Guest post by Chris Bradford, Bee Digital marketing to schools agency
What makes you think teachers care about what you sell?
How much your product “engages students”, “saves teachers’ time”, or “works on all devices”?
Or that you have a “cutting edge assessment AI integration that drives value across all stakeholders” or some such nonsense?
It’s just static. Teachers see it and you know what they do?
They shrug their shoulders and your confident message becomes a whimpering whisper.
Or worse, roll their eyes and click off.
Either way, you lose.
So how do you present your product’s value to the market without simply pushing out the same old tired messaging?
By building up your credibility and confidence signals.
“When making decisions involving risk, such as an online purchase from a website, consumers tend to rely more on intuition than on deliberation. This is important because it challenges the established deliberative perspectives of consumer trust formation and offers an explanation as to why things like aesthetics, professionalism, and other implicit clues matter for building online trust.”
How Customers Decide Whether to Buy from Your Website, Harvard Business Review, 2018
When it comes to selling to schools and teachers, credibility is vital. It gives teacher prospects confidence in the products or services that you offer.
It helps potential customers to trust your company and make them more likely to want to buy from you.
So how can you establish credibility in your messaging?
People are drawn to numbers. We love them.
From the number of likes on a Tweet to box office records to how many billions are in Elon Musk’s bank account, humans are absolutely obsessed with numbers.
Especially when they support something we’ve already shown interest in.
“Our award-winning workshops have taught over 5,000 children to code.”
“In 2022, we helped 3,478 schools get 869,500 children to read for pleasure.”
So long as your numbers are true you should deploy them, especially in direct response marketing campaigns to teachers.
Choose popularity metrics and headline numbers that increase credibility and reduce the risk for future customers. These numbers must be real but could be positioned for dramatic effect e.g. “30 schools served” is not as impressive as “30,000 students served” (even though in principle they are the same thing).
They should be compelling and speak to the bias we all have that there’s “no smoke without fire” – if it works for that many people like me then it must be good.
But note: these aren’t numbers about your company or product, they’re ‘hero numbers’ that reinforce the story your best prospects will respond to.
But what if you’re a small company or just starting out? You won’t have big show-off numbers yet. In this case, lean into industry numbers e.g. “89% of teachers say mental health is their number one concern”.
Just use numbers to strengthen your value proposition.
A billboard of customer logos on your website is a sign, like your hero numbers, that other schools have adopted/bought/invested in your product or service.
It increases trust by proxy. These past and current customers have de-risked the purchase for future customers.
These customers can be high profile e.g. well-known academy chains, famous independent school brands. But they don’t have to be. It’s the visual shorthand you’re looking for – so (with the schools’ permission) get 10-15 school logos onto your website.
Everyone knows how much work goes into securing professional approval. It shows you take your work seriously and are held to a high standard.
Membership of BESA, Microsoft Gold Partner, EAF Pedagogical Certification – if it helps tell a story about your quality standards then shout about it.
Does every teacher understand exactly what it means to have an ISO 9001 certification? I doubt it.
But if your audience is Network Managers it will add to your credibility.
There’s only one reason awards exist: to help recipients secure more work in the future.
Awards are always presented for past work. You did an amazing thing, and this trophy/badge/certificate is the shorthand that tells other people you’re a good bet for future work.
The most prestigious award in the education sector is probably the BETT Awards. But there are many other education awards you can put yourself forward for. We have helped edtech companies with their award entries many times over the years – give us a shout if you’d like to discuss your opportunities.
So enter awards and, if you’re lucky enough to be shortlisted, be a finalist, or even win one, get the digital badge into your marketing and website ASAP.
Confidence signals are elements that help to build credibility and trust for your company’s products or services.
It’s like body language. A strong posture, eye contact, mirroring – they’re all subtle clues that tell people you can be trusted.
Consider exploring the following, all designed to show that you have confidence in your offer:
Offering a 30-day free trial is the default position for many edtech companies. While there’s nothing wrong with providing access for a limited time period it often fails to convert. Teachers forget to use it, they don’t use it effectively, they don’t use it in real-life contexts. So, instead of a free trial, try a 30 day money back guarantee. It shows you are so confident that they’ll love it, you’ll give them all their money back if they don’t.
But make sure you respond quickly in a calm and professional manner, and on social media take it to a private conversation as fast as possible.
“7 in 10 survey respondents indicated that a brand’s response to an online consumer review changes their perception of a brand, most commonly by making them feel that the brand really cares about customers (41%), that it has great customer service (35%), and that it is trustworthy (22%). What’s more, shoppers who read brand responses to negative reviews showed significantly higher product sentiment and intent to purchase.”
Responding to Online Reviews Can Have Significant Benefits for Brands, Marketing Charts
Here’s an example from GCSEPod on Edtech Impact:
We always prefer seeing the product being used in real life, warts and all. A stock image reduces trust (we know it’s not real!) and a genuine image increases trust.
Are you posting inside or outside the conversation? Do you add value or, if your company Instagram account disappeared tomorrow, would anyone miss it?
By actively engaging in the right channel with the right audience you can build up a large community of followers. This could also include gated communities like Facebook groups, Slack channels, Discord servers, etc. A vibrant social presence lets teachers see the people behind the brand and the passion you have for your community.
Is a case study a sign of authenticity?
The problem with case studies is that no company ever posted a case study where things didn’t go well. Some case studies aren’t even representative of a “real” customer – they’re commissioned in exchange for free access. That’s not to say the outcome of a commissioned case study isn’t real but they’re usually constructed to maximise positive spin.
If you present case studies we’d advise having a section that outlines what the school thought could be improved or have gone better – it will make it more legitimate.
Testimonials play a crucial role as they provide evidence that your product or service works.
Where possible, try to get testimonials from your actual customers. Teachers who researched, trialled, and made a budget case to the SLT just to get your product into their school.
Have an email automation set up to trigger after a few months to get 2-3 sentence feedback, plus their permission to use it in your marketing. Get as many of these as possible and create a wall of reviews on your website.
It’s incredibly compelling.
Because these teachers chose you. Independently. And therefore their opinion is earned and can be trusted.
No matter which educational audience you’re aiming at, using credibility and confidence signals are the key to winning the trust of potential customers.
If you’d like to speak to our friends at the Bee Digital marketing agency about their creative marketing services for companies that sell to schools, please drop us an email and we’ll make a personal introduction.
Updated on: 17 February 2023