How to build a strategy for selling to schools

How did you plan your last journey? I doubt that you simply started walking in a random direction, hoping that you'd end up in the right place. Nor did you simply get on a random train, only to act surprised when you went in the opposite direction to your destination. So, why would you take this approach when it comes to your selling to schools strategy?

We often speak to marketers who seem more interested in tactics than a strategy. They want to advertise on a specific channel, post to a particular social network or use a fancy new martech tool. But jumping on a tactic without a clear strategy is like stepping onto a random bus - it may or may not get you where you want to go.

A well-defined strategy starts by analysing your goals and then proceeds to map out a pathway to get you there. A strategy should be your company's business growth satnav - showing you the direction to take and the turns along the way.

“What do you want to achieve or avoid? The answers to this question are objectives. How will you go about achieving your desired results? The answer to this you can call strategy.” ― William E. Rothschild

A powerful strategy will include:

  • clearly documented goals
  • the means by which you'll measure goals and progress towards them
  • an analysis of your customer persona
  • the opportunities throughout the year
  • the content that you'll create

Only then will your strategy delve into tactics - the nitty gritty of what you'll do to achieve your goals.

Goals

Setting your goals is the first step to mapping out your strategy. Your goals should be aligned with your company's mission and the revenue that your business needs to generate.

To identify your goals, you'll need to know:

  • your revenue goal
  • the lifetime value of a customer (LTV)
  • your customer acquisition cost (CAC)

For a comprehensive look at each of these metrics (and more) download our free ebook - Marketing Metrics when Selling to Schools

The lifetime value of a customer can be calculated by identifying:

  • the average value of a sale (S)
  • the number of times per year a customer will purchase from you (P)
  • how many years a customer will stay with you (Y)

The formula to calculate your LTV is then calculated as:

LTV = ( S x P ) x Y

Your customer acquisition cost is how much it costs to win a new customer. You'll need to factor in salaries, advertising costs, agency fees and anything else that represents a sales or marketing investment. From there, you can calculate:

CAC = ( Sales & Marketing Costs ) / Number of Sales

The ratio between these two numbers will tell you a lot about the health of your business growth. Your LTV:CAC ratio will show you how quickly you're growing. An LTV:CAC of 3:1 is often considered healthy. If it's 5:1 or higher, then you're simply not spending enough on winning new business. If it stands at 1:1 or 1:2, then you're either spending too much or are in a period where you're investing in rapid growth. 

Use these numbers to identify a sensible balance between:

  • the revenue you want to generate
  • how revenue translates to number of customers
  • the profitability of your business
  • your rate of growth

With this established, you can start to think about your lead generation statistics.

Historically, how many leads does your business need in order to acquire one new customer? Once you know the percentage of leads that turn into customers, you know how many leads you'll need for your current sales performance to bring in enough customers to generate your revenue goal.

Finally, how much traffic does your website need in order to generate that number of leads. Do you get 10 leads from 100 visits? Is your goal to generate 20 new leads? Then you'll need 200 visits.

This gives you a very simple funnel:

  • Top: Website visitors
  • Middle: Leads generated
  • Bottom: Customers acquired

To bring in more customers, you need more leads. For more leads, you'll need more traffic. Alternatively, you can improve the performance of your sales process and/or improve the conversion rate of your website.

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." -Tony Robbins

You'll want to make sure that you've got a clear process for monitoring and analysing this data and making sure that you know whether or not you're on track to hit your goals.

Understanding your customers

If you're going to attract qualified leads, you'll need to identify who your ideal customer is, and then build a detailed customer persona so that any content you create is genuinely useful to them.

To get started, look at your existing customers. Who are your best customers? The ones that you can really deliver great results for, while maintaining a healthy profit margin. Are they typically headteachers? School business managers? Classroom teachers? What makes them great customers?

Once you've answered these questions, reach out to them with a short survey to find out:

  • What pain points led them to look for your product or solution
  • Which other solutions they looked into
  • Why they chose your product over others
  • What they love most about your product

This information will help you to pitch your content so that would-be customers with the same pain points will find it. So that you know where to find your ideal customer, you should also find out:

  • Demographic information
  • Which social networks they use
  • Groups/organisations that they're a member of
  • Which blogs/publications they read
  • Events/tradeshows they attend

Once you have gathered your survey answers, choose 3-4 customers to be interviewed in more detail about the problems that led them to your solution. In some cases this will be enough, in others you may need to speak to more people to build a more comprehensive picture.

Use what you learn from the survey and interviews to write a full and detailed customer persona. 

Although a customer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, it is essential that it is grounded in accurate research because it will underpin everything else you do. Not doing this research will mean basing all your marketing on assumptions and guesswork - and this could cost you everything.

Identifying Opportunities

Each month of the school year presents a different opportunity to sell to teachers and school leaders. Review your customer persona research, look at the challenges they face and identify when and where those key opportunities lie.

Plan this in advance so that you can lay the groundwork and avoid any last-minute dash to cover a key selling opportunity. Think about when schools are most likely to consider purchasing a new product, and when new budgets come in as well as any national initiatives that you can build content around.

You should also decide which tradeshows to exhibit at, and plan content, pay-per-click and email campaigns well in advance.

Content planning

This should be the last part of your twelve month plan to come together. Only now that you know who you are targeting, where they can be found, and when to reach out to them, can you consider the resources to create to attract teachers and school leaders to your business.

Before you go rushing headfirst into a giant content plan, consider which stage of the buyers' journey you're planning content for. Do you already have a lot of content for buyers at the Decision stage, but none at the Awareness stage? The answer to this will determine which campaign you launch first.

Think about your specific persona and ask yourself about the questions they'll be asking when in the:

  • Awareness Stage: pain-based questions
  • Consideration Stage: solution-based questions
  • Decision Stage: brand- and product-based questions

Make sure that your content is aligned around answering these questions for your persona. And don't just focus on one content format - prioritise being helpful to teachers with genuinely useful content rather than the format you present it in. Look at creating:

  • Lesson plans and schemes of work
  • Teaching resources
  • Assembly plans
  • Case studies
  • Comparison guides
  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Interactive resources (such as chatbots and calculators)

With your content planned out, you can now create a calendar that identifies when you'll create each resource and its publication date. All with a focus on avoiding a last -minute rush.

Finally, remember that quality will always beat quantity.

Put your plan into action

Once you've mapped out your strategy it's time to put it into action. You wouldn't plan a journey just to sit on the sofa at home - don't let your selling to schools strategy be an unused document. Identify the internal and external resources you'll need to achieve your goals, while maintaining a healthy LTV:CAC ratio.

Step-by-step you'll soon be on your way to reaching your selling to schools destination. Inevitably, that involves helping teachers and school leaders along the way - the real goal behind any selling to schools strategy!

Download Marketing Metrics when Selling to Schools

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