October 6, 2023 | Chris DeMartine & Peter Long
Boosting Sales Pipeline Momentum in K12 Marketing
Big things happen when marketing and sales work together on target accounts within schools and educational institutions.
Chris DeMartine & Peter Long
Collaboration between sales and marketing teams is vital for successfully landing major accounts, particularly when marketing to schools and educators. Sales professionals in the K-12 education market bring deep customer insights, product knowledge and a nuanced understanding of educators' needs, while K-12 marketing experts possess the tools to create compelling narratives, documented use cases (success stories) and generate brand awareness. When these two forces unite, they form a formidable synergy that can help to precisely target key decision-makers like specific teachers and administrators, nurture school and district relationships over the long term, and tailor messages to address specific pain points. This coordinated effort ensures that major accounts receive a consistent and compelling experience not only throughout the entire sales journey but post implementation and use, ultimately increasing the likelihood of conversion, renewal and follow-on opportunities that bolsters the organization's revenue stream. In today's highly competitive educational product and service landscape, the convergence of sales and marketing efforts is not just beneficial but essential for achieving sustained success in securing major accounts, especially when selling to schools or educators.
Sounds great, but how do you make this a reality in an organization that has limited budget for investment in account-based marketing (ABM) platforms, infrastructure, and organizational leadership? Here are seven steps that any organization can take at an acceptable cost with an extremely high probability for success, particularly in selling to teachers and educators:
- Identify the key problems you successfully solve for current clients In the K-12 education field.
Most businesses face common challenges, but when selling to schools, unique issues are frequently present like state and federal funding, long and difficult budget cycles, group agreement on purchases, hard-to-track decision-makers and constant personnel changes often come into play. So, conduct research first by reviewing their online presence, news articles, and engaging in broad based group discussions to gain insights into common pain points.
- At educational institutions, identify who is most likely to be experiencing these problems, and who are the most likely decision makers needed to buy a solution.
Consider factors like school or district enrollment size, location, funding, and pain points before you try to align your solutions. Large schools and districts may have specialized job roles to tackle certain areas or problems, whereas smaller schools and districts may simply use teachers, principals, or general staff to cover many areas. (For example, not every school will have a “reading specialist”, but they may still need a reading product you are selling). Leverage tools like MCH Strategic Data’s List Builder to find the right audience. Don’t get overly fixated on specific job titles until you understand how all types of schools (or districts) are likely to make decisions on your type of product based on their size and setup.
- Create a portfolio of creative messages to raise awareness among teachers and educators.
The most common error amongst business development leaders is to jump to 'selling solutions' versus solution selling. It sounds the same, but the process is very different. Until a prospect is aware of the magnitude of their problem, they are not in the ideal frame of mind to hear the solution. The value of a solution is directly related to the magnitude of the problem. So, keep your messaging focused on problems and implications it has on students or educators and you'll get the attention you desire. One way to do this is providing a sequence of awareness messages, campaigns, and material. Engaging educators that are experiencing issues and building a common understanding and goal to solve this helps make the solution medicine go down a lot easier. This is frequently done with multiple channels of outreach – email – direct mail – social media – programmatic digital. The goal is to engage, not just sell or get a lead.
- Identify the job functions, titles, and seniority of the most likely decision-makers.
Start with your CRM database to create a prospect list of job titles and job functions based on existing customers. Make sure that your base CRM file is comprehensive and up to date.
The next step is to divide your customer list into segments based on these commonalities. For example, group customers with similar job titles or functions together. This segmentation will serve as a foundation for your prospect list. To further validate the prospect list to be effective, conduct industry research to understand the typical job titles and job functions associated with your target market. Be cognizant that large schools and districts are setup with far more specialist roles than smaller schools and districts. Make sure you are not overcutting. Also, remember that wealthier schools tend to have more spending discretion on purchases than schools and districts that use a lot of Federal or State money (that typically comes with strings attached).
MCH provides data analytics services that can help you analyze your customer data to identify common job titles and job functions among your current customers. Looking for patterns and trends will help you understand the types of roles that are most likely to engage with your products or services. MCH can build a custom audience for you, or you can use our List Builder tool to create your own based on the job titles and functions of your existing customers.
- Construct and activate a multichannel ABM audience using #2 and #4 above.
If you have a demand-side platform (DSP) or ABM platform, then you likely will have the tools to do this. However, not all platforms have account-based reporting (ABR) built-in to support an effective integration of sales and marketing objectives. For this reason, you may want to use an ABM audience builder to create your audience and request a count prior to making an investment in data or media. There is no cost to do this, and the outcome will provide you with an audience size that can be applied to your digital ABM campaign plan.
- Create a programmatic or email ABM campaign using a goal approved by the sales team.
If you start with a common goal, then your likelihood of strategic alignment is high. The challenge here is that objectives for sales and marketing rely on different core competencies. If roles are clearly defined and established, then building an effective sales and marketing partnership will lead to positive results. Far too often, marketing is required to deliver sales qualified leads (SQL) where the definition is dependent on a salesperson’s ability or inability to nurture or close. The inverse is also true, where sales representatives are expected to meet quotas from target markets having minimal brand awareness or online engagement. Here are a few objectives leading to a common goal of developing SQLs:
- Click-Through Rate (CTR) > 0.50% for web ads and email. This is a common marketing measurement, but not a good objective. Clicks are often generated by machines to test ads and emails for spam and safety. This is especially true with school and district email security services now employed to prevent cyber-attacks. Even clicks generated by real people are not necessarily valuable.
- Targeted Landing Page Engagement > 15 seconds for web ads and email. This is a less common marketing measurement, but a good one. If sales reps have a list of their top 100 accounts and marketing can provide website engagement by job function and seniority for these specific accounts, then there is clearly an awareness and engagement benefit to the sales teams.
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) > 5 marketing qualified leads per month from specific companies in a pipeline. This is a common marketing measurement and a good one. However, unlike ABM programs many marketing campaigns generate leads from individuals who are similar to an ideal customer profile (ICP) but do not have budget or decision-making authority. Google search campaigns often deliver a lower cost per lead (CPL) but a higher volume of unqualified leads. An example of a truly qualified marketing lead would be one that matches the company name, job function, seniority, and answers a question like "Are you currently in the market for...?"
Good goals for sales and marketing to work together are those that promote alignment, collaboration, and ultimately, the growth of the business. They should reflect shared objectives and contribute to a seamless customer journey. On the other hand, bad goals can lead to misalignment, conflicts, and wasted resources. Once your goal is created, you can leverage your platform or partner to create the campaign setup in alignment with the supporting objectives.
- Deliver weekly account-based reporting (ABR) to sales on pipeline activity.
If you've read this far, then you've made it. This last step is fully automated and available on many platforms with options for CRM and sales pipeline reporting integration. The nice thing about account-based reporting (ABR) is that individual sales and new business development leaders can receive detailed information for specific accounts they are trying to reach, warm-up and close. Historically, ABR was only available from direct response campaigns where personally identifiable information (PII) applied. However, with advanced data matching, identity resolution and IP targeting, K-12 marketers can now report back on banner display, native and video campaigns as well.
For more information on MCH’s Data Analytics services, reach out to one of our Education Specialists. If you’re ready to get the ball rolling with your own targeted list in the K-12 sector, get started with our List Builder tool here.
MCH Strategic Data specializes in providing Teacher Email Lists and Educator Lists, which are integral in marketing to teachers and schools effectively. MCH also offers education lists for programmatic advertising.
Programmatic B2B specializes in providing comprehensive account-based marketing (ABM) solutions to B2B digital advertising agencies, information technology organizations and other clients globally.
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