As a high-time marketer to schools and districts, I’ve found that capturing the interest of overworked teachers and administrators is no simple task. Since school staff have so many demands on their time and energy, it’s typical to send marketing messages into the wild and receive little to no response.
An early-stage company needs to experiment with various marketing methods and be willing to fail and learn from those experiments; however, it’s also critical to quickly identify marketing campaigns that work and produce an ROI that supports its growth.
As a startup founder and education startup investor, I’ve experimented with various marketing strategies, as have the teams I’ve funded.
Even if you have the best education marketing product or service on the planet, you also need to promote it. It determines your sales and success. Marketing accounted for 11.5% of education and technology startups and companies’ annual sales in 2018.
Several marketing strategies, such as ads, bulk email, and various types of social media, are not included on this list. That isn’t to suggest they can’t be helpful in certain situations (student or teacher-purchased items have a higher chance of success than school or district-purchased products).
But they aren’t as valuable as these five activities:
1: Put Money into an SDR Program.
Relationships are at the heart of marketing and sale. It isn’t easy to unlock many prospects solely by digital or print contact. By focusing on initial scheduling appointments with customers, a successful Sales Development Rep (SDR) program will take outbound marketing to the next stage.
Though busy founders do not have time to prospect, they will usually find time to meet with potential buyers. Placing an SDR at the top of the prospecting phase will help a founder fill their pipeline with pre-qualified meetings (or sales closer).
I’ve seen highly active SDRs generate an average of 20 new meetings each month, which is a game-changer for an education startup.
2: Give away anything for free.
A free value-added product is a perfect way to start a partnership with a prospect and reduce friction in the marketing and sales process. This may be a freemium product or something else entirely, such as a free consultation, educational webinar, white paper, or even an essential free tool such as a spreadsheet.
The aim here is to find the most basic way to engage many prospects and create a reputation for the startup. Founders will have to try a few different methods before discovering one that works.
Combining this with SDR software is a powerful one-two punch for converting offenders (unengaged contacts) into prospects (potential customers).
3: Make The Most of Event-based Marketing.
Attending conferences and other activities is old-fashioned marketing, but it’s a great way to meet with school leaders who are otherwise difficult to enter. People attend conferences and other activities to get away from the daily grind of their careers, learn new skills, and network with like-minded individuals.
These types of activities, in my experience, are just as successful as the planning work that startups put in. If all founders sign up to exhibit and then show up to their booth and wait for the crowd to find them.
4: Fill the Top of the Funnel with Fruitful Collaborations
As a business development leader in education startups, I’ve navigated several partnerships and failed more than I succeeded, particularly early in my career. This is the beast’s essence, but just because there’s a high risk of failure doesn’t mean entrepreneurs shouldn’t try.
In most education startups, I discovered that forming fruitful alliances that fill the top of the funnel with quality meetings is possible.
On the other hand, finding a partner who can market and sell from the beginning to the end of the process is even more difficult. I’ve discovered that getting startup employees to market and sell at the levels needed by most high-growth companies is hard enough.
A variety of companies are solving problems and making it easier for businesses, especially education startups, by providing us with various email finder tools to help us build good relationships with our partners, students, teachers, and organizations.
There are a variety of software available companies that can help you get email addresses. GetEmail.io is an excellent email search tool that outperforms most websites by over 90%. It’s an email finder platform that helps you to find the email address of any professional instantly.
In addition, why do you expect a partner with limited resources and Mindshare to complete the task?
Consider rewarding collaborators through email marketing strategies (such as trade groups and technology firms) for making more warm introductions to prospects. The startup will take charge of the process once the introduction is made, starting with the first meeting.
5: Calculate the Value of an MQL and Do more of What Matches or Exceeds the Figure.
“What are you willing to pay on a marketing trained lead (MQL)?” is a question I often ask founders.” I seldom get a definitive response, and I believe it is one of the most critical factors for entrepreneurs to consider when they invest in marketing and sales.
This figure, in my opinion, drives the marketing investments that help in education startup marketing.
It’s pretty obvious how to calculate marketing channels if a startup is willing to spend $250 or $500 per MQL. Founders must then determine what each channel generates and at what cost before investing in more of what meets or exceeds the MQL target.
A lot goes into creating a successful distribution engine, but it all starts with figuring out this number and then measuring and monitoring against it.
What am I overlooking in these marketing strategies? In your education startups, what else have you seen work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.