The way people buy has changed. The pandemic, technology, and consumer behavior have shifted the way educators across K-12 and higher ed purchase new products and solutions for their institutions. People are researching on their own before meeting with a sales rep which means marketing needs to help your company get in front of potential buyers.
Before a potential prospect reaches out to your sales team, they’ve already done their research. Gartner’s research uncovered that in a B2B purchase, only 17% of the buying committee’s time is spent meeting with potential suppliers. Instead, they spend 45% of their time researching independently. Another report by DemandScience found that B2B buyers spend three to four months researching before talking to a sales rep.
Information is readily available online, and educators don’t have time to waste in meetings. The Merrimack College Teacher Survey identified that teachers work an average of 54 hours a week. Principals bounce between varying responsibilities all day and are constantly adjusting to help with unplanned requests. Meetings with sales reps, especially face-to-face, are challenging to fit into their busy days.
Educators trust referrals when searching for a new solution for their institution. They commonly start by referring to past vendors they’ve had good experiences with and asking colleagues and advisory teams for recommendations. They will also research online, comparing websites of vendors, looking at reviews, and social media.
On average, educators are in their 40s, in Generation X. According to Pew Research, 42% of people in this age group go online “almost constantly.” Between checking emails, using technology within their schools and classrooms, and browsing Facebook on their personal time, principals, teachers, and professors are adept at using technology to get ideas, including finding new products and vendors for their institution.
Your sales team needs help from marketing to get in front of potential buyers during their research process.
So what does this mean for your education company? Marketing’s role in the sales process has expanded. Your sales team needs help from marketing to get in front of potential buyers during their research process. In addition to building brand awareness and generating leads, marketing must provide answers to questions and help potential buyers decide which vendors to consider during their online research.
Here are five marketing strategies to help your education company reach potential buyers during their research process:
1. Refine your messaging.
You no longer have the benefit of a sales rep meeting with a prospect to explain how you’re different from a competitor and how your solution will help them. Marketing needs to work with the sales team in bringing these points to life through marketing communications.
Create a one-page document, that marketing and sales agree on, outlining your value proposition, key themes that differentiate your company, and unique facts to back up your value proposition. Then distribute these messages online through your marketing across your website, emails, and social media.
2. Continually optimize your website.
Your website is your company’s first impression. Ensure it explains your value proposition right way, is easy to navigate, answers people’s questions as they search, and drives them to take action. Create buyer personas to help you understand what potential buyers look for when they visit your website.
Websites need to be maintained and updated for optimal visitor experiences. There are free and paid analytics platforms that provide insightful data about who is coming to your website, how your website is performing, and what people do when they come to your website. By evaluating these on a regular basis, you’ll be able to make improvements to your website and generate more quality leads that are ready to buy.
The more people learn from you, the more they will get familiar with your company and come back to you when they are ready to meet with a sales rep and buy.
3. Invest in content marketing.
As potential buyers research online, they are looking for help in addressing a problem, and sometimes they need to be guided to the solution your education company provides. This is where content marketing comes in. Create blog posts, videos, graphics, guides, and worksheets that help buyers in their research, so you are a helpful resource to them.
You might feel like you’re giving things away for free, but you’re building trust before the relationship with your sales team starts. The more people learn from you, the more they will get familiar with your company and come back to you when they are ready to meet with a sales rep and buy.
4. Be easy to be found.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic button we can press to get your website in front of the perfect buyer. However, there are a number of marketing activities you can implement to get your information to potential buyers. Ultimately, the optimal mix of marketing activities will be unique to your company and the types of educators you’re selling to.
Every company should optimize its website for search (SEO) and create content that is distributed through email campaigns, social media, and your sales team. Depending on your company, you might also try getting articles published in relevant media outlets, speak on podcasts or conferences, and partner with manufacturers promoting you as a reseller.
5. Track and learn from marketing results.
It can be frustrating to lose some of the face-to-face time you once had with potential buyers. However, the upside to marketing online is that you will gather valuable data to help your sales team and improve your marketing.
For example, there are technology platforms that will give you information about which schools or universities are visiting your website. Also, in most CRM platforms, you can set up ways to score your leads and contacts, so you know who is engaging the most. These are valuable pieces of information for your sales team so they know which accounts and people to focus on for their outreach.
Today’s buyers spend more time finding new vendors independently than meeting with sales teams. As a result, your education company’s marketing and sales teams need to work more closely together so that marketing reaches potential buyers during their research, bringing qualified, informed leads who are ready to buy to the sales team.