand the K-12 buying cycle.
If you’re sending out product information in April or May, chances are good that few people are going to read it. These are the busiest months of the school year, as educators and administrators gear up for annual high-stakes testing. The same holds true for August and September, when the focus is on back to school and kicking off the new year successfully.
Conversely, mid to late fall is when many educators and administrators begin to assess how things are going in the new school year and whether they have any pressing needs—and late spring or early summer is when many have a chance to exhale and begin thinking about what they want to do differently the following year.
Not every K-12 educator and administrator follows this schedule so rigidly, of course. But use it as a guide to identify your best chances at success.
Focus on the problem you’re looking to solve.
The fact that educators might be too busy to read your emails could be seen as a plus—provided you’ve come up with an idea that will help them save time. Make sure your marketing messages lead with the problem you can help them solve … and only when you have their full attention should you describe the solution.
Take the time to build relationships.
This is a key to any successful marketing effort, but it’s especially true in education. Marketing to educators is most effective once you’ve first established some kind of relationship with them: You’ve met them face to face at a conference, for instance, or they’ve signed up for a free informational webinar or white paper from you that helps them do their job. If they know you personally or see you as a trusted source of high-quality information, your marketing message is much more likely to resonate.
Recognize the value of referrals.
In focus groups and interviews, educators say their No. 1 source for information about new products and services is their peers and colleagues.
What does that mean for marketers? Identify your happiest customers and leverage their success as much as possible. Use case studies and customer quotes heavily in your marketing. Help your customers tell their stories in compelling ways—and let these substitute for your sales pitch.