Teachers are a strong audience segment for education vendors to market their products and services to. While many purchases are made at the district level, teachers frequently make direct purchases for their classrooms. A recent survey of teachers conducted by Agile Education Marketing and SheerID* revealed that teachers spent an average of $468 — almost 11 percent of their salaries — out-of-pocket on classroom supplies during the 2016-17 school year.
Other times, teachers directly influence buying decisions in schools and at the district level. Take technology investments, which are often considered an administrator’s buying responsibility. Respondents to the Agile and SheerID survey said they play more of a role in the selection and purchasing of technology than vendors might think: 38 percent said they choose technology for their classrooms, and 28 percent offer advice to a principal who makes the final purchase.
No matter what role teachers play in the education purchasing funnel — decision maker or influencer — it’s important to reach out to teachers with timely, targeted messaging that explains who you are, what you have to offer and how you can make lives easier in their schools.
Here are five ways you can strengthen your teacher communications to increase awareness, response and ROI among this important education market segment.
1. Plan year-round marketing communications to teachers. Teachers spend a significant amount of money on classroom supplies, but they don’t limit their shopping to back-to-school. Instead, many teachers opt to space out their purchases — no doubt in an effort to spread out the cost of supplying their classrooms throughout the school year. In the Agile and SheerID survey, 64 percent of teachers said their shopping trips take place every month to every few months.
Since teachers head out for supply runs often, it’s important to plan consistent communications with them throughout the year. This strategy will help keep your brand top-of-mind, and it will give you the opportunity to promote your latest deals, from discounts to free trials.
2. Organize marketing campaigns around teacher discounts. Teachers work hard for their paychecks, and they appreciate when education vendors offer discounts that get them more for their money. In fact, teachers report being more loyal to brands that pass along savings (96 percent said they are more likely to purchase from a company that offers a teacher discount for online purchases when shopping for their classrooms). Not only should these discounts be prominent in your marketing, but they also should be worth teachers’ while. Sixty-three percent of respondents reported that discounts need to be at least 20 percent to get their attention.
This tip is offered with the caveat that not all of your messaging should be product-focused. Mix these messages among helpful content-focused communications that make teachers’ lives easier and support them in their roles. If you really need to push a sale or discount, plan to do so around back-to-school season as well as January – April and summer, when most educators begin budgeting and purchasing for the upcoming school year.
3. Strategize an integrated marketing plan. It would be a mistake to focus all of your marketing efforts on email this school year, or to invest only in direct mail. While it’s important to focus your efforts on the platforms that perform best and offer the most return, it’s also essential to span your marketing across multiple print and digital channels to maximize your reach. Just consider all of the sources — digital and traditional — that survey respondents report using to find teacher deals. These include:
• Word of mouth (71 percent)
• Email (54 percent)
• Social media (43 percent)
• Online (39 percent)
• Store websites (38 percent)
• Traditional print ads (27 percent)
4. Strengthen your content marketing efforts with SEO. In addition to great deals, teachers want to work with vendors they value and trust. But these days, consumers have more control over forming their own brand perceptions. They rely less on marketing and sales to educate them and instead conduct independent online research to narrow their purchasing decisions. For example, 65 percent of survey respondents said they use search engines as their main source of information for teaching and learning, and 58 percent said the same for education products.
That’s why it’s important for education marketing teams to invest in creating helpful, brand-relevant content that answers the questions teachers are asking online and to use SEO to drive traffic to their sites. Finding your content helps teachers establish your authority as an education thought leader. They’ll continue reading and using your content if you provide it, which strengthens loyalty and trust. And what do these equate to? Sales.
5. Perfect your buyer journey. Your content marketing and SEO efforts might be considered top- and middle-of-funnel marketing, meant to capture prospects’ attention, introduce them to your brand and guide them down the path to purchase. The end of the funnel is the sale, which many teachers complete online. Forty percent of Agile and SheerID survey respondents said they make school purchases on the Internet — a large majority, 78 percent, make those purchases from their laptop or desktop computers.
You can nurture leads down the buying funnel, but check-out annoyances can cause lost sales once teachers arrive there. Avoid focusing all of your efforts on driving teachers to your site. Also pay careful attention to perfecting your site to maximize conversions once teachers arrive there. According to survey respondents, paying for shipping, a complicated check-out process, discount ineligibility, and needing to create a profile to make a purchase are all annoyances that could persuade teachers to abandon their carts before checking out.
* The 2017 Teacher Purchasing, Spending and Loyalty Survey is the fourth-annual teacher survey conducted by Agile Education Marketing and SheerID. This year, survey data was generated from responses gathered from more than 600 teacher-participants.