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Let’s face it; 2018 was lower than a snake's belly for the education sector, and consequentially, for many sellers to schools!
Budgets were slashed, the GDPR unleashed an unwarranted storm of fear and uncertainty for business owners across the country, and for many, selling to schools had become more painful than crawling over broken glass with holes cut in the knees of your jeans.
Yep it was a tough year alright. Even I was relieved to make it to the Christmas close period!
It was during the Christmas break that I popped into Sprint’s office to pick up a few things, when my daughter Ivy (whom I’d brought along for the trip) began nosing through a chocker-block cupboard in the corner of the office.
You know the type of cupboard I mean; the one that hides a multitude of sins and messy piles of books and folders.
Whilst snooping around, Ivy happened to stumble across a tatty old diary of mine. Without knowing it, she had just discovered one of my old “Idearies”; a cheap diary/filo-fax that I would buy each year, and then use to note down any selling to schools ideas and concepts for our clients.
Ivy had found my 2010 Ideary, which over the course of that year, never left my side. I’d even wake up and note down great subject lines for clients, or concepts for a new service that could transform the selling to schools world.
It was my bible.
As Ivy held up my dusty old Ideary and asked “What’s this Daddy?” (Being two years old she tends to ask that question quite a lot); the heavy weight that was the year of 2018 lifted from my shoulders.
A feeling of nostalgia and joy grasped me by the scruff of the neck, because when I worked in this Ideary, Sprint Education was only 3 years old, and every idea and decision felt like a thrilling roller-coaster ride). This brought me to the realisation that 2019 was only a matter of hours away, and at this time of year, the “2010 Ben” would already be fizzing up a blizzard of concepts, ideas, and plans that would make a difference to our selling to schools community for the new year.
Taking the Ideary from my daughter, I began to flick through the pages, smiling at some of my annotated ideas, (and grimacing at others), before I stumbled across the section titled “Predictions for 2011”. It was a list of techniques and concepts that I believed would come to prominence over the coming 12 months and help our clients sell more to schools and teachers.
It was at this point that it hit me: I'd forgotton my responsibility of guiding our clients and followers via Sprint's website and blog with the creative ideas that would help them. I felt guilty; would 2018 have been such a struggle for some education businesses had I been more committed to sharing the types of ideas I once doodled into my Ideary?
The “2010 Ben” in this Ideary certainly wouldn’t have left them hanging... And neither will the Ben of 2019!
So that is what I’m going to do now, and going forwards: Focus on what matters. Sharing with you my ideas and strategies for sellng more to schools in 2019 and beyond. Also, I'm sorry, I should have been doing this for you in 2018, but better late than never, eh? And so for my first piece of advice...
Become a Data Mole. (Or to be more descriptive, learn how to dig into the depths of your data to deliver a perfectly timed education strategy).
So many education marketing managers get their strategy timing wrong. For years they focus on surface level semantics to formulate their next campaign/strategy.
In my experience, this only leads to a series of communications that become repetitive, stagnated, and responses that nose-dive quicker than mince pie sales in January.
Education marketing teams are wasting energy analysing open/click rates to satisfy their insatiable thirst to justify (in any means possible) why and when they should regurgitate the same old garbage to their education audience.
The reality is that these teams don’t have a clue as to what truly contributed to that good click rate or rush of responses.
They may take a blind shot in the dark (usually deciding that the button colour/text was the reason why), and then re-hash it for a future campaign.
They then find themselves sat dumbfounded at their desk when the results do not perform anywhere near as well as the previous high-click rate campaign.
The reality is that there are so many influencing factors when selecting the right dates and timings for a strategy to achieve the results you need.
To get the competitive advantage in 2019, you must be analysing so much more than surface level metrics. You must dig so much deeper than that to spot trends and opportunities.
Here is how we do it... Being the only agency in the UK truly dedicated to data-driven education marketing, we are fortunate enough to be able to rely on the world’s largest analytics database of education marketing.
The data-mining platform that we’ve built in-house automatically collects and analyses millions of pieces of data from the hundreds of education campaigns we broadcast annually.
This means that we're able to design our clients' strategies not based on “you got a good open rate in April so let’s send on that date again.”
Instead, let’s say you sell Head Teacher training courses, on the following…
Let’s broadcast your product launch campaign at 5pm on a Sunday as statistically Head Teachers engage with emails more at that time than any other time in the week. (They are usually online planning work etc. for the forthcoming week).
Last year, other companies within your sector appeared to avoid emailing the Heads in January, why? And should we see this as an opportunity to pounce while the competition are napping?
What key events are occurring? Maybe Head Teachers are soon to march on Downing Street to protest about school budgets. Being out of school, you can assume their mobile phone/email usage will be higher than normal, so let’s use this as an opportunity to back their cause with our message and at the same time offer a limited offer discount as saving money will be at the front of their mind.
The list is almost endless, but you can see where I’m coming from. Plan your strategy based on a much deeper level of metric and socially conscious standpoint and your results will not diminish as they would with a 2-D approach to your strategy’s timing.
Now combine the above approach with the usual “this button colour works great”, and you'll be building a 3-D plan to your timings, and ultimately a more formidable strategy based not just on gut instinct, but cold hard facts and stats. *
*Note, gut instinct is not always a bad thing, I’ll be touching upon this concept later in the year.
In 2019, I’d strongly advise you to take your data analysis seriously, collect and review it meticulously. It will take a while to build up a large enough sample of data to work with but once you have done this, it will pay off big-time.
Or if you are one of our clients already, put the kettle on; because we’ll be doing all of the above for you powered by the world’s most powerful collection of education marketing analytics. As per my promise I’ll get working on my next piece of advice. But before I do that, there's one last thing you should do, and it'll only cost you £1.
I’ve already gone out and bought myself a new Ideary for 2019! And now I want you to do the same. You can pick up a quality diary from Poundland for just £1. Re-cover it, (so you add a personal emotional value to it), and then start furiously noting down every idea you can think of for your 2019 strategies and ways you can add more value to your education target audience.
Refer to it daily, be dedicated to it all year, and I assure you, it will be the best £1 you spend all year!
In this blog, John explains how he was only able to create a killer marketing strategy for one client when he learned to ask the right question...