Education Marketing Calls for a Personal Touch

One of the oldest adages among anglers is to fish where the fish are. But fishermen need to be ready to react when fish take to different waters. Education marketers are experiencing a major shift in how they target and reach educators. The wall that divided work life from home life has eroded, and with that opening comes new opportunities for marketers to make connections with educators.

Understand teachers as individuals

Traditionally, marketers have relied on firmographics like enrollment, grade span, or funding levels to focus on a district, an institution, or a building that matches their ideal audience. Marketers have also gained insight by identifying job assignments and buying history to target likely customers. All these facts add up to a picture of the professional life of a given teacher and the purchasing propensities of a school that has given education marketers a strong foundation for crafting successful campaigns.

But as long as there have been teachers, teachers have brought work home. Add the reality of summer breaks, and the ability to reach teachers at home becomes a necessity for education marketers. While MDR has offered Educators at Home data for years, teachers’ use of the Internet offers new insights into how teachers are spending their personal time, and dollars, online.  Teachers are people and everyday consumers. It is no surprise that as online product research has become part of most consumers’ personal shopping experience, teachers are applying this same approach to their professional shopping.

As the industry evolves in this changing digital landscape, marketers will continue to refine the way they gather data about educators. Deeper tracking techniques, developed from years of teacher data, will pave the way for marketers to gain critical insight into teacher career paths, such as work history, job assignments over time—including whether teachers work at multiple sites—and buying patterns. This new breadth of data around individual educators will also encompass personal consumer behaviors and preferences as well as a fuller online picture, such as participation in social media sites.

Ultimately, combining firmographics with detailed teacher professional history and in-depth understanding of teachers’ online behavior will open the door to an exponential increase in relevant and highly personalized connectivity with educators.

Recognize how teachers use the web to research and influence

MDR-Education-Marketing-PersonalBecause of easy internet access at home and on the go, the web is a handy and welcome resource for teachers. Teachers use the Internet proactively to find the resources and products that will help them accomplish their goals in the classroom. And because teachers are also team oriented, they reach out to peers for support and information. Social media has become a hotbed of activity with Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, and communities like WeAreTeachers providing a space for teachers to seek solutions, find resources, and share success stories. Even when they are not the primary purchaser, teachers are strong influencers, leveraging their hands-on knowledge and peer research to sway decisions toward products they believe will work.

Mobile devices also help to blur the lines between the personal and professional realms. The Digital Trends Report found that 41% of teachers can access their school email from a wireless device, a nearly fivefold increase in just four years and a trend that will only accelerate. As teachers move decisively into the digital space, education marketers need to shift their outreach strategies to put their brand where teachers are spending their time: online.

Develop digital strategies customized to teachers’ online behaviors 

Email became a strong player in multi-channel marketing because it offered increased opportunities for targeting, relevance, and measurement. A click, an open, or a purchase could be attributed to a specific teacher and the message he or she received. Using email responses to tune campaigns for improved results was a major break-through. Online behavior offers a similar opportunity, although in a different way.

Much of our online activity is trackable, either anonymously or with individual permission. New data collection and marketing tools allow marketers to create for highly customized impressions, based on behaviors, preferences, and personal characteristics. For example, MDR’s Web Advertising solution uses audience targeting, and our own proprietary cookie analyses, to give brands the ability to target educators with many of the same selects used for targeting email and direct mail campaigns.

In addition to better targeting, lessons learned from online behavior can also improve relevance. In a noisy marketing space, aligning the message to the interests of the recipient is key. Participation in social media, like a WeAreTeachers grant contest, is the kind of self-identifying behavior that gives marketers confidence about a teacher’s specific topics and level of interest. Tie that back to email response history, firmographic, and teacher job functions, and you can deliver relevant messaging with much higher fidelity.

Finally, one of the new frontiers in digital marketing is tracking and attribution. While direct click-throughs are an obvious win, you also want to track a prospect who may have seen an ad, then purchased later through some other channel. Inserting a tiny bit of code, a conversion pixel, on a landing page allows you to track a prospect from your page wherever they go on the web. If they ultimately make a purchase through other means, the pixel can identify the ad’s influence post-impression.

Tailor marketing efforts to teachers’ specific consumer traits

MDR-teachers-as-consumersAn MDR study on Teachers as Consumers shows that teacher are highly desirable consumers. Demographically, teachers are more affluent, more highly educated, and have proven to be more recession-proof as purchasers than the general public.

Teachers consider themselves to be educated and savvy consumers. They consume information in multiple media on a regular basis and apply that same approach to product research. They are more likely than other shoppers to research and purchase products and services online: 80% of educators report having made purchases through the Internet in the last year and more than three-fourths report that the Internet is the first place they look for information.

As a sophisticated online audience, teachers respond best to accurate targeting and relevant messaging, i.e., you need to be able to focus on a specific area of interest, subject, grade level or professional development goal to secure their attention.

Fish where the fish are

Two strong currents are impacting education marketers: the pressure to maintain or improve ROI through integrated campaigns; and the strong migration of educators into the digital space for personal and professional reasons.

When these three streams of data are combined, firmographics on the education market, teacher professional history, and dynamic signals from online behavior, marketers have solid ground on which to build multi-channel campaigns with a high degree of targeting and relevance.

By learning from teachers’ online behavior, marketers can get closer to the prospect, graduating from a building-centric model to a person-centric model. Knowing a teacher individually means being able to predict who is likely to open an email or participate in a social media forum. With tracking available campaign-wide, it becomes possible to tailor the use of channels and messaging to those people most likely to respond in each.