There’s no doubt; EdTech is booming. The UK sector, worth £3.5 billion, has seen a phenomenal surge over the last two years, accelerated by the need for digital classrooms.
With around 1,200 UK-based EdTech companies, there’s no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to disrupt the market and revolutionise how education is delivered. At The Wisdom Partnership, we often see business people with innovative ideas who are new to education. Whilst they have solid commercial skills, a lack of understanding of what makes the education sector unique can make it difficult to break into.
Education is markedly different from other sectors and requires a tailored and well-thought-out strategy to succeed. Here are some of the biggest marketing mistakes we see time and time again:
1. Approaching at the wrong time
Most EdTech businesses tell us their emails and calls to schools go unanswered. That’s because the usual B2B marketing rules don’t apply in education. It’s a basic but critical step to get right.
You might think the best time to approach a Headteacher is during the standard 9-5. But it’s better to speak to schools outside teaching hours – either before or after school, or even over lunch. Schools are also extremely busy during peak times in the academic calendar, so avoid exam time, half term, and end of term. However, these timings can differ by geographical area across the UK.
2. Targeting the wrong person
Even if you get the timing right, it’s imperative to target the most appropriate person. We regularly see organisations that have tried to contact generic email addresses (such as office@) and these messages are often immediately deleted by administrative staff.
It’s important to research your customer and the job roles that exist for their specific niches, such as Safeguarding or Pastoral Lead. This will help you find effective ways to reach these individuals directly.
It’s also worth noting that in some cases purchasing power doesn’t lie with the school. Traditionally, local authorities or, increasingly, multi-academy trusts can dictate the software and systems schools must use. The process can also be different depending on which region or country of the UK you’re targeting.
Do you need help getting started in the education sector? If you’re new to the education sector and unsure how to progress, get in touch. The Wisdom Partnership has helped many companies navigate the complexities of the education market. We’ve also built up a network of educational contacts across the UK, so we can put you in touch directly with decision-makers to get your service or product seen by the right people. Contact us
3. Focusing on your product rather than your audience’s needs
Education is an extremely competitive market, with perennially tight budgets and even tighter workload constraints. Your audience – teachers and those in charge of running schools – are constantly bombarded with marketing emails offering the next best product.
Although you’ve worked hard to develop your product and are justifiably proud of it, to your audience it’s just another sales pitch. School staff dislike being sold to, as it’s an annoyance that makes their lives more difficult.
Your marketing should focus on your customer’s needs rather than your product features. Talk about the problems they face daily and solutions that your company can help to address. To stay relevant, avoid cold marketing methods, and invest in useful and memorable content for your audience.
4. Not investing in useful content marketing
Over 70% of marketers invest in content marketing, according to a 2020 Hubspot report. Content marketing is a technique where businesses create and share relevant and informative articles, publications, blogs and videos, to build customer trust over time.
From working with our clients, we’ve found helpful classroom and online resources have been a successful approach to getting a foot in the door to attract customers. For example, we produced a series of educational and eye-catching IT posters for schools, which addressed key aspects of the curriculum. These helped students learn and could be used on wall displays (satisfying Ofsted’s desire for an ‘appropriate use of wallspace’). We distributed more than 7,000 posters over a year, which eventually filtered down to £395,000 of new revenue attributable to the campaign.
5. Using the wrong communication channels
It’s tempting to spread yourself thinly across every social media platform. However, you’ll get more value for money by targeting your communications on the platforms your audience uses. Establish a social media strategy to determine who you’re targeting and the type of content you’ll need for different platforms. You should also set realistic goals, choose appropriate metrics to track success, and decide how much time you’re willing to invest to achieve them.
Top tips to consider:
- LinkedIn and Twitter are best for engaging senior leaders of schools and multi-academy trusts. For LinkedIn use longer-form content and thought leadership, while Twitter is good for keeping up-to-date with the industry.
- Instagram and Pinterest can be useful for targeting subject teachers. Use Instagram to highlight company events and corporate social and environmental responsibility work. Teachers often use Pinterest for lesson plan ideas, so create content to support this.
- Whilst we would completely rule Facebook out for certain campaigns, even if your audience is using it, they are unlikely to be using it professionally. All too often we’ve seen ad budgets wasted on this platform.
- Word of mouth recommendations are still by far the best way to reach new customers in the sector. By providing an excellent customer experience at every stage, your customers will become brand advocates and tell your story for you. Think about creating a community where customers are happy to provide endorsements, contribute to case studies or participate in company or industry events.
6. Looking for quick wins
Many businesses new to education are looking for quick wins, but building relationships in education and making a sale can take time. The sales cycle has only increased for many companies during the pandemic. Schools can be tied into multi-year contracts for their software and systems, which may not be up for renewal when you make the first approach, so it’s important to be front-of-mind when the time is right for the customer.
As we’ve already mentioned, thinking you can achieve success by sending product emails to schools that don’t know you is completely futile. The old marketing adage still holds true: you have to spend time raising awareness and generating interest before you can expect engagement or meaningful activity. The trick is shortcutting this process so that it can happen more quickly.
You can keep potential customers warm by building a nurture programme to complement lead generation activities. This will ensure you’re relevant, credible and easily found when schools are ready to purchase, even if that’s a significant time after a prospect initially engaged with your content.
7. Avoiding partnerships
In the simplest form, partnering with other organisations can widen your network, helping to reach new customers. However, we’ve also enabled EdTech businesses to partner with organisations offering complementary services or by integrating products to offer a joint solution, greater value and a stronger commercial proposition. These partnerships have helped successfully cut through a cluttered market.
If you’re looking for partnership opportunities, we can connect you to a wide range of organisations across all disciplines in the education sector.
Helping you thrive in the world of education
Making common marketing mistakes can be very costly, resulting in lost time and money. By tailoring your marketing approach to the education sector and not taking a generic approach you can avoid some of the pitfalls we see time and time again.
Get in touch if you need support with your marketing approach. Our full-service consultancy can help you thrive in the world of education.