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The buyer's journey when selling to schools

What do you imagine is the purchasing behaviour of the typical teacher, school business manager or senior leader? In your mind, do they see an advert and think 'that's the exact product we need, let's buy it'.

Not once in my teaching career did a single purchase start that way. School purchases always start with a problem.

The problem could be as strategic as tackling underperformance for white working class boys. It could be as simple as making sure pupils don't trip on lighting cables during the school play.

By the time a school has become your customer, they have:

  • realised they have a problem that needs solving
  • defined the problem and researched potential solutions
  • chosen a solution and provider

When selling to schools, it's tempting to focus on that last stage. It's easy to shout 'pick us' and start competing on price.

A far more effective approach is to be a guiding hand through the entire journey. Help schools and teachers understand their problems, explore solutions and find the right provider.

This strategy will quickly establish trust and show that you are interested in genuinely making a difference to schools and the children that they teach.

If you are right for their needs, then your readers will choose you. If not, then they will surely become active promoters of your brand when they find someone else who is the perfect match.

What is the buyer's journey?

The buyer's journey is a three-step process towards becoming a customer. For teachers and school leaders, the three stages are:

  • awareness: realising your school has a problem that needs solving
  • consideration: defining the problem and identifying all the possible solutions
  • decision: selecting a type of solution and a supplier that provides it

Once you understand the buyer's journey for your product or service, you can develop precisely targeted marketing campaigns that meet the needs of your ideal customers.

Understanding your company's awareness stage

During the awareness stage, buyers are experiencing symptoms but they don't understand the core problem. You should be looking to diagnose the issue for them.

Ask yourself:

  • what goals or challenges do your customers face?
  • how do teachers educate themselves about these goals/challenges?
  • if they don't solve the challenges, what are the consequences?
  • what common misconceptions do teachers have about the challenges they are facing?
  • what is the process for schools and teachers prioritising these challenges?

Once you have answered all of these questions, you can start creating blog posts and content offers that define the goals, challenge misconceptions and help teachers to minimise the consequences of inaction.

Your company's consideration stage

Having defined the problem, your buyers have entered the consideration stage. They know what their problem is and have decided to solve it.

They now need to evaluate approaches to solving the problem.

Ask yourself:

  • what are the solutions to this problem (not just your own offering)?
  • how do schools and teachers learn about these solutions?
  • what do teachers consider to be the pros and cons of each solution?
  • what is the process for schools and teachers deciding on the right solution for them?

With these answers, you will be able to create content that helps teachers to understand the range of solutions.

This is a great opportunity to review your lead analytics - which leads are spending time looking at content related to a solution that you offer? These individuals have self-qualified themselves as being someone you can help.

Defining your company's decision stage

Entering the decision stage, your buyers have selected a solution and now need to navigate the range of suitable offers.

They will be exploring the benefits and shortcomings of each provider, product and service. It's likely that they are compiling pro/con lists either formally or at the back of their minds.

Ask yourself:

  • what criteria matters to schools and teachers when evaluating the offers?
  • what do potential buyers like about your offering compared to other providers?
  • what concerns do potential buyers have about your offering compared to other providers?
  • who are the gatekeepers for this decision?
  • what perspective does each gatekeeper bring to the decision making process?
  • do schools and teachers expect a trial of your offering before purchase?
  • is the purchase the only commitment? Do schools need to invest time and effort into making your offering a success?

For the decision stage, you will want to make sure that you have content that will allow teachers to explore your offering and understand its unique advantages. Case studies, testimonials and 'product comparison' resources are particularly useful at this stage.

Applying the buyer's journey

With a firm understanding of your buyer's journey, you will be ready to plan your next marketing campaign. Make sure that you are creating campaigns that align with both the inbound methodology and the buyer's journey - this will ensure that your resources attract, convert, close and delight schools and teachers to your company's offerings.

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