You know what your audience wants
If you are on the marketing team for your company or nonprofit, you have to ask important some questions. Who is your product or service for? What are their characteristics? What problem are you trying to help them solve?
With some research on current trends, surveys, and customer interviews you'll have a better idea of what educators' needs are. Then you’re ready to find the buyers. Not just the customers who want your product, but the people controlling the checkbook.
Who will buy your product or service?
I come from the world of K-12 education. I remember what it was like to be a teacher, a principal, and a director. It was exciting to find a new product or service that would make learning more engaging for kids! But finding the money to pay for it was hard. And the purchasing decision wasn't always up to me.
You need to figure out who the decision-makers are in a school district. Can an individual make the call, or does it require approval from a committee, school board, or district administrator? Not all school districts are alike. It’s a good idea for marketers to study org charts and websites to find out how the district is set up. Try to find the right person according to their department and job responsibilities.
Then consider what information they need to decide whether or not to buy. Be ready to provide it.
Marketers might assume that district leaders are the target audience – but depending on the product, that is not always the case. Do you sell instructional materials or web-based solutions that will help students learn skills or subject matter? Or are you providing products that will help the central office staff do their jobs more efficiently?
It’s important to know who the end users are. Students? Teachers? Coordinators? Specialists? Instructional Coaches? District office staff? Which department? When you find that out, you’ll have a better idea of who to start with. If they like your materials, they're likely to share their enthusisam and recommend a purchase.
What happens next?
Once you've identified the end users it's not always clear who will authorize the purchase. Most districts have limited budgets for supplies and materials – sometimes as little as $5 per student for the school year. Yes. True.
When the funds come out of the school budget, the principal or assistant principal might make the final purchasing decision. Sometimes a large expense needs to go to someone at the district level for approval, and you’ll need to include a director or assistant superintendent in the conversation.
All large expenditures, over $10,000 in some districts but sometimes anything more than $3000, has to go through a bidding process. If you or the buyer can prove that you are the only provider of an item or service, then you might get around that rule.
Your product can sell itself if you introduce a sample to the end users first. Once they have fallen in love with it, schedule a meeting with the actual decision-makers.
How long will it take?
Selling to schools is not like selling retail merchandise directly to consumers. You can’t just put your items on a shelf next to the check-out and hope educators will buy them on impulse. It starts with building relationships, whether you use your website, social media, email or meet in person – and it takes time.
If your product or service is expensive, you may expect to spend a year or two building relationships, offering free demos and free trial periods. If the district is considering a buying decison, remember that school budgets are created well in advance of each school year. If a school or district wants to invest in your product, they need to include the expense while the budget is being created.
Selling to schools can be a long-term process. It could take months or even years before the sale actually happens. Be patient and don’t give up.
Results drive success!
Is your product unique, useful, and helpful for teachers or district staff? Will they use it to do a better job teaching students? Have you built a positive relationship with your customers?
Yes? Then you are already a step ahead of your competitors. Schools will look to you for current trends and new ideas that will help them do their jobs. As long as you are available to solve their problems, they'll keep coming back.
Looking for an experienced copywriter to help with your content marketing?
I know a lot about education!
High-Quality Copywriting for Educational Marketing
New year, new ideas, exciting plans!
I'd love to find out what kind of help you might need.
One Minute Survey
Really - just one minute. 3 questions. Done!
Content marketing is catching on, and you are riding the wave
You are invested in making content marketing work for your business or nonprofit. You created a content promotion calendar and a schedule to follow.
You’ve identified your target audience, and you’re delivering useful information, resources, advice, and ideas to help them meet their goals.
The task list includes blogs, newsletters, webpage content, ebooks, and case studies. Maybe even videos and podcasts.
More traffic is coming your way, prospects are looking at your site for solutions to their problems. Your phone is buzzing, and customers want to talk about their needs.
Each time you post new content, you get more leads. Your customer service reps are running non-stop.
It's a good problem to have, but you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Out of control!
With the focus on serving customers, it’s getting harder to keep up with your ambitious content calendar. Whether you do it all - owner, customer service rep, and writer - or you use an in-house content marketing team, it’s challenging to continue to produce as much high-quality content as you need.
It’s time to ask for help
You don’t want to hire extra staff, but you need an affordable way to get someone to help with your content writing during the busy spells. Schedule a little time to research and compare marketing agencies, content writing services, and freelancers.
What talented freelance copywriters have in common:
They can create original content, write strong headlines and subheads, and make content useful to readers.
They provide solutions to problems and answers to questions prospects are likely to ask, write succinctly, include verifiable data, and use links to reliable sources only.
Writing engaging content is their bread and butter. If they don’t have a background in your niche, they’ll do the research to find out as much as possible about it before they get started.
Because they typically work with just a few clients at a time, they deliver completed projects on schedule. Within reason, they’re willing to edit and revise the content until you are satisfied.
Most importantly, high-quality freelance writers are dependable, consistent, and they work hard to meet your expectations.
Regardless of which option you choose, the primary goal is to create quality content on a regular basis. And even though it’s hard to take time away from your busy schedule to find a writer, in the long run, it will give you more time to focus on your business.
Use your talents to do what you do best, and hire an expert to help with the rest.
Ready for a change?
You're an expert in your field, and you know everything about the products and services you provide. But competition is fierce, and new clients are elusive. You want to be the go-to business or organization for schools and districts looking for companies who understand their needs and can provide the right products and services. But that’s not happening.
Then it might be time to rethink the way you’ve been planning your marketing strategies. Instead of doing things the way your company always has in the past, gearing your marketing strictly towards sales, are you ready to take the plunge into content marketing? It’s all about the audience. What can you do for them that no one else can?
It takes guts to remake yourself using content marketing strategies. I recently worked with a company that realized, after much reflection on declining sales and a shrinking customer base, that they needed a significant change to turn their business around.
The company decided to it was time to re-invent themselves. Instead of selling merchandise, the entire staff became educators about the products they knew most about. In doing so, employees of the company gradually evolved into the go-to experts in their field. Together they built a loyal following of customers who came to them in search of information and ultimately became clients.
How will prospects know you are the #1 destination for K-12 Education Products and Services?
Because you have a website loaded with useful content that is easy to find. Prospective clients looking for resources will find your content when they search the web for information.
What will they find there?
By sharing information with your audience, you demonstrate your expertise in your field. You create the impression that you can provide something unique and valuable. And you're giving it away.
You might have products and services they could find elsewhere, but because you've proven that you are exceptional, they trust you. Since you are a reliable and authentic resource on topics that matter to customers, they’ll keep coming back. And that’s how relationships start.
Nobody ever said being #1 was easy
You already know there is a difference between marketing your products and services using traditional sales methods and a content marketing approach. Rather than telling potential customers how excellent your products or services are, you are giving away knowledge and information that can help solve their problems.
Whoa! Seems like a lot of work. It is. Is it worth the effort for your business?
Absolutely! Do you want your business to be easy to find online? Of course! Start by answering questions customers are likely to ask. By becoming an educator, you are helping them find the answers. At the same time, they are learning about what you do.
Get started – one step at a time
Just a simple list of FAQ’s on your website can evolve into a series of blog posts. Writing blogs about topics you know a lot about is an easy way to get started.
After posting blogs for a period of time, take the next step and add another form of content. Again, you are an expert in your field so focus on projects that are in your comfort zone.
According to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute, How Content Influences the Purchasing Process, in person events, case studies and webinars influence purchasing decisions significantly. So pick one and get another project started.
Teachers are notorious for “stealing” ideas – they improve their craft by imitating others who have created successful instructional strategies and materials. Growing businesses are no different. Look at the most successful providers of products and services for the K-12 market for ideas. Frontline Education is a company that has mastered content marketing and may serve as a model for other education organizations. Frontline Education -2017 Content Marketing Award for Best Content Marketing Program.
Your long-term goal will be to build a reputation as an expert in your field. Getting there requires short term quarterly objectives. If you have a marketing team, divide up the tasks, and start with step one. If you don't, pick someone and assign the marketing plan to them.
With today’s tight budgets, not all companies have their own writers. Many are turning to freelancers to help meet their content marketing goals.
If you are like many businesses or non-profits that don’t have the time or the staffing to create a constant flow of content marketing projects, hiring freelance copywriters is a low-cost way to get started. Look for one with experience in your target market and start a conversation.
For a more detailed article on common questions about content marketing take a look at a recent article from the Content Marketing Institute.
Questions? I have answers! Let's talk.
High-quality copywriting for educational marketing.
Schools have closed for the summer.
Graduations are over, the kids are in summer camps, and community programs are in full swing.
So just what are those school administrators up to during the summer?
If you are marketing educational products or services, you might be wondering whether you should you reach out to school and district leaders during the summer break or leave them alone until school starts.
Unlike teachers, administrators often have 12-month contracts. That means that even though school is out, they are still working. Most take time off for a week or two here and there, but they relish the quiet summer months as a great time for planning and preparing for the new school year.
Professional development is usually at the top of that list, along with looking for instructional materials and programs that will address their students’ needs.
It’s a good time to just breathe
Central office environments tend to be much more relaxed without the day-to-day stress of managing schools and keeping thousands of students actively engaged every day. Administrators’ schedules are more open, and longer lunch breaks allow time to get off campus or out of the office.
By now, principals and central office administrators have reviewed and evaluated the academic data that helps them decide which areas to focus on for the coming year. The fiscal year in many districts starts on July 1st and Title I plans and other federal grant applications are due at the end of summer, so budget planning is a priority.
If you want your products or services to be included in those budgets, it might be a good time to get your foot in the door. Even though the budget process starts in early summer, purchasing big ticket items might not actually take place until fall or even next year.
Summer Break - Introduce yourself
Summer is a great time to introduce your company and let educators know what you have to offer. Your marketing plans already include SEO strategies to guide prospects to your website. Once they meet you, use content marketing tools to inform and engage them with useful information.
If you have not already started building your content library, this is a good time to add some relevant pieces to your offerings. Send introductory emails with links to the resources educators may be interested in.
You could also consider knocking on doors and sitting down with administrators while they actually have the time to do it. Presenting or tabling at conferences is a good way to showcase your products and services. When that isn’t an option, try creating short webinars to educate prospects about how you can help them.
Fall Semester - Get to know each other
Once the new school year gets started, educators hit the ground running. Budgets are set for the year, but forward-thinking administrators are already planning for the next school year. If you have already introduced yourself, now is a good time to start nurturing your new relationships.
Use email to keep in touch and provide useful information about your products and services. Personalize your messages to tell your prospects you know who they are and understand their pain points.
Direct mail is worthwhile too – send brochures or giveaways. A lot of catalogs land in the trash, but all educators love to get free stuff, so with a small investment, you can keep your brand top of mind.
Spring Semester -Are we a good match?
By now your prospects have decided if they are interested in your products and services. They are considering whether you can provide the right solutions to help them reach their goals.
You need to keep the conversation going. Arrange in-person meetings or schedule a phone conference. Share case studies if you have them. It’s a good time to offer free demonstrations or materials for teachers to try out in the classroom, or to give central office staff a chance to use your solutions on a trial basis.
Encourage schools to try pilot programs - they can be an effective hook to get educators to try before they buy.
School leaders will want to know about product benefits and features, examples of success in other districts, cost, and ease of implementation. Be ready to provide all the answers.
Summer Break – Let’s take the plunge!
Once the hustle and bustle of the school year have calmed down again, administrators are ready to finalize their budgets for the coming school year. By now, you have built a strong relationship with the teachers, school leaders, or central office staff who are the decision makers.
Superior customer service will clinch the deal if you do it right. When your company is on the ball and prepared to help clients implement new programs every step of the way, your customers will be pleased to have a solution for their problems and delighted to do business with you.
Need some help writing case studies, emails, newsletters, or blogs to showcase your products and services? Let’s talk. It’s free.
Flo-kelvin Freelance – High-quality copywriting for educational marketing
In a past life when I was a school leader, one of my responsibilities was to create and publish a regular newsletter. The primary audience was parents, and the goal was to keep them informed about what was happening at the school. I often wondered if anyone actually read those newsletters, and hoped they did because I had worked hard to make them interesting and worthwhile.
Now, as a professional writer supporting businesses and non-profits who provide educational services or products, my focus has changed, but the idea of a newsletter is even more relevant. My goals are to provide useful information and to remind prospects and clients that I may be able to help them when they are ready to start a new project. I want to give my audience a compelling reason to open and read each newsletter.
If you wanted me to write a newsletter for your company or non-profit, these are the questions I’d ask.
Every business doesn’t need a newsletter – does yours?
What are your business goals? To increase leads, qualify leads, close deals, retain customers or mainly to spread brand awareness? You want to remind prospects and clients that you’re an expert in your field, busy creating solutions for educators. Use your newsletter to suggest that your product or service could be a great fit for their next project when the time is right.
An email newsletter from your business might include announcements about products, services or company information. It could include links to popular blog posts, event invitations, surveys, educational information about your product, discounts or coupons. Maybe you even want to include some personal stories to humanize your organization.
As a business or non-profit that helps school districts, teachers, and students, you already know that your audience doesn’t have much time to spare for reading newsletters. Consider choosing a single topic for each newsletter if you can. Keep it short, simple, and engaging.
Educate, don’t inundate
The key to content marketing is to educate your readers, give them something to think about or information that will help them. If they are willing to subscribe to your newsletter, you know they like what you do. Providing valuable content helps build your relationship. Avoid bombarding them with sales offers.
How will you get prospects to sign up for your newsletter? Be honest about what they can expect from you. When you think about your “subscribe” page, think about your audience’s point of view. Readers want to know what they’re getting if they sign up, so let them know how often the newsletter is sent along with an idea of what kind of content to expect.
What can you do to get readers to actually open your newsletter? When you send out the newsletter, vary the subject line. Get creative – choose a hot topic or even something that might seem a little off the wall. You can afford to be silly, especially if you get people to open the newsletter to find out what in the world you’re talking about.
The best call to action
What do you want your readers to do? What is the most important action you want them to take? Make it easy to notice and simple to click on. You can have more than one if you want to link to a blog, podcast, or particular web page, but make one CTA stand out so it will attract attention.
Use simple, clear design and copy - a minimalist approach makes it more likely readers will actually read your content and follow the CTA.
The devil is in the details
Do you know about alt text? Not the same as alternative facts…. alt text is used in case images aren’t enabled when a reader opens your newsletter. Find out how to add alt text here.
Do you have to include the “unsubscribe” option? Yes. Make it easy to find. Include your company name and address. Lots of businesses include the reason why the email is received. For instance, “You received this email because you signed up for our e-newsletter or have had contact with (Company Name). If you no longer wish to receive these emails, unsubscribe here.”
What are your clients and prospects looking for?
Do you know what your customers want from you? Bottom line – you need to know what they want to be able to meet their needs.
Mostly, clients want to know that you are the expert and will guide them in the right direction. They like the idea that you are taking care of them and doing it well.
If you are doing it right, they will read your newsletters, and they won’t unsubscribe.
Repurpose Your Content to Extend Your Reach
Play It Again, Sam is an old Woody Allen film that uses the movie Casablanca as a playbook for dating. Woody Allen successfully created a whole new story using the famous movie as its foundation. You can do the same thing with your content on a regular basis.
Maximize your content marketing efforts
Like most businesses and non-profits, your quarterly marketing plans probably include blogs and other informational content. To maximize the time and effort you put into writing the content, you might have already decided you want to build some substantial content your audience is really going to find useful.
Your blog posts and other short form content could serve as building blocks with the goal of creating a long form content offer like a comprehensive guide or an eBook for your audience. Along the way, you might re-use the blog topics in different formats like webinars or infographics to reach more prospects.
Blend new blogs with useful ones from your archives and refresh them to fit the new theme.
A blog post series works well if you think of each one as a main idea for a chapter in the book/guide you will ultimately create and publish. Each post may focus only on one buyer persona, address the needs of different personas, or attract a new audience. Put them together to create a package of information your audience wants.
Spread the word on social media - but be selective
Find out which social media platforms are most likely to be used by your audience. Teachers, for example, spend a lot of time on Facebook, but administrators often prefer to view short YouTube videos to get information.
It’s easy to post the same blogs you use on your website to Facebook and create short videos using the blogs as scripts for YouTube. If you actively use other social media like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, SlideShare, and Vimeo to enhance your blogs, that extends your reach even farther and becomes part of enriching the content of each chapter of your long form product.
Woody Allen took an old classic and repurposed it, but he also added fresh ideas. So, Say It Again, Sam! Have fun finding creative ways to recycle the valuable content you already have.
Could you use some help putting together a long form content offer for your clients? I'd be glad to help.
Whether you are already successful or just getting started, you have set your goals for the new year. You know that publishing great content will help you grow. But it can be challenging to produce a variety of content on a regular basis.
Using a content marketing approach, you don’t need to toot your own horn. What if your satisfied customers could share their stories about how your company created an original product that delivered an effective solution for a difficult problem? Let your customers do the talking and tell a compelling story for you!
Customer Success Stories and Case Studies
Customer Success Stories and Case Studies are among the most valuable types of content you can use to increase your traffic and attract the right kind of clients. They go beyond the simple testimonial by digging deeper into the customer’s problem, their search for solutions, and the favorable results you provided. Remember that content marketing is all about telling your story. Inform and educate your audience by describing the challenges and obstacles your client had faced before you got involved.
The terms case studies and customer stories are often used interchangeably. The main difference is that a case study includes more industry specific data. A case study will focus more on the “how” while the customer success story tends to emphasize the results.
Check out some great examples here.
Produce Compelling Content Unique to Your Company
Your goal in content marketing is to build relationships. Using a real story will make connections with prospects facing similar issues. Give them the details so they can relate to the frustration and irritation your client suffered through. Describe the specific way your solution solved the problem. The description of what happened will set you apart from your competition just by virtue of being a real story about your customers! A word of caution – avoid making your client look foolish because they couldn’t solve the problem on their own. Never try to look smarter or better than the customer – it may put a negative slant on the story.
All Happy Customers are Not Created Equal
The best way to go about finding the truly satisfied customers is to ask the people in your company or organization who work most closely with the customers. Your sales team, customer service reps, and others who are on the front lines. Get into classrooms and offices where your solutions are used and start asking questions.
It takes time to interview the customers who are willing to share their stories and select those that are most likely to resonate with prospects. Ask for specific examples that show how your product or service made a difference in their lives. Include quotes from the customer and use data to back up the story to give it more weight. If you plan to share more than one customer story, use a similar format for each to maintain consistency.
Don't Stop There
Build credibility by making case studies just one component of your marketing plan. Produce consistent messaging on your website, emails, newsletters and other publications. Expand the ideas in the case studies by showing how your solution can solve problems for people in different situations.
What Will Your Call to Action Be?
Along with a Contact Us button, consider providing a link to a survey that allows prospects to describe the problems they are experiencing. Helping to solve an individual’s problem is a great way to build a solid connection by letting them know you are interested in them and want to help.
Need help writing your customer success stories? Let's talk.
CONTENT MARKETING is the #1 priority in 2017 for businesses with an online presence.
Top marketers plan to publish at least one new piece of content every day! But how can your company produce enough current and useful content to keep your clients informed and engaged?
Keep in mind that in the education world, you are communicating with clients who are or have been teachers who know very well how to connect with an audience. It happens every day in the classroom! Teachers know that their students’ success depends on the relationships they have developed over time.
Start by telling your story. Think about your audience – they are real people, and people like stories. Use your story to start building a relationship with your prospects. Identify with their problems and provide solutions. People who search for information on the internet want answers. Give them some tools to walk away with. You don’t have to sell, sell, sell. That comes later after you have built trust and your prospects are interested in learning more about what solutions you can provide.
Build relationships with prospects and clients. You used stories to attract customers - but now what do you do with them? Once they find a few answers, they will want to know more! While you entertain, engage and educate them, you are building trust. At the same time, your audience is getting to know you better.
That relationship is the first step towards guiding your prospects towards conversion. If you maintain a positive relationship, it won't be long before you are ready to close your sales, and even turn your customers into promoters of your brand.
Be the expert in your field to show clients that they are making the most informed choices. Become an influencer by sharing knowledge to help people make the best choices. When you provide useful content to your readers, you are demonstrating that you know and understand your audience and their needs. People will appreciate the help and information you provide. That means you can sell yourself without using a sales pitch!
A relevant call to action will guide your reader to take the next step. What do you want that action to be? Do you want them to contact you? Download an informational PDF? Sign up for your newsletter? Then just ask! Current trends in content marketing include using surveys to gather input from potential clients and to differentiate the content that you deliver, so think about including a brief survey in selected email messages you send out in response to inquiries.
Publish fresh content on a regular basis and measure your results.
According to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute,
91% of top performing companies are very committed to content marketing. Companies that lack that focus are not as successful. Just like in the classroom, consistency is a key component. Know your audience and provide them with useful content on a regular basis. Since you have already planted the seeds to build your relationships with prospects, keep giving them something worth returning for.
In the Beginning
Flo-Kelvin Freelance got started because of an unusual project, powerful storms, and a long winding road. Not long ago, I was a hard working, productive administrator for a successful school district. My job was interesting and challenging, I really liked the people I worked with, and I was happy.
But there was this project my husband and I had been working on for years, many years, and it was still far from finished. We dreamed of someday living in our solar efficient adobe home in the Arizona desert and enjoying the views from the patio in the evenings. We had started construction on an adobe house expecting to hire helpers. But we ended up doing all of the work ourselves instead of hiring a contractor to allow us more flexibility.