It Never Hurts to Ask…But It Might Hurt if You Don’t

Educator Voice & Market Planning

It’s officially planning time for education marketers as we all look to turn up the volume for the January – April sales season. And while it’s always valuable to look at the performance metrics of your promotions and campaigns from this year’s back to school and fall programs, there might be more to the story than just those “historic” metrics. We think when you’re driving, it’s always good to check the rear view mirror before switching lanes, but even more important to look forward so you can inject some strategic thinking about what’s ahead.

So, as you’re planning your education market programs, it’s a good idea to gather educators’ insights and projections about what’s ahead for the rest of the school year and what’s changing in their planning for the start of the 2019-20 school year. Here are some concrete steps to consider as you’re building and perhaps finalizing your spring education sales and marketing programs:

  • What’s Changed Since School Started This Year?
    Enrollment up or down? New courses added to the master schedule for next school year? Grants won? New initiatives for SEL, community engagement or CTE started? This is just the tip of the iceberg and these and more, are questions worth asking your current and prospective education customers. Their answers could impact your sales and marketing programs in subtle or much bigger ways.
  • Personas Evolving?
    That history teacher who also coaches school athletics could now be a department chair, or member of a curriculum review committee, or involved in building an internship program for students. The principal who is concentrating resources on boosting core reading and math skills may also be looking for ways to involve and engage families. And that technology director who worked so hard to provide more access to students and teachers may now be leading the district’s cyber security and data privacy initiatives as priority #1. Short answer. Every educator’s role, responsibilities and priorities change and without qualitative and quantitative research, you may miss the opportunities those changes create.
  • That’s So Yesterday…Or Is It?
    Are the educators you serve and sell to adding new social media channels to their digital lives? Are they leaving channels behind? What’s changing in their use of email or other platforms? What new professional publications, channels or sources are they using now that they didn’t use a year ago? Your campaign analytics give you part of the picture, but they don’t tell you what might be next or worth testing now.
  • Knock, Knock…It’s the Competitive Landscape Calling
    It’s always a risk to think that your competitive landscape hasn’t changed much. But it’s really important to include educators’ voice here…because they’ll tell you about new products and solutions they’ve just seen and they’ll also tell you what they wish they could try or purchase. And if you probe a little, you might just find out where they learned about those products and that could (or perhaps should…) give you some new things to think about as you build your campaign plans for the next several months.

If you’re curious about integrating authentic educator voices into your marketing audits and plans, let’s explore some options together.

#educatorvoices     #educationmarketresearch   #educationmarketingagency

Webinars & What Works

Remember when webinars were a novelty? It wasn’t all that long ago. But now, educators could spend hours each day in front of their screens, listening and watching (we hope) one webinar after another.

Does that mean webinars are ‘over?’

Have they been left in the dust by videos on YouTube and Instagram, and ‘content’ marketing on social media channels? Not so fast. These virtual events still deliver visibility, leads, thought leadership, and yes, even valuable content to use across your marketing channels. Even better, they have long legs. Archived webinars capture engagement long after the ‘live’ date. Here are some planning tips and ideas to launch your thinking about integrating webinars into your marketing and communications mix.

Need actionable leads sooner rather than later?

Start here…

  • DIY or DIW?
    DIY, self-hosted events can be productive, particularly when you’re introducing new features to existing products and programs, your internal list of prospects is large, and you have the promotional muscle to market the event or program series before, during, and after the live event. The “DIW” option (Do it With…) an established channel often gives you access to a larger group of educators, a well-oiled promotion schedule, a stable platform, and on-going promotion for your archived event. There are advantages to each option and it’s valuable to consider both in your ongoing outreach program.
  • Content is King, Queen & The Whole Royal Family
    When educators commit time to your event, they’re typically looking for new, valuable, authentic information and ideas that help them in their roles in the classroom, the library, with parents, with technology, or with their professional practice as instructional leaders. Case studies, educators presenting all or part of the content based on their own experiences, helpful check lists, tip sheets, lesson plans, articles, white papers…all of these kinds of content and presentation materials can make your webinar a valuable, and memorable experience for educators.
  • Interact with Attendees Right from the Start
    Ask for questions submitted in advance for presenters. Use polls during the event. Answer questions from attendees during the event and follow-up via email with answers to all attendees. You can provide post-event downloadable materials or door prizes. Ask for feedback from attendees and respond directly. There are all kinds of tactics that will keep educators engaged in your content and your messages.
  • A Webinar Registration is a ‘Raised Hand’
    Educators who take the time to register and attend live events or who access your archived events have sent a clear signal that they’re interested in what you’re offering. So have a plan to nurture these new leads carefully and ask them for what kinds of additional information and interaction they’re interested in pursuing.
  • Cross-Promote & Leverage Your Event
    Use the questions asked by attendees and your answers as an email or social media marketing series. Ask webinar attendees who were especially engaged to serve as advisors or members of a focus group. Keep the links to your archived webinar(s) live on your website and landing pages. Give your sales team versions of the webinar materials to use in their prospecting and 1:1 meetings. Webinars can be the gift that keeps on delivering over an extended period of time.

We’ve developed and managed webinar programs for many of our clients and they’ve boosted their lead- and demand-generation results measurably. Interested? Let’s talk about options and next steps.

#welovewebinars #webinarswork #educatorslovewebinars #educationmarketresearch #educationmarketingagency


K-12 Market Musings: Are Educators “Brand” or “Product/Solution” Buyers?

The answer is yes…but in our experience, the product/solution comes first. The company or organization brand is the support in the decision-making mix.

Educators are world-class problem solvers. They’re constantly looking for ways to solve specific instructional or, in the case of administrators, systems or operational challenges. So when there’s a need to help students understand polynomial equations, or improve reading comprehension in the lower grade, they look first for solutions to those issues. Then, if the solutions come from a brand they know, or better yet, trust, there just may be an opportunity to move from interest to a purchase order.

When you’re building messaging, positioning, and promotional strategies in the K-12 market, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Be specific and accurate in educational product positioning and messaging.
    PD to help teachers build effective classroom management skills is different than PD to help teachers learn to integrate inquiry learning strategies into the curriculum. Focus on the specific outcomes and impacts your product or program will deliver for teachers, students, or other product users and decision-makers.
  2. Be clear about how your product or program is actually used in the classroom or learning environment.
    Whole class, small group, independent learning, learning both in class and at home…you get the picture but the more information you provide, the more teachers can “see” themselves using your products successfully.
  3. Position competitively.
    What makes your collection of online reading resources different and better than others? Why your PD programs are more effective, affordable or engaging or flexible or (your turn…pick the descriptor)? This kind of pinpoint positioning helps educators know how to think about what you’re providing.
  4. Support Your Claims with Corporate or Company Brand Reinforcements.
    We’re the company that specializes in (your niche) and supports educators with (tested, innovative, classroom-tested, teacher-developed, etc.) solutions for (your content areas or specialty). Effective products and programs that accomplish their goals from educational companies they know and trust…that’s the formula that gets you better traction in K-12 market.

If your product and company messaging and positioning are at early stages or could use a bit of a “makeover”, we can help. Let’s get the conversation started.

“I am a new teacher”

Like a growing number of people, I use the Nextdoor network to keep tabs with my neighborhood news. Last week among the posts about lost pets (including a parakeet and a turtle), new restaurants in the area and other neighborhood happenings was a post titled “I am a new teacher.”

Her requests were simple and straightforward

She asked for advice and tips from any veteran teachers in in the area. She wanted to know about the most affordable places to get supplies and decorations for her classroom. She wanted to hear from parents about their hopes for their children this school year.

What happened next was a little bit of magic. Teachers in the neighborhood responded with lots of practical advice and tips including helpful books, classroom management tricks and techniques, and sources for free instructional materials. The suggestions were authentic and heartfelt… everything from “wear comfortable shoes” to “buy Airborne” and community members rallied to offer bins, supplies, and even cupcakes for the faculty. Several people volunteered to help her get her classroom ready before students arrive for the first day of school.

The point? New teachers need a community of support and encouragement and as education marketers, that’s worth knowing. Another take away? Teachers were the first to jump in and help a colleague succeed. That’s one more proud reflection on the work and commitment of educators everywhere. And yes, it’s nice to see social media used, well, socially and collegially.

To all of my friends and colleagues who work in the education market, we are lucky. We work with teachers and administrators who truly want to make a difference for students. Just sayin’…

It’s Not Either Or…It’s And and Maybe Catalogs and Collateral

Many of our clients are grappling with the catalog and collateral conundrum. Are they worth the money? Where do they fit in our transformational digital marketing environment? Is our website robust enough to become our “catalog"?

In focus groups with school business officials, subject area teachers and department chairs, principals and technology leaders, we’ve heard every answer to these questions, times 10! Your answer should be specific for your products, programs and service portfolio and, most importantly, the needs and preferences of your customers and prospects.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team. Your answers will help guide your planning and decision-making process as you decide to “catalog” or look for alternatives:

  1. Do our customers shop using the catalog and then order online?

If the answer is a resounding yes, a catalog may still be a strong contributor to your marketing mix. You can look at strategies for reducing production and mailing costs, while still supporting the “shopping” part of the buying cycle.

  1. Do we rely on our catalog as our “NEW PRODUCT” launching pad?

If so, you can put your current product lineup in an online, digital format and then develop a high impact “New Products” mini-catalog as a test. It can save time and money, and give you a new way to launch!

  1. Do you send the same catalog to everyone on your list…customers and prospects alike?

If customers rely on a print catalog for re-orders, new product announcements, and special offers, you don’t want to miss a single sale. So an option might be to create a “best seller” and “new product” version for prospecting and then develop a full line catalog in digital format for your website.

  1. Do we really need collateral materials?

If you’re selling face-to-face, presenting to critical decision-makers at the district and school levels, building relationships at conferences or selling via RFP, collateral materials are valuable sales support and enablement for your sales and implementation teams. Not everything needs to be printed, but product data sheets, organizational overviews, case studies and research summaries should be well designed, easily downloadable, and ready for print on demand for high stakes meetings and presentations.

  1. How will we know what’s the best, least scary approach to take?

The answer to this question is to ASK educators. In surveys, focus groups, 1:1 interviews, and through informal rep channels, you can gather feedback and direction quickly. You might also consider tucking a survey into your current back-to-school catalog, or posting a pulse survey online. You can also test the catalog vs. mini-catalog vs. online question in with a limited number of customers and prospects, with some personal follow up.

Before you shout “Hold the press”, let’s talk through options and opportunities for your education market segments!


Education Marketing…Is It Really That Different?

Good marketing is, well, good marketing. But just like any other B2B or B2C niche, there’s a whole ecosystem of buyers, influencers, users, and champions. One message, one promotion, one campaign simply doesn’t fit “education”.

Whether you’re just launching your products and programs into the education market or looking to upgrade and refresh your current education marketing initiatives, here are some new things to think about, think through and then apply to your strategic and tactical plans:

  1. Who and Where are YOUR Educators?

Already have education customers? When is the last time you did an in-depth profile? Targeting in email, social, and other media channels works best when you reach prospects whose characteristics mirror those of your customers. Small town or rural? Urban or suburban? New to the profession or a veteran teacher? Principal or department chair? You get the picture but customizing messaging, offers, and product mix will make a difference in results.

  1. Who Influences Who?

Collaboration and consensus are facts of life in the education market. Teachers often ask librarians to purchase specific resources. Principals may not purchase unless their teaching staff is on board. Administrators want buy-in from principals. The decision-making unit is alive, well and fluid in most districts and schools. For marketers, that means reaching in, through and around the influencers and purchasers to get to YES!

  1. Prove It!

Does your product boost student achievement? Does it increase teacher satisfaction or retention? Does it save time, money or both? Educators are held accountable for their work and they hold their vendor partners accountable as well. Case studies, testimonials, data outcomes, reliable information about time or cost savings…all these help move an educator from prospect to potential.

  1. When in Doubt…Ask an Educator or Several Educators.

Two years ago, if you asked educators about evolving priorities, you would have heard all about their interest in STEM and STEAM programs. Fast forward 24 months, and the acronym SEL is at the tip of curriculum leaders’ tongues and they have specific SEL instructional and resource priorities they’re working to address.

  1. The Marketing Mix Matters

It’s just not enough to ask who and where your slice(s) of the education market are. What channels in print and digital media do they trust? Who are their “influencers” and “thought leaders"? What associations do they belong to, and which conferences do they attend? What’s the last “new” product or program they purchased? While we’re focused on moving educators through the marketing funnel and pushing out relevant content, knowing how, when, where, and why they’re buying and what they’re looking to buy are the real drivers of any marketing or promotion plan.

To dig deeper into your education market opportunities and challenges and build programs that deliver, let’s connect!