You may have a new product that you believe will be embraced by educators. Teachers and administrators are always on the lookout for new and effective teaching materials. But education marketing can seem a bit of a mystery. Learning how to enter this market segment can be a lot of work. Education market research is a good starting point. You also need to seek advice from those with experience how to be successful. Here are Ten Commandments that are the foundation for any effective marketing and selling program to reach the K-12 school market.
The K-12 market is huge and decision-making is complex. It is important that you use education market research to support the development of an education marketing plan based on market analysis. Narrow marketing lists schools your school sales efforts to the districts that are most likely to need your products and have the funding support. It is better to stay focused and establish a strong base of users before spreading out.
The K-12 school market has a regular, predictable purchasing cycle that drives buying decisions. Instructional products are evaluated throughout the school year, but it is during the early months of the calendar year when a lot of this comes to a peak. There is a flurry of buying in the late spring and early summer months for products that will be used the next school year, in conjunction with the annual budget cycle that ends for most public schools June 30.
Supplemental products (those curricular products other than the core textbook or materials) are often purchased with special funds, many connected to federal programs. School market research will reveal these funding sources. Essential is to describe how your product helps educators meet these objectives for these programs so purchases can be attached to funding streams. Without this step, the cry will likely be “we don’t have any budget.”
It is important to tap into every school marketing channel to sell your products. Your own web site is the first and most basic direct channel. In addition, it is wise to consider catalogs, independent school sales reps, K-12 dealers and supplemental school product distributors and educator conferences. The best mix for you depends on the specific audience you want to reach and the price point of your product, but all channels should be considered. Along with this, obviously you need a promotional budget and the ability to invest to drive school sales.
Schools are required to follow curriculum guidelines. Curricular standards have been set by the states. Now we are moving toward national curriculum standards. To succeed, you have to relate your product to specific goals, objectives, and outcomes by grade levels. In addition, many standards have been developed for specific curriculum areas. Be prepared as part of your education marketing plan to demonstrate how your product aligns to standards.
The biggest challenge for our classrooms and for anyone interested in school marketing is the teachers’ time. Anyone offering curricular products must also develop teaching aids like lesson plans and sometimes professional development. It is important to feature teacher support in any school promotions and advertising.
Diversity of the student population is a big challenge for our schools. Educators must meet the needs of all boys and girls, and all ethnic and socio-economic groups. Whenever possible, incorporate ethnicity into your K-12 products and school promotions. The entire student population should be represented.
The most powerful education sales channel you can develop are the users of your product. Word of mouth and viral marketing is the most powerful selling technique to reach the education market. Having an advisory board of educators and publicizing their names when you market to schools is a proven strategy. Having positive reviews for your product in educational publications and other types of endorsements will help you gain visibility and credibility.
Educators have specific needs. But they are consumers like you. They respond to offers and special deals. Many of the marketing strategies that work in consumer channels also work for selling to schools.