Exeleon Magazine

Entering the Education Market: An Entrepreneur’s Four-Step Guide

Verlan Stephens_Entering the Education Market

More than ever, smart companies are entering or expanding in the education market, many of them in unexpected and profitable ways. From creative start-ups to architects to huge tech names such as Dell and Epson, they realize that this multi-billion-dollar market is part of a potentially lucrative future-forward marketing strategy.

In the past 18 months, education as an industry has grown significantly with the influx of additional state and federal funding to meet the new demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses are sensing this opportunity, but how and where to start?

As you consider this market, keep in mind both the larger institutions and the premium value of teachers as an individual consumer target audience. In the next year, 85 percent of teachers are planning to make some large purchase decisions, such as a vacation of a week or more (61%), according to an August 2021 survey of teachers from Harris Poll and sponsored by Agile Education Marketing and SheerID. To help with their purchase decisions, nearly all teachers (97%) say they proactively research brands through online reviews (80%) and online searches (71%). Understanding teachers’ interests and spending patterns can give you the insight you need to break into the education market and amp up your revenue.

With that in mind, let’s get started:

Step 1: Learn the market.

How do you know if this is the space for you? The world of education is a highly fragmented, ever-changing place, unlike any other market out there. The largest segment—and probably the one most impacted by COVID—is Kindergarten through 12th Grade. The K-12 system is the most dependent on government funding, so it’s always looking for innovative services and products to serve more than 56.6 million students in public and private schools

Savvy entrepreneurs need to identify key factors:

  • The specific purchasing patterns of target school districts or education systems.
  • The key decisionmakers and the process for the major purchasing decisions.
  • The size of the school budgets, broken down by strategic categories.

It’s important to remember that virtually all school and district purchasing decisions are made collaboratively by groups of educators. This means that you usually cannot just target one job title. You need to familiarize yourself with the various roles and responsibilities to determine all the key players.

Step 2: Understand these key players.

Digging deeper, there are approximately 4.3 million educators and school staff in the U.S. in K-12 alone. Collectively, they account for 3.4 percent of the American working population and represent up to $15.8 billion dollars in spending in key consumer spending categories.

Pay particular attention to their buying persona. Teachers tend to have a higher discretionary spending budget and, on average, have a higher earned income than comparable non-educator households. Understanding the specific buyer personas can help you tailor your approach and determine which districts and which job categories you should target.

Specifically, you should keep in mind:

  • The education market outperforms the general public, government aside, in direct marketing campaigns. They are active, loyal, and highly influential consumers, especially for companies that provide them discounts.
  • They have relative financial stability and high education levels. Roughly 75 percent are female, and women traditionally hold a considerable portion of household buying power.
  • Teachers are generally well-respected members of the community and are often looked to for advice, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • They are among the first to identify what resources are needed in schools, even the non-traditional products or services.

Step 3: Provide specific solutions.

Many companies are finding their way into the education market, including firms not traditionally linked to classrooms, such as food service, transportation, software, local attractions, security, janitorial services, and more.

This means that if you carefully examine all the possibilities, there’s probably a spot for your company or product. Using strategic audience segmentation is the key to sharper messaging and higher response rates. The more you align your message to the needs of the person on the other end, the more likely they will listen.

For each potential product or service, remember to drill down deep in considering:

  • Who has used our product or service before, and how did it work?
  • How is it going to solve the problem and need of those I’m contacting?
  • How can schools or individual consumers pay for this?

Step 4: Timing is everything.

Connecting with the consumer at the right time is essential, especially in the K-12 sector, where understanding the purchasing cycle is a key component in achieving success. Most schools finalize their budgets during spring to early summer. This means that the start of the calendar year (or maybe even earlier) is the optimal time to be in front of educators. They can’t budget for your products if they don’t know about them.

Paving the way for a smooth sales process starts with carefully tailoring your marketing communications to provide what educators need at every stage of the decision-making process. With billions flowing into this market, now is the time to assess your potential.

Written By Verlan Stephens, Managing Partner, Agile Education Marketing

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Contact Verlan Stephens on LinkedIn.

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