Interested in selling to schools but no experience?
There are many reasons company owners and senior management put off selling to schools.
The biggest worries are on:
- whether they have to join a suppliers’ list (they don’t),
- they have to drop their prices to compete (value is more important than price to this market), and
- they have to wait a long time to be paid (schools are legally obliged to pay suppliers within 30 days).
If you’re actively considering promoting products and services to schools, this article tells you everything you need about this exciting, vibrant marketplace.
Selling to schools – what do schools buy?
More Than Words note: Click here for information on schools funding and here for information on types of schools.
What schools buy can be separated into two main classifications:
- educational products and services which are used by teachers and other leaders to educate students and pupils and
- non-educational products and services which are for the general running of schools.
Who makes the buying decisions within schools?
In primary schools, the final decision on spending comes down to the Head Teacher. S/he is often advised by key members of school staff known as heads of years and coordinators.
Coordinator titles within primary schools include:
- English & Literacy,
- Physical Education,
- Technology, and
- Special Educational Needs coordinators (SENCO) their purchases are more centred on students than wider organisational matters.
Spending responsibility is a lot more devolved within secondary schools. The headteacher is only one decision maker within secondary schools, although s/he usually signs everything off.
Budgets for secondaries are much higher than for other educational establishments. Normally, the head teacher will allocate a certain amount per department per annum. Department heads then administer those budgets.
Secondary schools normally have a Head Teacher and many heads of department. The number is often related to the size of school as measured in pupil numbers.
Administrators and bursars now control spending in many areas like school efficiency. School business managers are the senior financial and administrative contacts within many secondary schools.
Their main job, in conjunction with the head teacher, is to allocate resources and budgets efficiently. Main duties include accounts, health and safety, budget planning and processing salaries.
Many also have purchasing responsibility over the following:
- General procurement responsibilities
- Handling contracted services like catering, cleaning, maintenance and IT users support
- Administrative systems
So, if you are involved in providing value-driven services to schools (for example, services on contract) rather than something value-added (for example, teaching aids), the school business manager may be the best person to reach out to.
More Than Words note: For more information on the buying process within independent schools, please click here.
How do I market my product or service to schools?
What strategy should education suppliers use to secure customers and clients?
No matter which education marketing you choose, you need to achieve the following four goals to generate the maximum return:
- to build trust in your company or brand by being recognised. Head teachers, business managers, teaching staff, and other key decision makers should see that you take the education market seriously,
- your marketing efforts need to show that you understand the pressures of working in an education environment. Demonstrate practical ways in which the different solutions you’re offering for sale will get the desired results,
- you need to be free and generous with the content you create for school leaders, educators, and administrators. Ensure that it contains information of value to readers and answers the questions school staff have about an individual product or service.
- you need to be seen regularly – the education marketplace is a competitive one. You need head teachers, educators, and administrators to know the value of your product or service.
Selling to schools – a domino marketplace
The education sector is a domino marketplace. Headteachers and educators are in frequent communication with each other. When one school buys what you sell and they have a good experience with your company, they will tell their colleagues in other educational establishments.
It is worth spending the time and making the effort to lock down your education sales funnel. So, how do you go about it?
Marketing to schools – short-term
When starting with a customer base of zero schools direct marketing is the least expensive and most profitable way to secure leads and close your next sales. It is also the best way to find potential customers quickly.
While you can locate customers quickly, the key to making it work best is to make your message easy for people to understand, and get in touch with you (either by email or a phone call).
The three most popular education marketing approaches are by email, telephone, and post.
Direct contact with schools – proactive contact – makes a difference. Direct contact can bring decisions forward and cement the authority and credibility of your company in decision makers’ minds.
Email marketing to schools is by far the most popular and effective way for companies to get their promotional messages into school.
Once you’ve purchased your email list, the process of sending campaigns is simple, particularly with an email service provider.
If you want to send off your email campaigns for free, you can use a desktop broadcast program
More Than Words note: Our team have run successful email marketing campaigns targeting UK Schools for over 8,000 clients across 400 different business sectors since 2005. Click through to find out more about our fully managed email marketing campaign service
Telephone marketing to schools is popular for finding strong leads and identifying immediate or future need for your product or service.
You can collect key information such as:
- who their current supplier is,
- what they’re paying,
- how long is left on their contract, and
- when would be the best date to call back with a view to presenting a full proposal.
Telemarketing makes long-term education marketing strategy easier and means that, every month, the sales staff using your database have warm leads to pitch.
More Than Words note: Read our blog on education telemarketing to schools to find out more about the benefits of telemarketing to schools.
Until around the mid-2000s, postal marketing to schools was the most popular way to promote your company as an education supplier.
Although volumes have declined to nowhere near what they were, response rates are higher than in previous decades because:
- there are still fewer letters going into school offices now and
- teachers, like a large proportion of the population, still value having something tangible they can hold.
Marketing to schools – medium- to long-term
For medium- to long-term success, you now need to invest in a content marketing campaign strategy.
What is content marketing?
It’s the creation of online written and visual content designed to promote your brand and what you sell to your target audience. This content is designed to be easy for your target audience to find when they search for information on what you sell.
There are three stages in the customer or buying journey. For your campaign to be successful, it’s key to create appealing, free, and easy-to-find content for each stage.
What are the three stages of a sales funnel?
- Top of sales funnel (awareness stage). A potential client has just realised that they have a problem that they need to be solved or that they have a desire that they wish to have satisfied (sometimes called the awareness stage),
- Middle of sales funnel (interest stage). At this point a potential customer requires detailed information about the products or service they are considering purchasing. Clear timescales for delivery and which company might supply it (also known as the consideration stage, the interest stage or evaluation), and
- Bottom of sales funnel (consideration stage) – when a purchasing decision is imminent (sometimes split into the decision stage and the action stage)
Here are six medium- to long-term strategies to help ensure that key decision makers within the education sector find sales-driven, benefits-led details on what you’re promoting:
- Create a library of blogs and articles – when decision makers search, ensure that it’s your company they find
- Build up your number of case studies and testimonials
- Launch a social media marketing campaign. An increasing number of decision makers in the education sector now engage on social media networks
- Content distribution – be found on the 3rd party websites your audience respects and appreciates
- Send regular email newsletters
- Create long-form content like white papers
Understand the buying cycle for selling to schools
No matter which marketing strategy companies use to make sales in the education sector, they are all subject to the buying cycle.
For every 100 educational establishments you contact with a direct marketing campaign, only 2-3 will be in the market at any one time.
If you’re running an online campaign, it may be frustrating how slow some of the schools progress slowly through your funnel.
For example, let’s say you provide mini-buses to educational establishments. As you know, most minibuses are taken out on a 2-3 year lease.
Unless a school needs another bus during the period of the 2-3 year lease, there is no marketing campaign which will entice them break their existing lease and incur a penalty to get a replacement bus.
You should make sure that each marketing campaign you carry out is designed to appeal to educational establishments in that short window of time when they’re ready to consider another mini-bus.
With each telemarketing campaign where you identify that they’re not in the market right now, note down when they will be looking to purchase a new mini-bus. You can then contact them via phone or email marketing.
These are perfect sales leads for your team to follow up and much easier for them to close.
For your campaign, create blogs, social media articles, and other pieces of content containing information of interest depending on whether:
- they are just beginning to consider a replacement mini-bus,
- they’re actively investigating alternatives, or
- they’re at the point of purchase.
Don’t waste time – use only the words you need to use
If you’re creating content for the awareness stage, potential school customers are looking for help and information on what the benefits are of the product or service you offer.
They may have bought what you’re offering before and are looking for help and information to see if your product or service is fundamentally different or better.
For content for the consideration/qualification stage, they’re likely using the internet to look for details on different options, the benefits and choice of education supplier.
They want to learn as much as possible to help themselves come to a decision on the right solution for their school. They’re looking for those things that make one choice better than another.
For creating content for the decision stage in your direct marketing campaigns, you’re targeting those educational establishments most likely to become your new and next customer right now or shortly in the future. Ensure that you use no more words than you need to.
Head teachers, leaders, teachers, and educators are busy people so give them what they need as quickly as possible.
More Than Words Example: we recently completed a marketing campaign for a company which carries out PAT testing for educational establishments. By using combined email and telemarketing we generated immediate leads and a valuable pipeline of opportunities from Multi Academy Trusts (MATS) and Academy schools. Read more here
Continually build up your company’s social proof
A school relies on public money for its funding and head teachers and school business managers have to demonstrate that they spent the funding which was available to them wisely and within the government’s rules.
To a lesser degree, heads of form, heads of subject, IT managers, and so on must justify how they spend school budgets, handed down by the head teacher.
Decision makers within education establishments need to see that you’re committed to the education sector and that this is not just part of a plan to make money from them as quickly as possible.
Be seen by them every month – contact them by email, phone, or post and let the decision makers who are at different parts of their buying journey find the facts they want online with your informative, generous, easy-to-find, and free advertising.
Let them know as much about your company and what it sells as they need to know and answer all their questions.
What you need to know about selling to schools
More Than Words Marketing is one of the leading direct marketing companies. We have helped hundreds of clients to offer their goods and services to educational establishments.
Please see below a small selection of the types of campaign we have been successfully involved in during the last six months:
- products to schools
- software to schools
- curriculum to schools
- books to schools
- services to schools
- children’s books to schools
- stationery to schools
- marketing cleaning and hygiene services to schools re-opening after the COVID-19 lockdown
We offer a number of direct marketing services to companies who have the staff and infrastructure to sell into educational establishments.
- UK schools database (including email, phone, and postal contact details)
- school email address list
- telephone list of schools and
- school postal mailing list
You don’t have to buy the entire database. Let us know which types of school you wish to sell to and we’ll come back to you with a count and a quote.
If your company does not have the ability to send email campaigns or its own telemarketing team, please ask us about our:
More Than Words Note: By outsourcing your marketing, you benefit from a fresh set of eyes on how to market your products and services to schools. Read our recent case studies from a children's charity, speech & language therapy service and software provider to find out how we managed a targeted marketing campaign to schools.