The Recipe for K-12 Marketing Success

School BuildingIs there a single recipe for K-12 marketing success?

All businesses are different, and the nuances of how they need to succeed will be different. But there are definitive foundational elements to building, maintaining, and running a top-flight company whose marketplace is K-12 education.

Keeping to the fundamentals is key. Start with a strong business plan. Always consider the path to market. Sell, sell, and then sell some more. Keep as lean as you can without hurting your operation, and in particular, your customer. Have great customer service and customer care. Understand cost structures. Recognize opportunities, and come to terms with barriers as they present themselves. Marketing and selling to K-12 isn’t easy, so go to school on the K-12 marketplace: know how difficult it is to navigate, and know what you need to do to have your voice stand out amongst the din of other voices.

Easy enough, right? Beyond these blue-sky fundamentals, what follows is a list of what’s important to successfully do business in K-12. Or in any marketplace, for that matter. If you’re interested in more in-depth information, you’ll find it in The K-12 Marketing Toolkit, a 13-page PDF that’s available for free download. Or Direct Marketing to K-12 Education, a free 16-pager.

If it’s broke, fix it.
In my opinion, there’s nothing worse or more damaging to a business than repeating tired, vague tactics that don’t yield results. There’s a saying that they teach people learning fire safety: stop, drop, and roll. I’ll reapply the saying to further my point. Stop doing what isn’t working. Drop it like a bad habit. Roll out something different. And quickly. Make status quo thinking a four-letter word.

Make something, sell something.
It’s a simple statement, but a vitally important one. Product-driven companies focus on the “make-something” side, on occasion at the exclusion of the “sell-something” part of the business. Other companies will shortcut product development to speed a product to market. Not too good. Bake your marketing and selling into your company, just as you do for product development.

Master your channels.
Single one-offs aren’t going to get you very far, or create the groundswell you need to build awareness or sell. Coordinate your efforts so they become bigger and more impactful. Just doing more doesn’t mean success. Doing more of the right stuff means success.

Onward ho.
By the same token, your marketing should be a long, slow march. If you pay attention to your marketing efforts only on leap years, you’re going to find your business having some serious performance issues.

Time it right.
This is vitally important. Timing is everything when marketing products or services to K-12. Unless you’re tapping discretionary teacher spending, then you’re tapping school budget. And like immutable laws of physics, rules definitely apply for decision-making and spending. And even the most aggressive offer in the universe won’t change those cycles one bit.

Photo:  Buckyboot

Social Media & Caveman’s Fire: The Evolution of Social Media

FireAmong the leading questions I’m asked is “how do I best take advantage of social media for my business?” And there are good answers to that question. Creating content is one. Building relevant networks is another. But what I’m finding is that the real question I’m asked is “what the heck is social media, really? And please help me to make some sense of it!”

We once tamed fire. We learned how to best control it to do remarkable things like keep us warm and cook our food. While a dramatic analogy, social media is in some ways like the early interactions with fire. We know it has amazing potential. It can and already has opened new avenues and possibilities for worldwide communication. But how do we fully come to terms with it?

Though confusing for some, or maybe most, we’re exactly where social media should be right now. And like early fire, social media has untold benefits once we understand how to best use it.

Sit by the fire, relax, and read the full article at Business2Community.

Use Consumer Tactics to Enhance Your B2B Marketing

Business and professional markets respond to the same tactics used in consumer campaigns. People at work are still people. There’s no such thing as marketing to institutions, only people, and they’re very much consumers too. And what works, well, works.

But wait, there’s more!
Certainly, not every consumer tactic will get results. But specific tactics that you should consider include…..

  • The timed offer.
  • A call to action.
  • The right price.
  • Clarity of message.

Act Now!
Read the complete posting on Business2Community.

Bragging Rights: 5 Tips for Using Demos as a Marketing Tool

Demos do this.
Demos do this.

We all know that proper positioning of our products is essential. But for a strong and lasting business, even the most brilliant positioning will never take the place of showing off your great offering using demos. When you have great product, bragging rights apply.

So use demos to showcase your offering while building awareness and understanding. Product demonstrations hold enormous sway in the sales cycle, and if done properly and can significantly speed the process. And they do not only have to be part of a one-to-one or one-to-group sales presentation. That opportunity may take a long time presenting itself. Or worse yet, it may never do so. Demos should be accessible to prospects during the information gathering process, as well as being an integral part of outbound communications.

Some here are some recommended guidelines when creating your product demo:

Keep it light.
In part, your demo is a highlight reel of how your product works, why it’s important to the marketplace, and how users can benefit. So keep it brief, informative, lively, and showcase your best stuff.

Open doors let the customers in.
Open doors let the customers in.

Keep it accessible.
If you’re concerned that your competitor will gain access to your demo, guess what? They’re intensely more motivated than your prospects, so they’ll gain access regardless of the roadblocks you put up. So what you’re really doing is blocking access to your prospects. Don’t make it hard for anyone to see your overview demo.

What to see more? Then take names and emails.
You want to collect some contact information so you can remarket to those who have shown more than just a passing level of interest. One great way of proceeding is to create a shorter overview demo, and offer a second demo that’s more in-depth and detailed. Open access to the detailed demo by requiring a name and email. If someone balks at leaving behind their information, odds are they were never intent on becoming a customer anyway.

And then…..gently use those names and emails.
The point of building this contact database to remarket, but not more frequently than every 2-3 weeks or so.

There are many very good demos out there to provide you with inspiration. I recommend scouring the sites of competitors and also those outside your marketplace. This will give you ideas to allow you to broaden your approach and allow you to produce a truly standout demo.

One final tip: pay very close attention to the scripting of the demo. While all components – graphics, branding, imagery, pacing, background music, vocal choice, and so on – are important, you’ll find a clear, concise script that ties into your overall messaging and brand promise is the foundation for making an impactful video.

The K-12 Marketing ToolkitOnline demos are just one tool in your marketing arsenal. For those of you who create educational products and services, you’ll get a deeper look at others in the free 13-page pdf guide The K-12 Marketing Toolkit: 11 Essential Components.

 Photo:  Richard Croft


5 Ways to Keep Your Messages Simple. And Effective.

KISSWhen you keep your communications simple, you’re creating access. And clarity. And that allows your core message to be heard louder and clearer.

It’s the difference between being on point. Or rambling around its peripheries.

The KISS principle certainly applies to messaging, as it does to most things we do in life. But when we create outbound communications, there sometimes exists a habit to “kitchen-sink” the information. We become adamant in our attempt to tell the marketplace everything about our business and its products in the nanosecond we have to catch and hold attention.

By doing so, we add to the noise rather than detract from it.

Five ways to allow your outbound messaging to cut through the noise:
#1: Keep it simple.
#2: Edit ruthlessly.
#3: Meet needs.
#4: Differentiate.
#5: Be yourself. Be unique.

Read the complete article on Business2Community.

Photo:  Hey Paul Studios

K-12 Education Marketers: Arm Your Reps with a Winning Sales Presentation

You can win here.
You can win here.

It’s marketing’s responsibility to make sure the sales team is fully on message, so provide them with a top-notch, killer sales presentation. With one at their disposal, one that they can used in nearly all selling situations, then you’ve made important strides to maximize your sales potential.

So what are some attributes of a really great, highly effective presentation?

Adaptibility. If you design your presentation to be modular – able to be cut into any number of independent components on the fly – then you’ll be arming the sales organization with a valuable tool. As they uncover specific needs, they’ll be able to focus in on those needs and sell in a more strategic way.

Simplicity. Yes, the KISS principle applies. Make it protracted, make it complex, make it about anything other than how you solve pain points, and you might as well be talking to your dog. And you’ll get the same vacant looks from both your dog and your prospects. (Though your dog will still love you regardless. Site-based and district stakeholders, well, they won’t).

Go Talk StopBrief. Being self-indulgent with other people’s time is a sure way to ice new business. Go too long in a meeting, and even the most engaging presenter begins to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Waawawa wawawa wa. Pass that point, and you’ll get no sale.

High-Interest. Use multimedia, use anything visual, but do all you can to say away from droaning, mind-numbing bullet points. Let’s face it, we all know that presentations can be boring, boring, boring. You don’t have to do magic tricks and saw a person in half; but if your presentation induces narcolepsy, then you don’t need me to tell you that the sales group won’t use it and you’re launched right back to square one.

And if your marketing team can’t provide sales with a presentation that meets their needs? Then among other things, you’ll certainly be dealing with…..

Brand dilution. And confusion.  Marketing is the brand Sherpa. They’ll be sure to overlay the proper branding in your sales presentations to keep it consistent and clearly communicated.

Inconsistent messaging. As a component of branding, marketing is the message Sherpa too. So if you don’t define that message and let your reps deliver it to the marketplace during their calls, then it’s a certainty that the efforts will not live up to potential.

Lower sales. That’s because top-notch reps will be spending way too much time devising their own presentations instead of selling.

The K-12 Marketing ToolkitIt’s marketing’s responsibility to provide the tools to instill a solid brand and to help facilitate the sales organization’s tireless quest to grow the business. If you’re interested in learning more about what’s required specifically for the K-12 educational marketplace, download a free copy of the 13 page PDF guide “The K-12 Marketing Toolkit: 11 Essential Components.”

Photo:  Luis Argerich

The K-12 Marketing “End Zone”: January through April

So where did all my customers go?
So where did all my customers go?

January is the “beginning of the end” for all of us who market to K-12 and rely on funding from school budgets. It’s the start of what can be termed the K-12 marketing “end zone.” January through April. It’s during that period of time when we aggressively market our wares to align to an incredibly and at times intolerably rigid purchasing cycle. If tapping school budget dollars, that cycle culminates with purchases made during the summer. Miss the cycle, and you’ll find that your product or service radically misses its potential for the school year. And you have to wait 12 months for a repeat. That’s a long time for even the strongest of businesses.  You’ll likely find your business prospects are left out in the cold.

So the scenario plays out like this: you’ve spent the fall growing awareness and gathering prospects. That’s great, that’s exactly what you should be doing. Now is the time to move prospects through the funnel, and transition them from cold to warm. In general, you would have spent about 40% of your annual budget during the months spanning late August to mid-November.

But when the holidays are over and the chill of January settles around us, out comes the big marketing guns, and it gets serious. That’s when you shift gears from awareness-building messages to those that ask for business. It’s the time of year when you tell your best prospects exactly why your product meets their every need, and work hard to have them nod their heads in agreement. It’s when your call-to-action shifts from the “take a look at this” messages of the fall to “buy before June 30th and get this amazing deal!”

So just a few ways to make the most of the next four months: Purchase cycle Jan - Apr

Email Deployments
• Create and deploy outbound emails routinely from now through the end of April. Begin to lean it down in mid-April.
• Keep the outbound cadence steady, but keep your prospects interested. How? Deploy at most 2x per month to the same contacts.
• Vary your messages. Too much repetition will not keep your prospects reading.
• Keep it personal. If your contact record is from your own database, you should be able to personalize it.

Special Offers
Now’s the time to have offers designed to stimulate action. Like messaging, offers that are out of sync with customer needs can have a numbing effect on the sales process. Two things are critical with offers for the next few months: that you’re increasingly handing out your best ones, and that they’re intended to lead to a purchase.

I’m sure you already know that webinars are a great way to engage and inform, and also to grow your prospect base. If you don’t do them already, then you should start. They can cost-effectively create a pool of warm leads very quickly. Record the webinar, and provide it on-demand on your website, with name, email address, title, and school/district affiliation the cost of admission.

As you work your initiatives over the next four months, be sure to gear your messaging to a definitive call-to-action that leads to a purchase. Now’s the time to be serious, or you’ll find yourself having to wait a long, long time to latch into the next budget cycle.

Photo:  Christopher Michel

Can You See Me Now? How to Increase Brand Visibility.

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…”  ― Howard Schultz

Pedaling Awareness
Pedaling Awareness

A brief story on visibility. In 2000, Bell Atlantic rebranded to Verizon Communications. What seemed to have taken place in the span of a few days was a full-scale rebranding, and to a brand no one ever heard of — what’s a “Verizon?” An immediate and radical change. And it did something amazing. Seemingly in that launch week, everything a consumer would see on a routine basis – vans, billboards, ads – was now Verizon. It was as if Bell Atlantic went “poof.”

How did they do it? Certainly, it was a combination of effective planning, coordination, and logistics. Add to that the magic ingredient: the outlay of an enormous sum of money.

Very few of us have access to those kinds of funds, so our approaches will be somewhat less dramatic and less expensive. So we need to work with the tools at our disposal, and with the money we have to spend. And here’s what’s important when considering how to become more visible:

The Billboard Jungle
The Billboard Farm

Budget. Spend more in the right venues and directed to the right audiences, and bingo, you’ll be more visible. I’m stating this as if it’s easy. It’s not. But it’s essential that you come to terms with quantifying your spending.

Consistency. If your presence or message is scattered, then no matter how visible you become your prospects won’t be able to connect the dots and you’ll be effectively unknown.

Know Thy Media. Being at play in the right media gets you known. The wrong media keeps you lost.

Loud and noisy does not necessarily translate into visible. You have to make the right kind of noise, or else you’re wasting time, money, and resources.

Know your audience and what they put eyes and minds on.

Build it and they won’t necessarily come. It might work in Field of Dreams. But in real life, while putting up a website is an essential first step, it’s just that: a first step. You need to devote energy and resources to market your brand.

Being known is much, much better than being unknown. Without a doubt. But some investigation should go into the price of that visibility, and what it really gets you. Is being known the same as being purchased? Or being profitable?  These questions have a significant amount of complexity attached to them. But you already know the answer here is a resounding “not necessarily.”

It all comes down to being known in the best possible light; knowing your customer and understanding their needs; and making sure your efforts are measured and well directed. It’s also critically important to understand that the right kind of visibility is what’s required.

The way that I think about visibility and brand awareness is that it’s one component of a multi-step cycle that’s necessary to lead to a sale. It’s not an end-all and be-all.

Pedaling photo:  Aistis
Billboard photo:  David Evers

Free PDF “The K-12 Marketing Toolkit: 11 Essential Components.”

The K-12 Marketing ToolkitA well-stocked marketing toolkit is essential to maximize awareness and build a solid sales foundation. So what does one look like when marketing to K-12 education? Download this free 13 page PDF guide and you’ll get details on the 11 key components to help your marketing program achieve success in the coming school year. Also included are links to additional resources to provide even more details and specifics.

Fill out the form below and your FREE PDF is on its way.

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11 Attributes of Leadership

Leadership Ghadi

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” –Lao Tzu

Leadership abilities are essential in business, and in most other pursuits in life. Whether you’ve worked for leaders, followers, or not much of either, it seems that these days, leadership shows itself in short supply. While we all might have worked for leaders who inspire with their words and most importantly, their actions, it appears that many people in leadership roles are ill-equipped to lead with effectiveness.

The 11 Major Attributes of Leadership is excerpted from Think and Grow Rich, written by Napolean Hill and published in 1938. Make sure you read the book if you haven’t already. It’s essential and inspirational, and should be read by all who partake in business. But first, read the complete list of attributes in my blog post on Business2Community.

As a followup post on the B2C network, and also from Think and Grow Rich, is my post on the 10 Causes of Leadership Failure.  Read more here.