- Education and Science
EdProcure is the UK’s largest online school leads portal. 400,000 teachers and education decision makers use the site to give leads from schools to the 3,500+ UK companies currently listed on there.
How do schools buy?
We often get asked about buying patterns in schools, about the whole procurement process in schools, about how schools buy. The answer is straightforward – all schools and departments buy in different ways. Dependant on who your target is in the school will depend on how they buy, and therefore how you target them, how often you market to them, and how you deal with them in the long term.
Let’s take a few examples of different types of schools and school buyers and examine how each group buys from the private sector.
Academies – academy schools are only prevalent in England, not the rest of the UK, and have grown significantly in number over the last 5 years. The key thing to remember when looking at how academy schools buy is that they are free from local authority control. Academy schools can make their own purchasing decisions on things like catering facilities and grounds maintenance. So, if you are a catering supplier who previously had the mammoth (and potentially lucrative) task of becoming an approved local authority supplier, you are now able to go directly to the school to deal with them. Although the contracts may be smaller they are potentially easier to obtain. Academy schools buy in a different way, therefore, to many other types of school who are under the guidance of the local authority.
Independent schools – independent schools buy from the public sector as they see fit. The clue is in the name, and we will focus here on fee paying schools. They follow the national curriculum like all other schools, but beyond that independent schools are just that – independent. They choose which pupils they take in, they choose which teachers they employ, which subjects they offer, and most importantly, what they buy. Independent schools will almost always have a Bursar or Business Manager whose job it is to oversee the procurement process, and who would often be the first point of contact for any private sector looking to sell to independent schools. The second thing to note about how independent schools buy is that their annual budgets are much less strict. Public sectors schools buy according to a fixed budget, if they don’t spend it all they can be penalised the following year. As independent schools are run as commercial operations, this is not the case. They set their own budgets, which means these schools buy all year round, so you can sell to them all year round.
Maintenance staff – maintenance staff in schools buy according to a long term need, rather than the here and now. These school staff buy based on a long term requirement, and will often use the same supplier over and over again on fixed length contracts. Examples might be maintenance contracts they have with alarm companies, CCTV suppliers or gardening businesses. These can be potentially lucrative contracts to win as budget will be allocated to you for a couple of years rather than a one off payment for a one off supply. All UK schools buy these facilities and contracts from third party suppliers, and here a longer term view is required. You may not be able to knock on the facilities managers door and become the new alarm contractor, but a steady process of relationship building and a good inbound marketing strategy will help you win contracts with these school buyers.
Heads of department – heads of departments in schools buy according to a set budget, but unlike maintenance managers who will have long term contracts, these staff buy based on a fixed budget and a current need. They are more likely to buy school textbooks and learning resources according to current demand and current supply. Offering a head of department in a school the chance to buy a new book or a new interactive resource is far easier than trying to get a grounds manager to replace the CCTV system. If your product or service is aimed at these school buyers, then you should consider marketing to them at key budget intervals, such as the beginning and end of the school year. These buyers will always look to allocate 100% of their budget in order that it is maintained the following year and so these departments’ heads in schools buy according to what they need now.
In brief, schools buy in a variety of different ways. Indeed budget holders within schools buy in a variety of different ways, according to their needs and their budgets. It is worth considering therefore, who is your target, how do they go about making buying decisions, and what is the most effective way to become a supplier to them.
EdProcure.co.uk is the UK’s largest online portal helping schools buy and private sector enterprises sell to schools.
How to do business with schools, easily
Are you one of the thousands of companies in the UK looking to get business from schools or do business with schools but not sure where to start?
Do you have a product or service which schools and teachers use or could use but are not yet doing business with schools?
The answer is quite simple – you need to start doing business with schools!!
Ok we know, so it isn’t quite as simple as coming in one day, switching on the computer and having a tidal wave of leads in your inbox from schools wanting to do business with you. But, it’s not that tricky either. Not as tricky as people would have you believe. You see, teachers are creatures of habit, and therefore so too are schools, so if you want to do business with them, you have to become a creature of habit too.
It may sound daunting to begin with when you make the epic decision to start doing business with schools, but if you break the process down and stick to the basics, you will not go far wrong. Habitual marketing will always win with schools and teachers. Make them feel safe and secure, make them want to allocate budget to you, and keep outlining the benefits. Before long, you will have them queueing up to do business with you.
Doing business in schools is not an exact science. How you go about it really depends on whether you are offering a product or a service, whether it is a one off sale, a series of sales, or a long term contract, and who in the school you are selling to. These are the basics - think about what you do and how it relates to schools, then think about how you might go about offering it to schools and teachers.
Let us help you out with an example. Let’s be a company who sells pin badges to many different markets, but not currently to schools. There are quite a few of these in the UK so the example is useful. So we are offering a product (not a service), we are expecting some one off sales, but hopeful of some sales series, because we know the pin badges will be used by prefects for example, who will change year on year. Finally we are thinking we will offer these to bursars.
So, we have a product, with ongoing sales, sold to bursars. Easy. Now to do business in schools and sell our pin badges, the bursar needs to know about us, he also needs to know why our pin badges are better than the other 5 companies who have offered him pin badges in the last 12 months. This is the harder bit. To do business in schools we need to make our product stand out and we need to engage the bursar. Price won’t be a huge factor as we know our pin badges are similarly priced to most of our competitors. It may sound obvious, but the easiest way to create a relationship to do business in the school with the bursar is to make it as easy as possible for him to buy your product.
Unfortunately many businesses looking at the school marketplace forget this. Teachers are not laden with time, nor are they laden with buying expertise. If you hand them your product on a plate, they will hand you their order on a plate. It really is that simple. If our pin badge company were to do a postal mail campaign, we would include in it an order form with images of our products to make it really easy for our bursar to buy from us. Similarly, if we were running an email campaign, we would insert plenty of call to action links through to our website, which would be nicely laid out with a separate schools landing page, with a shopping cart, making it really easy for them to buy from us. Finally, if we were listing in a school buyers’ directory, we would insert lots of links to the landing page previously mentioned. All to make it really easy for the schools to buy from us.
So ask yourself again, are you doing business with schools but not succeeding, or are you looking to start doing business with schools? If the answers to either of these is yes, then begin by assessing what you are selling and who in the school you are selling it to, and end by making it super easy for schools and teachers to buy your product or service. These two pieces of simple advice will enable you to do business with schools on a grand scale, easily!
EdProcure is the largest selling to schools portal in the UK and the easiest way to do business in schools. You can add links to your website, your schools landing page, or your social media to get teachers and education decision makers doing business with you.
How to sell to schools in 4 easy steps
Wow. What a statement! If we all knew the answer to this, we would all be wealthy right? Well we are not here to give you a hard and fast answer as to how to sell to schools, but we can certainly help. We can cover some important considerations which although will not tell you everything you need to know to sell your particular product or service into schools, they will definitely give you some insights into how to sell to schools.
EdProcure is the UK’s largest online school buyers’ directory and is developed and maintained by an army of marketing experts and ex-teachers. We are therefore well placed to give you some great advice about how to sell to schools. So let’s begin.
- Know your audience – think about who you are selling to. Is it the bursar, the head teacher, a particular staff member, or any member of the teaching staff in the school? Dependent upon the target you are selling to, you need to consider the best approach for getting their attention. What gets the attention of the bursar will not necessarily be suitable for a head of PE, so whatever you sell to schools, remember to pitch it according to the recipient.
- Know your product or service – what you have to sell to schools is as important as how you sell it to the schools. EdProcure clients, for example, sell everything from lockers to grounds maintenance to schools badges. It doesn’t matter what you sell to schools, just remember to focus your marketing on the product itself, and to make sure your marketing is consistent with your brand. Your brand may be serious, it may be a little more fun and contemporary, whatever it is, stick to the brand. Selling to schools is no different to selling to the private sector. Your brand comes before the client.
- Be consistent – start with your brand when you sell to schools, not the schools themselves. Don’t assume that schools will buy in a different way to your current market and therefore you need to change who you are. Let your brand be itself, and approach the schools with it – school buyers are human too! Sell to schools like you would sell to everyone else.
- Continually test – the last piece of the selling to schools jigsaw is the ability to test. This may seem like a luxury to some, but doing split subject line testing on email campaigns or sending different postal mail campaigns to different types of schools are great ways to test the market and see what works best. Your product or service and your brand are all unique to you, so you need to know (and possibly already will) the best and the most effective way to sell them. If you want to be an expert at selling to schools and build your brand in the marketplace, make sure you test what works, and stick to what works.
Remember, if you want your product or service to sell to schools, you will need to know the buyer. You will need to know your product or service and how it fits into a school’s buying process. Most importantly when selling to schools, keep your brand consistency in check and keep on testing what works. This all may seem obvious, but the clients we know who sell the most to schools are the ones who follow these 4 pieces of simple advice the best.
EdProcure is the largest online school buying directory in the UK. 400,000 teachers access the service, and over 3,500 suppliers use it to get consistent business from schools.
Marketing to schools – 4 things you should know
There is a common myth that selling to schools is a closed book, that the annual education budget is spread amongst the few larger organisations lucky enough to be “in” with UK schools, and that breaking into this closed group is not possible without investing vast amounts of time and budget.
Well, you’ve guessed it, this is a downright myth! Hundreds of businesses manage to successfully market their products and services to UK schools on a daily basis. Marketing to schools is no different to marketing to any other sector of the UK economy. For marketers, the basic rules are still the same. However, those that succeed in marketing their wares to schools pay particular attention to the intricacies of the marketplace itself. So, if you are serious about obtaining some of the £83bn school budget, you must take heed of these 4 golden nuggets of marketing advice.
- School buyers are lazy. Ok, cue scores of teachers telling us this is ridiculous, they work 80 hours a week, they work holidays, and all the other things our teacher friends tell us when we mock them for having long holidays! Well this isn’t quite what I mean. School buyers are often teachers. Teachers who have been to college and university and been taught how to teach. There is a big gap between a teacher and a professional buyer, and it is important to sympathise with this notion. Keeping your marketing simple, succinct, and to the point will attract a lot more school buyers than something which has been overthought and oversold.
- Teacher’s time is restricted. Picture the scenario of the professional buyer. He comes to work, he may have a few meetings, he may have a report to write, he may have a presentation to prepare. Whatever, he spends plenty of time at his desk. Now picture the teacher. He has a desk, often an office to call his own. But, the majority of his time is spent in the classroom, teaching. Not one classroom, often 5 or 6 different ones every day. Contacting teachers isn’t necessarily harder than contacting buyers in other sectors, it is just really important to time your communications effectively, to ensure the teachers see it. (Early morning is often best!)
- Teachers have budgets. Sure you already know this, but if you are going to get serious about marketing to schools, don’t forget how the buying process in schools works. Schools don’t buy to make a physical return on investment, they buy to satisfy the demands of their staff and pupils, and to make cost savings. Marketing to schools by hammering away about ROI’s and KPI’s will almost certainly get you nowhere. Outline the benefits, remember your goal is to get them to allocate budget to you, not to dig deep into their pockets and justify a purchasing decision.
- School buyers like repetition. This may seem obvious, but look at the first 3 pieces of advice we have shared here. Lazy buyers, little time, strict budgets. Anyone suiting these traits will surely not enjoy the buying process right? Well whether they do or not, the combination of these three factors generally leads to repetition. Schools and teachers will always look to reorder if the price and service were right. This is important for 2 reasons. Firstly, when you are marketing to schools, always consider telling them that there is a long term relationship in it for them. Schools love this. Secondly, give a good service. The easiest way to market to any business is to offer a good service which makes them want to come back time after time.
And most importantly, stay in touch with the schools you have done work for! This could be telephone contact, email, even a Christmas card. It doesn’t matter, saying hello will build your brand in schools and make you an expert at marketing to schools. Good luck.
The growth of the School buyers’ directory
We have written a lot over the last few months about how schools buy, how to sell to schools and how to build a UK schools database. Although this is all useful information for anyone serious about selling to schools, it needs some context as to how it relates to EdProcure and how it can help you to get more business from schools.
In our recent blog “Why Selling to schools might be easier than you think” we focused on the 3 methods of marketing to schools – email campaigns, postal mail campaigns, and the school buyers’ directory. Let’s delve a little deeper into the school buyers’ directory and see why they are becoming so important in the selling to schools marketplace.
We all know how directory systems work, because we have all heard of the Yellow pages, which is now faring much better as yell.com. This is a sort of blanket directory for any business, in any category, in any location in the world to advertise themselves and hopefully gain customers just by being listed. There are then the specialist directories, such as just eat and hungry house, which provide food delivery services to homes. So why have just eat and hungry house become so big, when companies can rely on google and yell.com anyway? The answer is the specialism. There are millions of companies on planet earth, provided a huge range of services. Sometimes, the larger directories are just too large for what we want.
School buyers are becoming savvy to this too, and more and more are looking at specialist schools buyers’ directories to find goods and services to buy for the schools. Imagine you are a teacher and you want to buy textbooks for year 11 maths. You go on google, you type in Year 11 Maths textbooks, you see the results. Only the companies with the best SEO will appear in your search results, but moreover you will see results not just for Year 11 Maths textbooks, but textbooks, Maths and Year 11. In short, you are not left with the answers you want, well not all of them anyway.
Now consider you go to a school buyers’ directory. The only search results you are going to be given are going to be relevant to schools, and probably Year 11 Maths! The search works in exactly the same way. You type what you want in the school buyers’ directory, you get presented with some results, which you do not need to sift through to find the right supplier for you. The directories are now so specialised that they cater only for UK schools, and only allow companies in who supply goods and services to UK schools to list in them.
As a selling to schools pro, listing in a specialist school buyers’ directory should be a key focus of your marketing to schools efforts. They are quick and easy to register with and provide you with year round consistently good leads from schools who have money to spend, not browsers looking to obtain quotes on a non-existent project.
The largest school buyers’ directory currently in existence in the UK, EdProcure, was formed by a group of ex-teachers and private sector marketing experts. The directory was borne out of a frustration by the ex-teachers at finding school procurement difficult, and marketing experts who wanted a fast and effective way to get their client’s products and services in front of school buyers.
There are still only a handful of schools buyers’ directories in existence in the UK so listing in them is not terribly difficult and will only take half an hour or so of your time in total. The returns on investment from a school buyers’ directory are great, either as a stand-alone effort at marketing to schools, or part of a wider selling to schools campaign.
EdProcure is the largest school buyers’ directory in the UK with over 400,000 teachers and education decision makers accessing it on a daily basis.
Finding the right Schools Directory
Ever wondered how schools and teachers buy goods and services from private enterprises?
Ever wondered how to crack the minefield that is selling to schools?
Looking to take advantage of a piece of the £83bn annual UK school spend?
There are literally scores of ways of developing relationships with schools and developing a presence to boost your sales within the sector. But what if you are just starting out, have limited budget, limited expertise, and need a helping hand.
There are a wide variety of directories out there on the internet, some big, some small, some free, some paid. The majority of these larger directories offer a great service to start ups to improve their SEO their link building, and their basic presence online. We all know of the Yell.coms, the Thomson webs, and Directory.com, but what about the specialist sites. The sites which go that little bit deeper into the specific market they are designed to help. Used right, these directories can give a massive boost to your brand presence in the target marketplace.
Take a look at schools. Go online, look for a schools directory. You won’t find many. Why? Because selling to schools is such a niche that there is only demand and space for a few. It is also very difficult to build up a directory in a niche market, so only the strongest get the visitors required to make it work on both sides.
Let’s take a look at how the Schools Directory works. In this example we will use this directory, EdProcure. EdProcure is the largest Schools Directory in the UK. There are over 3,500 businesses registered in over 100 different supplier categories. The directory is accessed daily by the 400,000 Teachers and Education decision makers on the EdProcure database. So, you could say it is big. It is big in a niche market, so it is powerful. Every supplier on the site registers in up to 10 of these 100+ categories (of course very few will choose all 10!), meaning the spread of options for a school buyer is immense. Their job is only to choose a category, and if they like, a location. The suppliers’ job is to tell the school buyers as much as possible about their business by creating a compelling profile. The result is that hundreds of quote requests flow from buyer to supplier every day, for minimal effort on everyone’s behalf.
Remember, if you are looking to get a foothold in the education marketplace and sell your goods and services to schools, then targeting the simplest and most efficient method from day one is vital to using your limited resources in the right way. A schools directory will achieve this for you so go take a look, search for the few that are out there in the selling to schools niche, and see how well they can work, and how powerful a tool they can be to promote your business into schools. £83bn is a lot of money to spend and sometimes schools need a helping hand finding you!
Why Selling to Schools might be easier than you think
Picture the scenario. You have been allocated a marketing budget to promote your products and services to your companies target audience. The key to you making the right choices as to how to spend your budget is the return you will get on your investment, right? This is true, but sometimes it can be very difficult to measure the return one campaign has generated.
If you are running marketing campaigns simultaneously you will never know where results have come from, if you have a long time lag between enquiry and order, then measurement becomes difficult, and if you rely on relationship building and lifetime client worth, then again, you will find it difficult to measure any returns from your campaigns.
So what has this got to do with selling to schools?!
Well, selling to schools is a measurable quantity. It is much easier when running schools marketing campaigns to decipher the returns on investment. The marketplace is relatively niche and so any revenue generated can be easily attributed to your selling to schools campaign.
So how do you go about starting?
There are a small number of ways to get into schools in the UK. Some are more effective than others, some are more expensive than others. We will run the merits of each of them here.
- Email campaigns – emailing schools is a really effective way to generate both relationships and sales in schools. They are also relatively cheap. When considering email campaigns as a strategy for selling to schools, you must think carefully about how many you will need to send to make a good impact. Sure, sending single campaigns can be effective, but the real power of emailing schools and teachers comes from multiple, timed, targeted campaigns over a period of a few months.
- Direct mail campaigns – direct mail delivers by far the strongest results for companies selling to schools. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly, there are not many companies out there sending postal mail due to its relatively high cost compared to email campaigns, so not much mail is landing in schools. The lower the concentration, the greater the attention it receives. Secondly, direct mail is physical. It allows you to put something promoting your products directly into the hands of the recipient. It is much more difficult to ignore an envelope full of information than an email.
- Directory listings – the third effective method of selling to schools is through the use of directory listings. The main advantage to a directory listing to sell to schools is that you submit the listing once, and the business will come to you. They are also great for SEO as you will have a high PageRank link to your site on the directory site. It can take a little more patience with directories, but in the long term they can actually be the most efficient way of selling to schools.
Going back to our original scenario, our budget decision can now be made with much more confidence. If you have a big budget and a high value product with good margins, then postal mail is a winner. If you have a need to get your brand into schools but can afford the luxury of a couple of weeks as the sales grow, then email campaigns will work perfectly. If you are looking to develop long term relationships with schools you are looking to sell to and you have a solid inbound strategy, then a directory listing is an ideal method of selling to schools.
Of course, this idea would not be right if we didn’t recommend all 3 methods! So, if you are new to the education sector or have been selling to schools for a long time, a combination of email, postal mail and solid directory listings will generate you great results in the long term.
EdProcure brings together buyers and suppliers in education making it easier for buyers to make purchases and suppliers to sell to schools.
The 4 vital ingredients for building a UK Schools Database
Any budding chefs out there will know the importance of layering flavours. The same must be said for building a UK Schools Database to promote your products and services into schools. Picture the spice rack in your kitchen, you may have the small 8 spice version, you may have the larger 20 spice version, or you may be the adventurous type who spends their weekends in the Chinese supermarket, boasting hundreds of different herbs, spices and flavours to layer up your dish.
Regardless of how many, or what variety of spices you may have, you would never throw them all in the same dish, right? So why waste your time building a database of schools which has no relevance to your product or service. Don’t be the supplier trying to offer GCSE Revision modules or Careers advice to Primary Schools, be the one that knows its market and targets the correct schools in the correct areas.
So how can you make sure you target the right schools for your product? Here are 4 vital ingredients to building a schools database to zest up your marketing.
- Size – schools come in a variety of sizes, the best barometer of size being the numbers of pupils on roll. Make sure your target schools are the correct size for your products and services. Let’s look at some examples. If you are a national building contractor or a large catering firm, targeting schools with at least 500 pupils and building your database from there will give you the best chance of success. If you are a sole trader with limited resources offering a personal service such as IT support, then smaller schools are going to be your key market. However you build your database, choose carefully – approaching the right schools in the first instance will save you time in the long run
- Location – the second key to your database being optimised for you is school location. Targeting local schools will be important if you do not have the resources to travel, whereas if you are selling online resources then your business is footloose enough for you to not have to worry about where your clients are based. Be realistic here, look at the radius around your business and think about how far you can go to service schools, then see how many schools are actually in that radius and decide if the market is large enough to make an impression in schools.
- Age range – dependent upon your product or service, you will have to decide what type of schools you are going to add to your database. It is important to remember that schools in the UK teach between the ages of 4 and 18, so there is a vast difference in the marketplaces within them. Selling careers advice to 4 year olds isn’t going to get you very far, nor is offering children’s books to a sixth form centre! Think carefully, who am I targeting, which age range will my product or service suit, and build your database from there. Remember, it is better to have a smaller target to concentrate your efforts on than a scatter gun approach which hopes for the best.
- School type – there are now over 5,000 schools in England which are classed as Academies. Some are new in name only, some schools have been relocated to brand new sites, and some are new schools altogether. The database of academy schools has grown rapidly over the last 5 years and along with Free schools, is continuing to do so. Adding these to your schools database is vital. Not only do they have a need for a different range of suppliers, but their procurement process is different from other schools. They are independent of local authority control and therefore have much more autonomy when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Check your schools database for academies, and if you haven’t already, start collecting data for them, your sales will rocket!
So remember, if you want to boost your sales and become a selling to schools expert, you need to start with a great database. You need to make sure you have thought about the 4 vital ingredients for successfully developing your database in the first place. Get this database growth strategy right in the beginning, and you will reap the benefits in the long run.
EdProcure actively assist UK Schools suppliers in finding buyers in the education marketplace. Whatever the product or service, if schools buy it, then EdProcure will find a buyer and boost your sales.
The 5 most effective methods of advertising to teachers
Once you have made your mind up that you want to sell into the education sector, you are going to need a really good strategy to get those teachers listening and engaging with your product or service. Your strategy for advertising to teachers will depend on a lot of factors, such as your product, your budget, your expected margins, your competition, and how important schools are to your marketing mix. Whatever your circumstances, getting your strategy right is both important and relatively simple. Let’s take a look at the best and most proven methods of advertising to teachers to get a great ROI.
- Email – Ok so emailing teachers is not the cheapest way to go about approaching them, but it is certainly very effective if done right. Typical open rates on school email campaigns will range from 8 – 15%, so you are going to need to email quite a few of them to get a decent return on your investment. The best email campaigns typically consist of 3 – 6 messages over a 3 – 4 month period, giving you chance to build up your rapport with the teachers you are advertising to. A well-researched and consistent email campaign should be a key component of your advertising to teachers plan.
- Postal Mail – by far the most expensive but similarly the most effective method of selling to schools is through the old fashioned medium of postal mail. As the propensity for advertisers to email has grown, so the number of postal mail campaigns going to teachers has reduced, so those companies that do have the resource to conduct postal mail campaigns see excellent returns on their investment. Advertising by post to teachers will certainly catch their attention, but it isn’t for everybody. It is recommended for those with big budgets, big margins, or niche products who can guarantee a decent return.
- Directory Listings – there has been a growth in general over the last 5 years in companies using directory listings to advertise to teachers. The reason for this is that teachers go to them to source suppliers, and suppliers can list their business one time knowing that they are going to get leads consistently throughout the year. There are a number of specialist school procurement directories out there offering companies the opportunity to advertise to teachers year round at a reasonable cost.
- Social Media – the growth of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the scores of other social media available today has hugely increased the ability of private companies to get their message across. It comes as no surprise that teachers are also fond of social media and are quite open to contact through this medium. If you have a product or service that teachers will love, then it is a good start to try to get them to like it or follow you or whatever the platform does. This is a great way of engaging as social media can be made much more personable and teachers are receptive to it. Advertising to teachers through social media is also free, so never ignore it!
- Relationship building – the 5th method of advertising to teachers that really works is building relationships with them. This could be through email, social media, or discussions. However you go about it, remember teachers do not jump from school to school, so if you are prepared to play the long game and build relationships over time, the returns will be massive.
In reality advertising to teachers should be no different to dealing with any other business, but always bear in mind that teachers have budgets to spend (or work to!) and are quite amenable to companies wanting to sell to them. They don’t have hours of spare time to research like a professional buyer might and so will be more than happy to engage with you if you do your job right.
How to Market to schools
Every year the education budget in the UK is set to over £85billion and successive governments seem very keen on protecting this portion of their budget. The reasons for this are plenty but that’s not what we want to discuss here, it kind of doesn’t matter. What matters is how you get your business in front of school buyers, how you market to schools and how you make schools a part of your turnover.
Because their budgets are being protected, it is important to remember that once you have a good database of schools buying from you, provided you look after them and provide a good service, you will enjoy a good customer life span and a reliable source of income. Public sector bodies like schools also pay you on time giving you reliable cashflow. So, just how do you market to schools and guarantee yourself a good return on your investment.
Well firstly, it is important for you to know your audience. Within a school there will be scores of budget holders and decision makers. Companies selling textbooks based around Maths or French have the easiest task – target the heads of these departments. Companies selling catering or maintenance services have a slightly more segmented task – in a Primary school it is likely you will be dealing with the head, in a Secondary school you could be dealing with the bursar, the business manager, or the catering or site manager. Right from the start when you embark on a campaign to market to schools, you must remember to get the target right. You are not selling to the school, you are usually marketing to department within it.
Secondly, you need to know how your product is relevant to schools and market your product to schools accordingly. Again with the textbooks, this is easy, your whole product is probably designed for schools and so your campaign to market to schools can be designed for the audience. However, if you are selling grounds maintenance to sports clubs, schools and motorway service stations for example, then you will need a different approach for the three markets. It may sound obvious, but too many companies get this wrong, and just assume that one advertising campaign fits all. Whilst this may be true within the private sector, when you market to schools, it is not. You need to tailor both your marketing and your product offering to schools or the teachers you intend to target.
The third and final consideration when you market to schools is that your product and your service are right for schools and that you have the facilities in place to provide the necessary support that a school will need. As we said at the beginning of this article, schools have large and protected budgets, so developing long term relationships is key and should be remembered when you market to schools. So, be sensible and be honest – market your product or service to schools in an open and honest manner and do not oversell yourself or your company, you want to slowly build up a portfolio of schools who buy from you, not make a quick buck and ruin your reputation.
Always remember when you market to schools that knowing your audience is the most important first step – it will save you time and money! Make sure your product is designed for the school, and make sure you market it well. Finally, think about the long game – slowly grow your portfolio and the rewards will be huge.
The school procurement process
Schools, like all public sector bodies and larger private sector organisations, conduct their procurement according to budgets. These budgets are set at the top of the organisation’s tree and filtered down to the budget holders who have been given the responsibility to spend this money.
Spend being the operative word.
School procurement is a little bit like a communist society – spend it or lose it. The idea behind this is that an unspent budget in one period (usually a year) means you didn’t need it, and if you didn’t need it last year, you probably won’t need it next year, and so it will be allocated elsewhere. So, most budget holders will do their very best to plan their spending perfectly so they spend as large a proportion of their money as they can in order to ensure it stays the following year. This is the essence of how schools and teachers buy and goes a long way to explaining the process of school procurement.
So the question for all you school marketers out there is – “How does this affect me, how can I market to schools?” There are a few answers to this question and a few points to understand about school procurement –
- Teachers are not professional buyers. Ok so this statement may seem a little unfair towards teachers. It isn’t meant to be. Teachers are well trained, graduate level professionals who know the difference between a good product or service and a bad one. But, they are trained professionals in their own subject area, not in school procurement. Hence, their purchasing decisions will not be made in the same way as that of a professional buyer whose sole job it is to buy products and services for their company. For some, this may be great, you might have a compelling offer which teachers can’t turn down. For others, it could present problems if your offering requires a little more thought and explanation to get the budget holders to spend. Wherever you fit in, this aspect of the school procurement process certainly needs remembering.
- Teachers work to budgets. Of course, we have already been over this, but it is true. You are not dealing with someone basing procurement on their last week’s turnover, or their return on investment, or how they are feeling about investing that particular day! School procurement is based solely around a budget which has been set by somebody else, so if they don’t have the money to spend, you cannot sell to them. So, often the best times to sell to schools and teachers are at the start of a budget cycle when they have the money there, or at the end of the budget cycle when they are looking to use up any surplus funds.
- Teachers are not spending their own money. When you go to sell to a school or to a teacher or head of department, always remember it isn’t their money. Convincing them to spend may therefore not be as hard as you think, and upselling can be pretty lucrative if done right. School procurement by budget holders is done so for the good of the school and the children studying within it and so decisions are made for that purpose, not the saving of cash.
School procurement has many similarities to procurement in any other industry, but these 3 key facts will help your marketing campaigns to schools and how you approach selling to teachers. So remember, they are intelligent people, but not professional buyers. They have budgets they need to spend, but the money is not their own – it is allocated for the growth of the school and the development and wellbeing of the children within it.