Customer Acquisition Strategy for EdTech

Creating a customer acquisition strategy for edtech is highly seasonal and particularly complex. The academic calendar dictates both institutional procurement and individual (student, parent, teacher) purchasing patterns, leading to long sales processes. And the marketing process for school systems can be opaque, relying on hard-to-earn relationships as well as industry-specific publications and conferences. 

Nonetheless, the way prospects convert to customers in edtech follows the same 3 part funnel as other industries:

  • Lead generation brings in new prospects from various marketing & advertising channels
  • Lead nurturing grows prospects’ interest in your technology
  • Sales converts prospects into customers 

Despite the education industry’s complexity, breaking customer acquisition down in this way allows you to properly conceptualize what needs to be done so it becomes straightforward to execute.

Below, we explain how to optimize each stage of the edtech customer acquisition process.

EdTech Customer Acquisition: The 3 Stages 

Stage 1 – Lead Generation

Due to the education sector’s strict seasonality, edtech companies tend to choose marketing channels that can be turned on and off at will, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. They do big pushes in August/September and December/January and then significantly reduce advertising in late spring and early summer. These short-term channels, while convenient, are low-ROI, and should be complemented by higher-ROI channels such as thought leadership-based SEO and Account-Based Marketing (ABM).

The table below shares the pros, cons, time until results, and average ROI of the 5 most popular edtech lead generation channels:

Edtech Lead Generation Channels, Compared

Lead Generation Channel Time Until Results Average ROI Pros Cons
Thought Leadership-based SEO 4-6 months 748% Combining thought leadership and SEO results in high ROI for edtech companies.

High quality content helps nurture leads and can be repurposed for other marketing channels.

The relatively slow start means that lower ROI, short-term channels are often needed to generate leads at the start of a campaign

Edtech prospects are discerning and creating high quality content requires significant time and resources that many edtech companies lack.

Informal Networking 12 months 691% Networking is extremely valuable for edtech companies that target institutional customers, as building in-person connections is invaluable when closing large contracts. Informal networking requires significant time from a personable salesperson, and is one of the slowest channels.

Access to the right conferences and events is expensive, particularly when travel is required.

Much less useful for edtech companies that target individuals.

ABM 6-8 months Highly Variable ABM is the best way to secure high-value institutional contracts.

Prospects can be selected based on expected profitability and how well they fit with your edtech company’s business model.

ABM campaigns are relatively risky, as a large amount of resources are devoted to acquiring a very limited number of customers.
PPC 1 month 36% PPC results in very fast returns, and can help edtech companies hit seasonal marketing windows. PPC may also be paused during other periods when fewer prospects are in the market for new educational software. Low ROI when compared to organic channels, and PPC inflation leads to rising costs over time.

Edtech PPC campaigns must be supported by a strong content program in order to nurture leads and close sales; by itself PPC provides no content.

Email Marketing 2 months 24% Email marketing is relatively low cost when combined with other content-based marketing

Building mailing lists for education contacts is easier than in other industries

Low-to-average quality emails are much less impactful than in other industries

Mailing lists of students and parents are difficult to create and quickly become outdated

The best lead generation strategy will combine these channels. While high-ROI, an SEO campaign aimed at creating a content library that addresses target audience questions and pain points will typically take several months to begin showing results. Consequently, edtech companies can leverage PPC to provide lead generation at the start of an SEO campaign, while building organic rankings and content that will be invaluable during the next procurement season. 

Stage 2 – Lead Nurturing

After prospects become aware of your company and technology, you must continue to nurture their interest until they’re ready to commit to a sales call or make a buying decision. This process is much longer for institutional prospects than for individuals, but the same principles apply to both.

The table below shares the 3 most effective lead nurturing channels for edtech, as well as how frequently your company should publish on each:

Edtech Lead Nurturing Channels

Lead Nurturing Channel Frequency Description
Thought Leadership Publish new content on your website at least 2x weekly. Reshare on other channels. Thought leadership content establishes your edtech company as an expert source of knowledge, and helps educate prospects about the value of your technology. Publishing regularly turns your website into a valuable resource for prospects, building trust with them over time.
Email Drip Campaigns Email every 2-4 weeks for individual-focused lead nurturing, and every 4-6 weeks to nurture institutional leads. Email campaigns remind prospects of your edtech solutions, but sending emails too frequently will lead to unsubscribes. Institutional prospect email timing should also align with procurement calendars.
Organic Social Media Update Instagram and Facebook 1-3x weekly to target individuals, and LinkedIn 3-5x monthly to target institutional prospects Organic social media is a relatively low cost way of maintaining prospect awareness of your company. Thought leadership content can be repurposed for social, but should be condensed or summarized. Charts and infographics are especially suitable for reuse on social media.

The most effective lead nurturing method will depend on your target audience, more specifically, where that audience seeks solutions. Aligning channels with content is particularly important for edtech companies, as while teachers and school administrators may spend significant time on social media platforms, they are most likely to try to solve problems by searching Google to find useful thought leadership. With the help of well-crafted, strategic CTAs, this content can help usher leads into the sales process.

Stage 3 – Sales

The sales process designates the final stage of customer acquisition, in which nurtured leads become actual customers as shown in the image below:

Because sales takes place at the end of the funnel, close rates depend heavily on how well your lead nurturing content has connected with prospects and their interests and pain points. However, you’ll need an effective and efficient sales process that aligns seamlessly with your marketing campaign to fully close a sale. Following the best practices outlined below can help your company optimize sales performance.

  • Use a CRM to track leads and improve close rates. An effective CRM solution makes it easier to tailor product offerings and proposals on how a prospect found your edtech solutions, their occupation, their use case, and past interactions with your company. The two most popular are Salesforce and Hubspot.
  • Produce personalized sales content. Your marketing materials target specific audiences for your technology. Likewise, your sales materials, such as sales decks, proposals, and case studies, should each be tailored to the lead’s specific use case.
  • Provide social proofs by developing a library of testimonials and case studies that demonstrate how your technology has been successfully used by other institutions, students, parents, or teachers

Get Help With Your Edtech Customer Acquisition Strategy

Developing a successful edtech customer acquisition strategy takes time and requires the expertise of a skilled team of marketers. This process is complicated by the seasonal nature of edtech customer acquisition, and many companies find they lack the resources necessary to reliably produce results.

First Page Sage has over a decade of expertise in the education industry, and we’ve worked with edtech companies to create and implement comprehensive customer acquisition strategies. Our approach prioritizes high-ROI using a foundation of expert-quality thought leadership content and SEO . Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about a partnership.

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