There are many reasons putting company owners and senior management off from selling to schools.
The biggest worries are on:
- whether they have to join a suppliers’ list (they don’t),
- if they have to drop their prices to compete (they don’t – value is more important than price to this market), and
- if they have to wait a long time to be paid (they don’t – schools are legally obliged to pay suppliers within 30 days).
When a company’s management do make the decision to target the education sector, they ask our account managers which are the most effective ways of getting a foot in the door and for help in devising a marketing plan so that they approach the right people with decision makers with the authority needed to purchase their products and services.
For short-term and immediate results, we always answer “direct marketing”.
That’s because direct marketing to schools (by email, phone, or post) is still the most effective way to contact educational establishments to persuade them to buy what you sell before you’ve built up a reputation as a specialist supplier and after.
If you’re actively considering promoting your products and services to schools, we’ve put together this article which tells you everything you need to know about this exciting, vibrant marketplace.
To enquire about our services, please call us on 0330 010 830 or click here to email us.
More Than Words – click to find out more about what types of school there are in the UK and state schools funding programmes.
Selling to schools – what do schools buy?
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 staff known as heads of years and coordinators. Coordinator titles within primary schools include Art, Citizenship, English & Literacy, Geography, History, IT, Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, PHSE, RE, Science, Technology, and Special Needs (SENCO) and 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 is (obviously) the most senior and usually signs everything off.
Budgets for secondaries are much higher than for other educational establishments and, normally, the head teacher will allocate a certain amount per department per annum which is then administered by the heads of those departments.
Secondary schools normally have 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 however many do 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 value-driven services (for example, services on contract) rather than something value-added (for example, teaching aids), the school business manager may be the best person for you to send your a message to.
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 you use to secure customers and clients in the education sector? No matter which marketing strategy you choose, you need to achieve the following four goals to generate the maximum return:
- to build trust in your company or brand, your company needs to be recognised by head teachers, school leaders, business managers, teaching staff, and other decision makers and influencers as taking the education market seriously,
- you need to show that you understand the pressures of working in an education environment and 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 and ensure that it contains information of value to readers and the answers to the questions school staff have about an individual product or service.
- you need to be seen regularly – the education marketplace is a competitive one and you need head teachers, educators, and adminstrators know of 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 so when one school buys what you sell and they have a good experience with your company, they take time to tell their colleagues in other educational establishments, even across different districts.
It is worth spending the time and making the effort to secure your first few sales to schools. So, how do you go about it?
Marketing to schools – short-term
If you’re starting from a customer base of zero schools or you want to find education customers quickly, direct marketing is the least expensive and most profitable way to secure leads and close your next sales.
While direct marketing is a way to locate customers quickly, the key to making it work best is to make your message easy for people to understand and easy for them to get in touch with you (either by email or a phone call).
The three most popular marketing approaches to schools are by email, telephone, and post.
Direct contact with schools – proactive contact – makes a difference. Direct contact can bring decisions forward as well as cementing the authority and credibility of your company and its brand in decision makers’ minds.
Email marketing to schools is by far the most popular 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.
Telephone marketing to schools is popular not only for finding strong leads but, during each call, you can ascertain from the decision makers you’re speaking with about their immediate and future need for your product or service.
You can collect key information like 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. Things like this make long-term direct marketing a lot easier and they means that, every month, the marketing and sales staff using your database have warm leads to pitch.
Until around the mid-2000s, postal marketing to schools was the most popular way to promote your company and what it sells to the education sector. Although volumes have returned to nowhere near what they were, response rates are well 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 content marketing.
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 and, for your campaign to be successful, it’s key to create appealling, free, and easy-to-find content for each stage.
Those three stages of a sales funnel are:
- Top of 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 funnel (interest stage) – at this point a potential customer requires detailed information about the products or service they are considering purchasing and which company might supply it (also known as the consideration stage, the interest stage or evaluation), and
- Bottom of 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 content marketing strategies to help ensure that decision makers within the education sector find sales-driven, benefits-led details on what you’re promoting:
Marketing to schools – the big picture
Selling to schools is the easy bit. Successful marketing to schools is a lot harder because there is so much competition to get noticed in the first place.
To be sure your company has the best chance of making new sales and being the business which actually wins the orders, please approach this as a process which takes time but which will provide a greater return to you on your investment year on year.
Every new email, every new blog, every new social media post will build the credibility and authority of your business and the attractiveness of the product or service you offer. And in the education marketplace which relies on public money for funding, credibility and authority is everything.
Understand the buying cycle for your products and services
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 content marketing campaign, it may be frustrating how slow some of the schools you want to make sales to progress slowly through your funnel.
For example, let’s say you provide mini-buses to educational establishments. As you know, most mini-buses 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 email or postal 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 so you can contact them then – these are perfect sales leads for your team to follow up and much more easy for them to close.
For your content marketing campaign, create blogs, articles, and other pieces of content containing information of interest depending on whether they are just beginning to consider a replacement mini-bus, whether they’re actively investigating alternatives, or whether they’re at the point of purchase.
Don’t waste time – use only the words you need to us
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 from your company or from one of your competitors and they’re looking for help and information on whether your product or service is fundamentally different or better than the last time they needed to buy it. Is it still right for their school?
For content for the consideration/qualification stage, they’re likely using the internet to look for details on the different options they’ve got and the benefits of each of these options as well as the choice of suppliers they could use. They want to learn as much as possible to help themselves come to the right decision, to find the right solution for their school, and they’re looking for those things that make one choice better than another.
For content for the decision stage and for 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.
Whether the prospect of business is there or not, please 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 did marketing work for a company which supplies A/V maintenance contracts to educational establishments. Schools already know the value of A/V equipment and they know the value of working A/V equipment so we didn’t need to mention that in our advertising. Instead, we sold the benefits of having a fixed monthly tariff versus the cost of ad hoc repairs. This would not only free up more budget for A/V equipment procurement but it would also reduce the stress and hassle on teachers trying to do their job without the learning aids they rely on.
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 the budgets they’ve been allocated by their head teacher.
Decision makers within schools 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 content marketing. 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 selling to schools
More Than Words is one of the leading direct marketing services companies helping hundreds of clients every year offering 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:
- selling products to schools
- selling software to schools
- selling curriculum to schools
- selling books to schools
- selling services to schools
- selling to international schools
- selling children’s books to schools
- selling stationery to schools
- selling Usborne books to schools
We offer a number of direct marketing services to companies who have the staff and infrastructure to sell into educational establishments.
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 or you want us to run them for you, please ask us about our:
Please call 0330 010 830 or click here to email our direct marketing and marketing databases team.
More Than Words note – for help with your medium- to long-term approaches to selling to educational establishments, school leaders, teachers, and other decision makers, please visit our sister site for copywriting and content marketing services.