The education market is exciting and opportunities abound. But it takes some time to really understand the ins and out of the purchasing cycle. There are many individuals involved. It follows a highly regimented schedule. Purchasing can take months, even years.
To be successful at selling to districts, schools and educators, it’s important to embrace these three truths.
There may only be one name signed on the dotted line of a final agreement, but don’t let that fool you. Purchases are typically collaborative, with many educators weighing in on what products and services should and shouldn’t be bought.
There could be 20 different titles that help determine a purchase. Sometimes purchasing even involves outside stakeholders such as parents. All of these individuals have a different need for your product, and all of them have different questions about your product.
The types of districts you’re targeting also impacts which educators are involved in purchasing. If you’re selling to the 30 or so “mega” districts in the U.S., you’ll have more titles and more educators to reach. If your targets are the 10,500 smallest districts in the country, then you’ll be targeting fewer educators wearing multiple hats.
It’s essential that you : You must understand all of the educators who will have input in purchasing in your target markets, and address each of those audiences with targeted messaging that plays to their unique perspectives.
Most districts and schools finalize budgets for the following school year in Q2 — in the April, May, June timeframe. That means that in the spring, most will know exactly which products they’re going to buy. However, those purchases likely won’t occur until the summer months, from late-May to late-August.
Knowing the unique timing of the education sales cycle will help you develop stronger messages around exactly the information educators need at the specific stage of the sales cycle they are in. For example, you’ll know that a “Buy Now” call-to-action (CTA) in September is a mistake, since educators have likely already made their purchases for the school year and aren’t ready to buy for next year.
A thorough understanding of the education purchasing cycle is critical. Once you know the four core stages, then you can time your messages for maximum impact.
In general, the length of time it takes to make education purchasing decisions is consistent across all product categories. Exceptions might include: discretionary products purchased year-round, complex products that require longer sales cycles, or products purchased with “use it or lose it” funds at the end of the year.
However, in general, funding is released between May – June. After that, districts and schools enter a months-long process for researching and finalizing purchases that they’ll make the following summer.
Because the process is so complex, you must master lead nurturing. This practice requires patience as you deliver the right content to the right educators at exactly the right time to move them naturally through the sales funnel. This necessitates an extensive knowledge of the sales cycle, your target markets and your education prospects.
The key to doing all of this successfully is data. There are 16,000 K-12 districts in this country, 150,000 K-12 schools and more than 6 million educators. All of those thousands of schools and millions of educators are having different conversations about the technology initiatives they’ve implemented, new teaching methodologies they’re considering, school performance goals, etc. Plus, 20% of personnel in a school change year over year with as much as a 100% job title change in some schools. It would be impossible to keep up with them all on your own.
With reputable education data, you have access to the most up-to-date information about your target markets and the educators working within them. Use that data to do your homework and reach educators with the information that matters specifically to them, at the right time and on the right platforms.
For more about using data to grow your business in the education market, watch the full, on-demand webinar that inspired this article: The Business of Selling to Schools: The When, Where, Why, and How presented by myself and Agile Education Marketing’s Managing Partner and CIO, Verlan Stephens.