This article was originally published in UX of EdTech.
The most valuable user experiences are the ones that turn one-time customers into lifelong brand advocates by putting empathy first and keeping people at the centre. And teachers notice.
“We can always tell,” laughs one middle school teacher in NYC. “We know when you understand our kids and us because you help [with] those daily things that are overlooked but make that day in the classroom just a little bit easier.”
Empathy is what makes a product stick.
Sarah Freitag, UX Lead at Openfield, echoes that and urges EdTech companies that the products that don’t succeed are those that don’t prioritize the user: they’re too complex, don’t solve a real need, or don’t fully integrate into users’ lives — or all of the above.
“If an EdTech product is difficult and ineffective, [teachers] will get frustrated and find an alternative,” Freitag says. “And they don’t have to look too far.”
And she’s right: the EdTech industry is heavily saturated, especially now. Teachers are in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Recent findings from the NEA show that 90% of teachers are burned out. They’re asking for help for a lighter cognitive load, for folks to pay attention to their needs. They’re asking for their needs to be anticipated and centred.
When these choices are deliberate in the user experience (UX), EdTech companies show that they are invested in their success and empathize with their needs.
Teachers are far more likely to adopt a product built by and for their needs, and the administration is far more likely to purchase or renew a product if teachers are satisfied and consistently use it.
The good customer experience (CX) leads to good user experience and builds communities of loyal brand advocates. When it comes to EdTech, UX and CX are synonymous.
Admin’s role in the teachers’ customer-to-user journey
When marketing to teachers, your users and customers may be different personas but require the same strong experience to buy into your brand or product.
Administrators typically hold the purchasing power (at least in B2B EdTech). Still, the teachers who convert (or influence conversion) from customers to users are those who feel we’ve met their immediate needs.
“UX focuses on the end user…the person using the product or service, whereas CX concentrates on the customer,” Caroline White explains for Usability Geek. “Often customers are using the product or service too — but they may be buying it on someone else’s behalf.”
This duality is a key reason why connecting your product’s marketing, messaging, and experience is critical in building brand and product loyalty.
The quality of an admin’s CX — across the entire sales funnel — is directly tied to the teachers’ ability to benefit from the UX. It’s a reciprocal relationship or concentric circles — they both need each other to grow a community of product advocates and loyal power users.
How teachers benefit from UX + marketing partnerships
It’s hard to put it any better than Iris Grossman: “Good marketing and no UX is like serving microwave food at a royal party… good UX and no marketing is like throwing a royal party without any guests showing up.”
While good EdTech UX prioritizes implementation and ease of use, it’s a sign of great EdTech UX when you actively partner with product and brand marketing to build upon that public perception.
Both teams are data-driven and continue to learn how they can prioritize, build, and ship the products and features that anticipate teachers’ needs. And leveraging empathy-driven and customer-first designs also helps product marketers further refine their messaging strategy that showcases solutions instead of products.
By working together, you keep the Voice of the Customer at the centre and gain insight into which each team owns pieces of the user/customer experience.
Together, you can work to understand customer insights better, clearly map the customer life cycle, and optimize the overall user journey. You can strengthen messaging through participation in user surveys, customer interviews, sales calls, and support requests — qualitative and quantitative data that helps UX make informed decisions about feature prioritization and function.
When empathy is the driving force in your customer journey, you all but guarantee an increase in engagement, retention, and long-term product adoption.
6 ways for UX and marketing to drive impact together
Having your teams work together can help drive meaningful, measurable impact for teachers.
- Plan and conduct user interviews together.
- Collaborate on school and district case studies.
- Build internal consensus on user and buyer personas, value props, and jobs to be done.
- Draft customer-facing messaging and microcopy for feature launches.
- Identify gaps and opportunities that improve user experience and retention across the customer journey.
- Create a Customer Advisory Board of educators to deepen insights and investment from the community.
UX and marketing are especially powerful when working together in speaking to customers during win-loss interviews.
Depending on your business model or sales funnel, you could be talking to buyer personas (admins), user personas (teachers — or maybe sometimes students!), or all of the above. The insights provided by customers, whether or not they converted to a sale, are a treasure trove of qualitative and quantitative insights across both teams.
Marketing teams may analyze the interview transcript to pull out recurring themes and terms to inform their next marketing campaign or sales playbook.
In contrast, UX teams may dig deeper into the quantitative findings and report back to the product team to help iterate on their upcoming roadmap. Because having UX and marketing team up isn’t just what’s best for the user — it also drives healthy business decisions.
Lean into empathy to win teacher buy-In
Creating feedback loops among cross-functional teams keeps teachers’ needs at the centre of the product roadmap, drives lead conversion and user retention, provides invaluable insights on user psychology, and keeps you toe-to-toe with your competitors.
User experience, brand identity, marketing campaigns, social proof points, product roadmap, and word-of-mouth referrals are all incredibly influential in proving your investment to the needs of educators.
At the end of the day, teachers are more likely to trust other teachers. The EdTech industry remains a crowded space. It’s not about which product can be the loudest; it’s about which product chooses to listen.