CMO Q&A: Promethean CMO Cheryl Miller on the Education Market
Cheryl Miller recently became CMO of educational technology firm Promethean, joining the Seattle-based company after two decades in the tech sector working for brands like Microsoft and Symantec.
Promethean markets products such as interactive display panels for classrooms and lesson delivery software. Chief Marketer recently chatted with Miller, to get her take on the challenges of marketing to a diverse audience in the K-12 education sector.
CHIEF MARKETER: Who is the target audience for your marketing efforts? Teachers? Administrators? All of the above?
CHERYL MILLER: That’s the challenge, and it is one of the things that is different coming from technology into education. You’ve got to have to win the hearts and minds of different people .
In technology [marketing], there’s a line of business decision maker, and the IT person, and you have to bring both of them along on the journey to secure the purchase. In education, there’s multiple things to consider. There’s policy, there’s regulations, there’s the federal government, there’s the district, there’s the teacher, there’s the administrator and you’ve got to look at all of those. There’s multiple messages and multiple channels that you have to be active in.
CM: Is it challenging to engage these multiple constituencies?
MILLER: Promethean has a lot of engagement in the teaching community. We have educational consultants who were teachers themselves, so we have this mentality of teachers talking to teachers, working on professional development and creating better learning experiences for these highly skilled people. We just had over 5,000 people attend our recent Camp Promethean virtual event, which drove a ton of website traffic and interaction. But the person who makes the decision is not that teacher, it’s someone on the administrative side— superintendents, principals, IT people—and that’s a different conversation. We have various personas and segments within the customer base. It differs [connecting with] smaller schools that don’t have an IT department, where the principal might be more involved in the purchase process, [versus] larger school districts like Miami Dade in Florida.
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CM: Is the business seasonal?
MILLER: For us, Q2 and Q3 are typically our biggest sales cycles. Q2 is when [schools] think about when they’re going to be purchasing and Q3 is when they start to deploy. July is typically dark, and then they come back in August and get set up for the year. Q1 is a big event quarter for us, when the teachers and administrators are learning what is on the market and where ed tech is involving, to see what they might be purchasing for the year.
CM: How long is your sales cycle?
MILLER: It varies. We have a lot of large long sales cycles, where the first purchase might be a couple of weeks to months, when they do an initial buy, and then that leads to a longer relationship of recurring purchases. Smaller purchases through channels like CDW might be quicker. We need to figure out how to target the right content at the right time to our audience.
CM: What types of content connects with your audience?
MILLER: We do a lot of social with teachers. Facebook is pretty big for us in engaging with them and driving them to the website. LinkedIn is big with the IT side. We also do a lot of live demos online, where our education consultants talk about how to leverage the technology through the classroom. There’s a lot of interaction virtually.
CM: How do you gauge marketing ROI?
MILLER: Brand promise is important. I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at our marketing materials, and there’s definite opportunities to enhance that. Today, marketing [is responsible] for so much more of the funnel, so we’re making sure we can drive demand and deliver content at the right time in the journey. It’s all about the acceleration of pipeline volume and velocity—those are two great measurements. The qualified lead is not enough. If a lead is qualified, it should turn into pipeline.
CM: Do your sales and marketing teams work well together?
MILLER: Sales and marketing [at Promethean] are really tightly coupled. It’s almost like we run as one team. Last week, the sales team took me out to visit a new partner, to talk about ways to engage with the teaching community from a classroom perspective and help align our campaigns. It was great to get out into the field.