Educators and administrators run in the other direction from marketing and sales overtures. If they engage with us, it needs to be on their timetable and terms.
So, how do we share our product or brand content with schools and districts when they block our marketing and sales channels?
The answer lies in our ability to provide useful content and attract our target customers through effective content marketing.
Why is this important? With the easy access to information, prospects may make a decision about not doing business with us before we even have a chance to engage them in conversation.
Think of content marketing this way:
“Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent.”
As we do this over time, customers will reward us with their trust and business.
One of the signature qualities of the education market is that the buyer is often not the end user. Also, the buyer is not always the decision maker. Many committees actually make the recommendation to purchase. All of these buyers and influencers need information…but not necessarily the same kind.
Beginning with the premise that all marketing should be strategic in its goal of moving the prospect toward a purchase, where is the best place to start the planning process for an integrated content marketing plan?
Start with your web site and think of it as marketing and sales central. You want to have content there that is helpful to your prospect to understand, explain, or advocate for your product. The kind of self-service information you want there can include a video overview, case studies of schools and districts that have successfully implemented your product, efficacy research, or a white paper that details the curriculum area research or technical underpinnings of your product.
These pieces of content can also be pushed out via social media and the sales team. Content marketing is the art of marketing with sales as the intention without the appearance or feel of sales. The difference is that the goal becomes helping people versus selling people. The theory is that when we help prospects solve their problems, whatever those are, they will begin to trust us and eventually buy from us.
It’s also fair to think about the sales process as the opportunity to manage customer expectations. For schools and districts, it’s not just about the sale. It’s about the relationship before (the right kind of information at the right time) and after (the implementation). This consultative sales model complements content marketing as the focus is on customer needs.
And managing customer expectations is not just the responsibility of the sales team. Every person in the company from customer service to the president is responsible for understanding the customer’s unique needs and providing useful content from initial information gathering to inking the contract.
Effective marketing and sales efforts are multi-level and multi-touch. We need to thoughtfully consider the kind of content we can provide at every connection point before, during, and after a purchase decision.
Every single contact with a prospect or customer should include some variation of these questions…what is your biggest challenge and how can we help you with that today? Many of the most successful companies have always understood this as the core transaction between buyer and seller.
The bottom line is that an effective content marketing program provides the structure for consultative selling by sharing useful content that helps educators do their jobs more effectively.