Education, like most industries, has a purchasing cycle. In order to nurture educators down the path to purchase, it’s important to align your marketing and communications to every stage. You must deliver the right information to educators at the right time, and give it to them in the right place and format.
The 4 Stages of the Education Purchasing Cycle
Decision-making in education purchasing is a long process. Before the 2017-18 school year begins, educators will have already started planning purchases for 2018-19. Yet, purchases likely won’t be made until summer 2018.
The education purchasing cycle is made up of four phases, which begins with spring planning and culminates with summer purchasing. Create integrated marketing campaigns tailored to each of these four stages to nurture educators through your sales funnel.
Education Purchasing Cycle Phase 1: Planning
Length: May – July
Educator Considerations: Once school lets out for summer, administrators immediately get to work assessing their needs and researching for the following school year. Teachers complete professional development, work on lesson planning and research products and services that will aid in their instruction.
Marketing Tactics to Try: Summer may be quieter than most months throughout the school year, but educators are still working. Scale back your outreach, but stay in communication. Rather than focusing on product promotion, make brand awareness your primary goal.
Website SEO: One of the first places educators will look for answers, ideas and solutions is the Internet. Schedule time during summer to review your website and optimize it for search. Feature product-relevant keywords educators are using to conduct their online searches.
Content Marketing: Consistently uploading high-quality content online is another way to improve SEO. Turn your website into a helpful resource for educators by creating high-level content that answers their pressing questions while establishing thought leadership. Building this library of content during summer will be helpful come fall when your marketing campaigns are in full swing.
Webinars: Educators have more uninterrupted hours during summer to devote to their own learning. Consider hosting or sponsoring a brand-relevant webinar or webinar series that gets you in front of educators and cements your authority as a thought leader. Provide valuable information and tools around general strategies, methodologies and research topics.
Education Purchasing Cycle Phase 2: Awareness and Familiarity
Length: August – December
Educator Considerations: At this point, educators have finalized their major purchases for the school year and have already started planning for next year. They’re not ready to dive into product demos and free trials just yet. They want to learn more about you, what sets you apart and how you can fulfill their needs.
Marketing Tactics to Try: Your goal during this phase should be gathering leads. Seek out schools and districts that are a good fit for your product, and get to know them — and help them get to know you. Avoid the hard sell, and instead deploy marketing campaigns online and offline that build trust in your brand.
Email: Emails to educators don’t go unnoticed. In fact, 43 percent of administrators and 41 percent of teachers say they value email as a way to communicate with education vendors, according to a recent Agile survey. During phase two, use CTAs to drive downloads of case studies, white papers and videos.
Direct mail: Direct mail still has a place in marketing. It even outperforms digital marketing response rates. Reach educators with a tangible piece of marketing they can touch — and can’t delete with a click. Send items that make your name known around their offices or classrooms such as calendars, notepads and hallway banners.
Events: These can be online (webinars) or in-person (conferences and workshops). Hosting events allows you to meet face-to-face and form personal connections with educators. Events also are a great place to grab educator contact information to fill your CRM.
Education Purchasing Cycle Phase 3: Consideration and Trial
Length: January - April
Educator Considerations: Educators begin finalizing budgets in Q2 (April, May, June). As they seriously consider budgeting, educators’ interests will shift. Now they want to know specifically about your products and services: How have they helped other educators, and how will they help reach their specific goals?
Marketing Tactics to Try: Focus on two core goals during this phase: Get in front of educators before they finalize budgets, and convert your leads to sales. Zero in on the specific products and services you have to offer. Much of your marketing tactics will remain the same — it’s your messaging that will shift.
Email: Continue with email campaigns, but include a strong product focus. Talk specifically about your products (evidence of success, cost, implementation details, features and benefits, examples of use in other districts), and push demos, free trials and purchases.
Direct mail: Finalize and send your spring catalog. Educators often rely on catalogs as a tool for researching education products.
Customer/Influencer Marketing: Invite customers to speak on your behalf on a webinar or conference panel. You also could invite a loyal customer to author a guest blog post or be interviewed for a case study. Not only does this help strengthen relationships with current customers, but it also can generate new customers.
Education Purchasing Cycle Phase 4: Purchasing
Educator Considerations: The summer months are when a majority of purchases are made — even though most budgets are finalized by Q2. Educators use the summer to nail down their investments for the next school year and start researching solutions for the following year.
Marketing Tactics to Try: Summer is slower, but don’t stand idle. Start working on the marketing tactics in the Planning phase to get in front of teachers before back-to-school.
Learn more about the K-12 Education Purchasing Cycle and specific ways to align your marketing to it. Join the hundreds of education marketers who have downloaded our free Education Marketing Cycle guide.