In today’s marketing landscape, it seems like there’s always a “shiny object”—some cool new tool or strategy—clamoring for our attention and bandwidth. While it can be easy to get swept up in every new channel, it’s important to first be certain you are building on a strong foundation of marketing fundamentals.
Here are five tips to help you get back to the education marketing basics and make sure what you’re doing makes sense for your business, your audience, and your marketing goals.
1. Know your value proposition.
Some people refer to this as the elevator pitch. Whatever you call it, you have to be able to clearly and succinctly articulate what your brand/product is and why your audience should care. To get at the essence of this, ask some key questions:
- What are the differentiators of my brand/product?
- What makes it better than or distinctive from the competitors’? (A few possibilities include convenience, user-friendliness, quality, value, superior technological features, market experience, or outstanding customer support.)
If you have a clear value proposition already, fantastic! It’s a good idea to reevaluate it from time to time to be sure it still resonates in the current market and to your target audience.
2. Start with tried-and-true marketing strategies.
For new-to-market companies, or those that are looking to branch out from direct mail, start off using educators’ channel of choice: email. Although it’s a mature channel, email still drives significant results.
- According to MDR’s Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market, over half of teachers purchased a product or service as the result of a solicitation email in 2012, and the amount they spent has remained steady in comparison to prior years.
- Smaller, more targeted email campaigns get much better results than the “batch-and-blast” (larger, less targeted) methodologies of the past. Identify your best audience and tailor your messaging specifically to their needs and pain points.
- Web or banner advertising holds strong as a fundamental channel as well, showing similarly better results for banners served to a target audience only, as opposed to a more generalized, untargeted banner campaign.
Both email and web advertising lend themselves well to testing, tweaking and—best of all—integration. When combined, they can garner even more powerful results.
3. Keep the educator buying cycle in mind, but test new strategies too.
Like any other industry, the education market has a unique buying cycle, and many of us are deeply entrenched in the practice of building our marketing strategies around it. This is a critical basic step, but it never hurts to test and make sure that your entrenched practices are still the most effective. You might try:
- Including a special offer with your catalog mailing
- Adding an email follow-up to a direct mailing
- Testing a targeted banner ad campaign to your email campaign responders
These simple tests can help you assess and potentially amplify the efficacy of your current strategies. Get even more tips for testing best practices from our webinar, Test for Success: How to Use Testing to Create Irresistible Campaigns.
4. Help teachers help you.
As loyal consumers and amazing word-of-mouth advocates, teachers rely heavily on colleague recommendations to find the best products and services for their classroom and students. Use this to your benefit by asking your educator customers for their feedback.
- Make this a low-effort investment for them—a quick survey of no more than three questions, posed in an accessible way. You could do this through Facebook or Twitter, or incorporate the survey into your regular customer emails.
- Ask questions like: Why do you love our products? How do they make your job easier/help you teach more effectively? What could we do better? How else can we help you help kids?
- Offer them a discount or freebie as a thank you for their time and loyalty.
This serves a dual purpose: You get feedback to inform your ongoing product and marketing development, AND a pool of customer testimonials to share on your website and in your marketing collateral. You’ll also be showing your current and prospective customers that you are invested in being a partner for educators by soliciting and acting on their input.
5. Add social and “new” channels when they make sense for your business.
“Shiny objects” permeate our crowded marketing space, especially in the social arena. Podcasts, videos, Instagram stories, Facebook ads, Snapchat and more…how do you know where to start?
- Consider your time and resources. Facebook and Twitter are easy-entry social channels, but they do require a time investment and moderation to build the communities from scratch. Pick one to start with if you are short on bandwidth, and grow from there.
- Springboard into these channels from your success with the basics. For example, use email to drive your customers to newly created Facebook communities or Twitter streams as a starting point to growing a following.
- Most importantly, don’t feel compelled to jump into everything at once. Instead, add one piece at a time so you can carefully measure response and evaluate whether the time investment makes sense for your business.
With the appearance of every “new frontier” in marketing, we marketers want to get on the bus right away—lest we miss an exciting opportunity to engage our audience! Before we jump, though, we must remember that getting the fundamentals right is our first priority: knowing our brand and products’ value, identifying our best prospects and turning them into loyal customers, and having a clear, results-based understanding of what channels drive sales. Then we can build on that foundation to test new channels with confidence.