K-12 Marketing, Tips From Experience
Those that are just starting out in the k-12 marketing sector, or those that are looking to re-do their current business, are encouraged to learn some of the basics behind k-12 marketing. This sector poses unique challenges that many, that are new to this niche, are not aware of until they are already in their first high level meeting. You might find many of these tips useful as you embark on your new adventure selling into this vertical.
The purchasing process is different for school districts than it is for teachers. Often, teachers are able to purchase things quicker, but on a smaller scale. Teachers in general have discretionary dollars to spend and the amount fluctuates and averages out to $500 - $1200 depending on the grade levels taught and the demos of the school and location. Because school districts spend more money the process is longer and might involve approval from a board or committee. It’s important to understand the complete purchasing process when you decide who you will be selling to. Some districts work on a fiscal Oct to Oct calendar and others from the standard Jan to Jan. You might also get ahead of the game and contact the Purchasing or Accounting departments to see what steps you might need to complete to be an approved vendor- in advance.
Selling to school districts can be a long process. If you’re a new business that can’t afford to wait 6-12 months, it’s best to search for smaller purchases in addition to larger ones. Private Schools can be great low hanging fruit. Generally the purchasing decisions are site-based and their usually isn’t a parent organization that might might be involved for approval. Alternatively, you might reach out the the Diocese that oversees purchasing for all of their Catholic Schools. In this case you might seal a larger deal but again it might take a bit of massaging. School districts have to leap over several hurdles for large purchases, and these cycles are known for taking several months. I like to call these “back burner” deals. Keep the heat on low, let simmer, revisit, and the sale will come. Simotaneously, add 10 to 50 front burner deals into the mix and your sales buffet should be bountiful.
Educators love being able to try something to determine if it will work for them without spending a dime. Consider offering schools a free trial or seeing if they will participate in a pilot program for a new product. This is a great way to build a relationship with future clients. However, as a sales VP once told me- “give something, get something”. If you are giving them a free subscription then ask for some testimonials or results/feedback so that you can expand the sales to the sister schools based on the success of the pilot. If you go down this path do your homework and choose the best school for the trial. I always knew it was best to choose the schools that were at the bottom, based on AYP, in whatever product/subject I was selling. Being at the bottom means there’s more room to move the school scores up (whereas you sell to the grade “B” or “A” school and there is zero movement in terms of their school grade unless you really killed it. It is also important that the school have good people in place that are receptive to you and the thought of bringing on a new product which means more work for them.
Educators are busy and it’s important to respect their time. If your sales call can be managed via a phone call or an email then don’t waste time with an elaborate meeting. This is frustrating at best. Instead, attempt to keep things as short as possible without being impolite. Your potential clients will remember how courteous you are. Then follow-up with a card and a $5 Starbuck giftcard.
Educators are bombarded with sales calls and emails all year. In order to filter through them to decide which companies to have meetings with, educators often look at quality over quantity. They would rather spend money on a product that will benefit students for years to come than a smaller amount of money on a product that will not be worth it. When marketing products in the k-12 marketing sector, focus on quality more than anything.
Starting out in the K-12 marketing sector can be tough. This is because this market is packed with unique challenges and no shortage of old and new products. Spend some time up front learning as much as possible about your products and how they could make measured changes for the betterment of your targeted institutions. Know the school or districts weak points before you walk in the door and come with numbers to back up your conversation. You might be surprised to see that one or three prospects might know less than you about where their pains actually are and you are there to help fill those gaps. Also, don’t forget to know your competitions offerings in relation to your own. In other words, you are dealing with people that have a minumum 4yr degree and more than likely a graduate or post-grad degree so doing your homework will impress.