Seasons of Success: Mastering the Education Marketing Cycle

By Toni Elsberry

education marketing cycleWhen it comes to selling to schools, timing really is everything. Sounds like a cliché? Consider this:

Sixty to seventy percent of education purchases are made for the coming school year during the summer alone.

This doesn’t mean that you can begin marketing to educators in late winter and expect them to move from prospect to customer by summer. In fact, that’s a surefire way to fail. Your planning should be a year ahead: During the summer, as schools and districts are finalizing most of their major purposes, you should be formulating a way to ensure that, come next summer, they are your customers.

Fortunately, the education marketing cycle is rather predictable, subdivided into phases where very specific activity takes place. Marketers can use knowledge of the cycle to more effectively tailor their messaging and tactics to meet prospect’s immediate needs and move them through the funnel. 

Here’s a brief look at the education marketing cycle and the tactics that are best suited to each time period.

August through December: Awareness and Familiarity Phase

This is where you meet your prospects for the first time, letting them know who you are (and how you’re different from your competitors), how you can help them, and nurturing them with information about how you can make their lives easier. 

Great tactics for this phase:

  • Email content such as white papers, case studies, articles, and videos that show thought leadership and authority.
  • Direct mail with a back-to-school theme, such as calendars, worksheets, wall posters, and other useful, fun items that are both practical and help build your brand.
  • Webinars, workshops, conferences, and other avenues where educators better acquaint themselves with how you can help. Techniques such as gated landing pages provide valuable lead generation.

January through April: Consideration and Trial Phase

Now that your audience has gotten to know you through your relevant and useful content, it’s time to convince them that you’re worth even more of their attention. This is where your messaging gets more detailed and you illuminate further the promises made in the awareness and familiarity phase that you can make educators’ lives easier.  As you lead prospects down the funnel, your marketing will guide them to next steps, share real-world case studies and client testimonials of your products and services being used with great results. This is where you entice clients to schedule demos, provide them with product-specific information, and convince them to buy. Be sure to get far ahead of budget finalization. Most budgets for Q2 are set in stone by mid- late-April.

Great tactics for this phase:

  • Email marketing encouraging demos and trials, showcasing product reviews and results, and providing incentive for purchasers to buy now.
  • Direct mail outreach through product brochures, catalogs, and other collateral.
  • Workshops, webinars and conferences led by brand advocates who can speak passionately and with firsthand knowledge of your product or service.

May through July: Planning Phase

This is when you might be tempted to take a breath Don’t. Instead, begin planning diligently for next year’s marketing cycle. Look at what worked and didn’t work in your last efforts and refine and refresh your approach. It’s also a great time to update your own marketing collateral – one hopes with new success stories from the past year. Stay on top of recent innovation and news in education to ensure that your product and service portfolio remains relevant and leading-edge.

Great tactics for this phase:

  • Website updates and tune-ups will make sure your website is in great shape for back-to-school, when educators will once again begin considering products and services to aid them and their students.
  • Content marketing efforts can really take off during this period. Use the slower pace of the planning season to develop and implement a content strategy to build awareness and provide value and education.
  • Webinars about general education strategies, new research and methodologies, and other topics both evergreen and innovative will generate interest as educators prepare for the upcoming school year.

Knowing the subtleties of the marketing cycle can help maximize your success. Agile Education Marketing offers a helpful infographic that aids greatly in planning throughout the entire cycle and offers additional tips and insights, as well as a more in-depth guide to the K-12 purchasing cycle. Although educators can be difficult to engage, part of the difficulty lies in just how busy they are. Knowing the marketing cycle helps you know when they are more likely to be receptive to your messaging – and just as importantly, when they will need it the most.  

About the Author

Toni Elsberry

Toni Elsberry is Director of Strategic Accounts at Agile Education Marketing. Toni taps into her more than 15 years of experience in education sales and marketing to help edtech organizations utilize data and multi-channel marketing to move PreK-12 and higher education decision-makers through the education sales cycle: building brand awareness, establishing thought leadership and authority, generating leads, and driving sales. Reach Toni at telsberry@agile-ed.com.