Education Marketing 101: The K-12 Buying Cycle for Teaching Materials

Many industries experience seasonal sales cycles, some more dramatic than others. What patterns do companies that sell educational products to K-12 schools see? Rest assured, products used for teaching and learning are purchased every month, but you can expect big ups and downs throughout the year. In this article, I’ll share insights from successful school sales professionals on these predictable buying patterns so that you can adjust your school’s sales and marketing plans accordingly. Here’s the basic takeaway: There are two main drivers behind the seasonal shopping cycle for almost any product or service intended for teaching: the timing and the budget.

Align your school’s sales plan with the academic calendar

The first and foremost factor that influences the time of purchasing curricular materials is the start date of the academic year. It should seem obvious that the greatest need to implement new educational resources is when the school year begins. But the process of evaluating new products, budgeting for them, and preparing to use them begins many months in advance. And of course there are a few weeks of variance in the start date for public schools, beginning in early August and running through early September. Marketing to schools to introduce a new curricular product or service in the fall, followed by aggressive promotion that peaks early in the calendar year and continues through the spring, is a proven approach to driving sales for the school year. next academic year.

Spring increase in sales to schools

Buying peaks and troughs in the K-12 market are also affected by the availability and timing of funds. If your product will likely be purchased with a purchase order funded by the school or school district budget, then the purchasing behavior is driven by the fiscal year. For most public schools, the fiscal year begins on July 1. Consequently, there is a lot of shopping in late spring and early summer. If, on the other hand, the price of your product is attractive to individual teachers (who buy many products with their own money), the end of the summer, August and September can be busy months and there is another secondary spike before the beginning of the second semester.

Education market research reveals changes over time

What I have described are marketing guidelines for schools, not rules. Each product and service can have some variation, and there are also changes in funding patterns that can affect products eligible for federal program dollars. In recent years, the impact of legislation and the economic downturn has made the K-12 sales forecast more complicated. I suggest that you do your homework to assess what buying patterns your product is likely to experience in the current and anticipated sales environment. A good starting point is a basic investigation of the school market. I also suggest that you run tests with your own marketing campaigns.

There is one last word on school marketing and the school sales cycle, and that word is patience. If you are considering marketing for schools, know that sales rarely happen so quickly and at the level that product developers plan. No matter how great you think your product is, regardless of the rave reviews you’ve received from educators who have previously seen your new product, prepare for slow acceptance. The general school shopping cycle can be frustratingly slow. The first year may seem like a black hole and a lost proposition. But, by following the guidelines in this article, and with your constant attention to best practices for educational marketing, you will no doubt be in sync with the seasonal cycle and, who knows, maybe you will beat the odds and your new educational product will be all! a year-round school best seller!

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