Each teacher is a gateway to hundreds of pupils and parents. Here's how to reach them.
It's back-to-school season for more than just students and teachers. It's time for marketers, too, to dust off their school supplies.
What do I mean by that? I'm not talking about today's marketers needing additional education (though some of them would certainly like it). I'm talking about business opportunity.
Earning and Learning
According to the National Center for Education Statistics' May 2016 data, the U.S. spends an average of $9,200 per full-time elementary and secondary student. At the post-secondary level, that figure jumps to $27,900 per full-time student. With more than 70 million students in the U.S., that's some serious untapped revenue.
What's more, educators make a grade-A audience for brands. Teachers spend an estimated $1.6 billion per year out of their own pockets on school supplies. And when you reach teachers, you reach parents. At the elementary level, each teacher influences the buying habits of 30 or more households. At the postsecondary level, each teacher can reach as many as 150 households. Educators recommend books, products, apps, technologies, camps, and so much more to families.
What, exactly, are those teachers and parents looking for? In the digital age, they're no longer just looking for classroom materials like pencils and protractors; they're interested in digital media, including educational apps and online webinars.
But don't take my word for it. The Journal, a publication dedicated to improving education via technology, recently found that nine in 10 students utilize digital learning materials at home. And eighty-eight percent of parents and 84 percent of teachers want additional digital content to support what's taught in school.
When it comes to education, does your marketing make the grade? Teachers are a smart bunch and can see through inauthentic or uneducated campaigns. Here's how to reach them:
1. Study up on social.
Teachers use social media, particularly Pinterest, at a higher rate than the national average. Reach them where they are, such as on social sites like the million-member "WeAreTeachers" Facebook page. Don't forget about niche communities, either. The more specialized the field, the higher the likelihood that its teachers network with peer groups.
Get noticed on social by creating shareable content. For example, you might share a series of humorous short videos that speak to areas teachers are passionate about. Add value with recommendations about addressing bullying, gathering supplies, or managing the classroom.
2. Skip the vocabulary test.
Educators are bombarded with buzzwords and acronyms. Don't assume you'll ingratiate yourself with them by speaking their language. Use language that focuses on educators' core desire to have a positive impact on their students.
For example, my company partnered with fire safety experts to develop fun, easy-to-use resources that teachers could share with families. We produced teaching plans, including original songs, activities, apps, and storybooks. Teachers love the preplanned lessons, parents love the content, and students love the interactive activities.
3. Give free access for extra credit.
Even in the digital age, word of mouth is still the most powerful driver of purchase decisions. In fact, 63 percent of teachers seek advice prior to purchasing (compared to 43 percent of the broader population). And educators don't just teach students; they're constantly teaching one another, parents, and administrators about helpful resources, too.
At the 2016 EdNET Conference, for instance, multiple administrators mentioned that they seek teachers' stamp of approval before purchasing materials from education marketers. Get your product in the hands of educators to try for themselves, and you'll gain eager influencers who can expand its reach.
4. Remind teachers that they're valued.
Day after day, teachers are told the education system is broken. Their performance is constantly under the microscope and scrutinized by the media, politicians, parents, and administrators. Talk about a tough work environment, right?
When marketing to teachers, respect the profession without talking down to them. Remind them that for all of the criticism they receive, they're heroes on the front lines. They're trying to balance the demands of educational standards, testing requirements, homework, attendance, graduation rates, and their own professional development.
5. Show; don’t tell.
Don't just tell teachers how your product helps students; show it to them. Teachers are discerning buyers. Before they spend money — their own, in many cases — on an educational product or service, they want to see it in acton. Use case studies and real-world examples to prove to them that your product is worth its salt.
Recently, an American auto manufacturer wanted to help teens drive safely. It created a virtual field trip with a real teacher as the host, which ultimately reached thousands of students. That's the kind of product demonstration you should shoot for.
Educators invest their hearts in students, but they also invest their money. To win a piece of it, take a seat. It's time to put your marketing smarts to the test before the bell rings on this rich source of revenue.
is the general manager of MDR
, the nation’s leading education marketing group. A wholly owned division of Dun & Bradstreet, MDR provides education marketing data, services, sales tools, and digital marketing solutions to the education industry and Fortune 500 brands. It specializes in bringing leading brands' messages to teachers, students, and parents. Stibel previously served as CTO at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. He can be reached at [email protected]