7 things about marketing to education your boss wants to know

Harry Picken, marketing manager at the University of London subsidiary, CoSector, outlines seven things about marketing to education you should know

Education is hot right now. EdTech is about to explode into a market that could surpass FinTech at a time when digital disruption in the classroom is at its highest. And guess what? The UK is at the centre of it all. 

To make sure you can react in time, here are seven pointers for B2B marketers venturing into the education space:

1. Clean up your customer service

Education providers are notorious for having extremely long standing relationships with suppliers. Therefore, if you want to win their business off these old friends, your customer service is going to have to go above and beyond expectations. Make the transition so easy and enjoyable that key decision makers are convinced to make the jump.

But be warned, just one slip up in service delivery can have a major impact on the overall customer experience. So make sure all your teams are aligned, from development to sales, and never forget customer service should be an integral part of both your culture and your marketing strategy - not a department or afterthought.

2. Get friendly

Higher Education (HE) is a people-focused industry, mega in-tune with young people around the world. They can’t afford to stick to traditional marketing messages and neither can you.

HE companies are powered by humans who own their own emotions, tastes and preferences. To reach them in a meaningful way, get to know the employees, not just the organisation, and interact with them in a space, tone and subject that resonates. Find out how they like to consume information, what they like to do at the weekends, what their fears and motivations are, and tailor your content to fit a human conversation around these.

3. Honesty and transparency

In every business, every cost has to be accounted for. But as registered charities, this becomes of hyper importance in universities. Bound by tradition and regulation, total transparency and accountability is a must.

Vendors coming across as too commercial or forceful simply don’t fit with education providers. You need to align your sales and marketing teams from the outset to ensure only ideal companies are targeted, promises can be delivered and genuine sales conversations are set up.

One extra bit of advice: kick out complex pricing and say goodbye to adjective overuse.

4. Give additional benefits

Education customers are always seeking to maximise their wider impact. One great way to get a product or service to standout in is to show a philanthropic side.

I recently worked with a digital transformation company. Their added value was that for every businessperson they trained, they would train a young person for free. This strategy is paying dividends for them in attracting large multinational clients to the small and brave. Obviously, your strategy doesn’t have to be on this scale – as long as it benefits part of the community and relates to the product, you’ll be onto a winner.

5. Stop ‘food stamp’ entertaining

HE and EdTech customers actually love a bit of lunch.

Don’t hold back from splashing out on a half decent lunch for your education clients for fear of offending them with your expense account. I’m not saying go for a full-blown five course meal (because that won’t be looked on favourably), but a trip to a local restaurant or Pret may be a good option to keep a contact warm.

6. Tame the beast

The tech stack of education organisations is often a complex beast. If it’s going to be difficult to integrate, they won’t bother.

Make sure both your marketing and the product work in harmony, sit at the top of the leader board and welcome other players with open arms. Otherwise, you will see your chances of relegation drawing ever closer.

7. It’s all about the user experience

The user base in HE organisations is huge and varied. Remember this and continually test for each.

From academics and support staff, to undergraduate students and PhD students. If the users are satisfied, then you’re halfway there in making a case for procurement.

Richard Grove, CDO at CoSector, agrees: "It’s critical that we put our users at the heart of everything we design and deliver. We need to make things as easy and intuitive as possible to help academics teach and students learn. It’s time we start turning our systems from frustrating and cumbersome, into something which supports and progresses the education environment.

"We have the skills and the technology in other industries, it’s about time we applied this to HE to deliver a high quality, innovative services."

Conclusion

The intricate details of this growing B2B space does require some extra thought, but if you get it right it will pay in dividends - hopefully commanding a premium as high as Microsoft’s cash payment for LinkedIn. I hope my seven observations about B2B marketing in the education space will help you gain that edge above the rest.