Technology in the classroom has come a long way. Consider the early days of students surfing the web in a computer lab on Netscape Navigator. Software, computers and mobile devices are now taking center stage in schools.
The problem is, teachers and administrators get bombarded with new products, services, and technologies. Every product or service claims to be the next big thing in EdTech, and it's hard for them to decide what to buy. In 2015, EdTech startups received upwards of $1.85 billion in funding. There’s a current explosion of EdTech startups, and the playing field is getting more crowded than ever.
So the question is, what’s the best way to market to schools in order stand out from the crowd? Here’s how EdTech startups can make their marketing more effective. As well as what common mistakes avoid, and some companies that are getting it right.
EdTech Requires a Unique Approach
The education industry is much different than traditional businesses or consumers. Even if teachers believe in a particular technology, odds are they’ll need budgetary approval. So not only does EdTech marketing have to influence teachers, but administrators as well. The buying process for EdTech is complex. It differs from other industries because it requires the buy-in of both public and private stakeholders.
Marketers also need to understand how educators like to do business. As opposed to other industries, people in education value word-of-mouth recommendations and in-person communication. It’s easy to think a traditional marketing approach when marketing EdTech. But the fact is, educators trust vendors that have had success in other schools. So what can EdTech companies do to get their marketing right? First, EdTech startups need to focus on building a brand instead of just marketing a product.
Effective EdTech Marketing Strategies
Tailor message to how your product solves a problem. There are several common marketing pitfalls that EdTech startups need to avoid. Perhaps the most common is the failure to take a solution oriented approach to marketing. Having a clever name and slick website are great. Yet, many EdTech companies lose sight of communicating how their technology solves a problem. Nor is it particularly useful to rely on vague language or buzzwords. A “cloud-based collaborative learning platform” doesn't inform educators about how the technology adds value.
Google Apps for Education, for instance, describes itself as A Suite of Free Productivity Tools for Classroom Collaboration. This is an effective message because it touches on the problem it solves. Classroom productivity in this case. It’s also clear that the solution is greater collaboration, and does so free of charge.
Get involved in your target market’s community. Another overlooked aspect is the marketing value of educational community involvement. You can also get to know people directly by creating your own online community about specific education topics. Below are some tips to help you create a fantastic online community.
- Appeal to passions. It’s important that your online community based on something educators are passionate about. Ideally, you should be passionate about the same topic and be able to share that with your members. Let them know why you created the community, your mission and communicate how it aligns with members’ passions. At the same time, do your homework and make sure that your community is filling a unique, specific need that’s not already being served.
- Provide valuable content. Once you’ve established a passion community that fills a need, you’ll then want to start providing content that adds value for your members. Start by examining community hot topics and debates to get ideas for what your content should be about. Don’t shy away from getting the community involved in the creation process either. You can do things like interview members for blog posts, or asking top community influencers for their input during the creation process.
- Encourage participation. Get creative to keep your members engaged and keep the conversation moving along. Use things like community quizzes and surveys about topics that people feel strongly about in order to spark discussion and debate. And don’t overlook the power of real-life, in person meetups. Members can put faces to the names of other users, as well as get to know you in person. There’s no substitute for bonding face-to-face, and it will only serve to generate more participation onlin.
Marketing is a long game. Finally, EdTech companies should recognize the limitations of marketing automation and lead nurturing. More often than not, teachers are going to be the ones visiting your website. They may even subscribe to your newsletter or signing up for product demos. You should definitely have follow-up marketing to these individuals planned and automated. But keep in mind that teachers aren’t the ultimate decision makers. It’s important to be proactive in marketing to other stakeholders within the organization. Don't just wait for nurture marketing to convert teachers to customers.
Who’s Doing EdTech Marketing Right?
Create a valuable content mindset. This means adopting a thought leadership mindset and implementing an inbound marketing approach. Take Brainscape, for example, a startup application for better flashcards. Their blog includes a wide variety of topics. Learning, memory and how the brain absorbs subject matter are among the topics discussed.
And it’s this kind of helpful, non-invasive content that EdTech startups should use. It helps to build up a perception of expertise in a particular area. Great marketing bears in mind the many decision makers involved. ClassDojo, a classroom behaviour management software, does a great job of doing just that. On their website, ClassDojo has created informational content for parents, teachers, and administrators. Their blog also features perspectives from adults and children alike. This goes hand in hand with segmenting your target audience. This way you can push the appropriate content out to each segment.
It’s also wise to join LinkedIn groups and other online educator communities. You'll then be able to share content that’s useful to people specific to that community. Remember, teachers have different problems than administrators. So share content that's on target for each group or community you engage with.