1) Using buzzwords to get educators’ attention.
This one can be easily confused. There are two situations where buzzwords appear in education marketing:
- A company has designed a product in response to teacher, school, or district need. The product specifically solves a problem. Often, this problem is related to a state or federal-level initiative. Or it serves a very specific population. Or it helps with compliance. In these cases, you have to use the “buzzwords” because you’re using them to accurately describe the features and benefits of your product. In this case, you’re just accurately marketing the product to educators.
- The second is the “Common Core-aligned” effect. This is when an existing product is re-packaged and re-positioned to meet new standards. For any educators with their eyes open, this looks inauthentic and scammy. This is what you want to avoid if you’re hoping to build real relationships with educators.
2) Thinking more is better.
More features, more content, more of everything is not always better.
In today’s culture, everyone is overwhelmed by messages, content, and demands on their time. If you can honestly market your product to promote simplification and focus, then you’re tapping into a real psychological need of educators.
3) Using multiple calls to action.
This happens often in email newsletters. A simple rule I heard from copywriter Val Geisler is “one email, one job.”
I see this especially from companies sharing educational content. Help people use a little-known. Encourage them to read a case study. Ask for feedback on a specific question.
Don’t do all of this at once.
4) Thinking everything has to be short and direct.
Educator and author Kelly Gallagher tells a story about teaching writing. His students often ask him “how long should my essay be?”
He answers them with a question: “how long is a piece of string?”
The answer, of course, is as long as you cut it or, as long as it needs to be. This is also true for the copy in your emails, website pages, ads, and blogs.
It’s true that educators are busy. But it’s also true that people will read longer messages if they’re personalized, relevant, and interesting to them.
5) Forgetting about status.
Companies can get caught up in being product-solution focused. This ignores the most important thing in your business: the customers.
And when your customers are educators, you can ethically tap into the status many desire in order to show you understand them.
Many teachers will stay in the classroom their whole careers, but they view themselves as instructional leaders. They seek ways to demonstrate they are constantly looking for the newest and best for their students.
Similarly, many administrators work to be seen as a particular type of leader. They may want to be viewed as a leader who demonstrates the newest trends from CEOs in the business world. They may want to be seen as putting students, teachers, or their community first. They may want to be seen as leading a school organization that is ahead of its contemporaries.
Use this to your advantage. The stories you tell to your customers will determine whether these people view your product as a way to increase their status or not.
6) Forgetting about survival.
On the other hand, there are times when people are just trying to get by. The tools and resources they need are to help them today – or even next class period.
This is important to remember for companies who are selling products that do not necessarily appear to improve an existing process and cater to a newer trend or movement in education.
For example, it’s hard to sell an overwhelmed teacher on using VR to teach literacy if the teacher is desperately trying to make sure his students get closer to reading on grade level.
But if you can frame your product right, and lead with the transformation your product causes, you may be able to get them to see that this product, which seems like something “extra,” is actually the best way to help them with their day-to-day survival.
7) Forgetting which one of those you’re focusing on.
Educators switch back and forth between those two situations. It’s not as if one person is constantly driven by status, and others by survival. Just make sure you’re getting your messages straight.
This involves the recipient, the timing, and the content of your marketing messages. Know the school year. Know your educator personas. Know the specific educational context into which you’re communicating.
Bonus: 8) Not sounding like a person talking to a person.
This whole list can sound like too much. In general, you can probably ignore most of it.
Spend your time making sure that your marketing sounds like it’s coming from a real person talking to another real person. That’ll get you 90% of the way there.