Selling to schools sounds simple. Every school needs pens, notebooks and backpacks. Every school has fundraisers and student events that need products. But this widespread promotional need means you will have a lot of competition. Here's how to ace school sales and tackle your competitors.
1. Try Grade Schools
Bill O'Donnell, director of retail and special sales for Washington-based National Geographic, mentioned the preschool and K-through-6 markets are strong for printed products, but the middle school age group is a harder sell. "The tween market (11+) is a bit more difficult as they are more prone to digital content," he said. Still, National Geographic has found a few products to appeal to tech-obsessed tweens. "We have a few very good products, mostly in the Atlas category," he said.
2. Teach Teachers
O'Donnell noted that many higher education programs use children's books for students learning to teach elementary education. "Many colleges use our children's books to help teachers to teach," he said. "We have a series of leveled readers that are used extensively in this area."
3. Refer to the Textbook
Even with the popularity of e-readers, every high school and college needs textbooks. You can individualize them with a school's logo or emblem to increase the value for the school and students. He added that National Geographic's Bird Field Guild and Atlases are popular as high school or college textbooks.
4. Assign Reading
O'Donnell mentioned that books (imprinted or blank) are popular as giveaways for college freshman. "We are very active in the First Reads program, where universities buy copies of the same book for all incoming freshman to read so they have something in common," he said.
5. Branch out from Schools
Schools are not the only organizations that need educational products. Museums, charities and banks all need products to promote education. "There are a lot of learning organizations that use the content from our books to add to material they are creating to teach," O'Donnell explained. He added that museums often sell exhibit catalogs to explain special exhibits and educate museum visitors. Sarah Sumner, sales and marketing coordinator for Bay State Specialty Co., Middleboro, Mass., mentioned that banks use educational products as well. She offered an example. "[Bay State's] R48 Pro-Scale 12" Plastic Ruler was used by a bank to promote [its] on-site location at the university," she said. "The rulers were given out at the campus store and in orientation packets to new students."
6. Join the PTA
Fundraising is a large part of school promotions, so products for fundraisers are easy sells. O'Donnell noted that children's books are popular for fundraisers. "Our children's books are very popular for PTA fundraisers," he said. "We can imprint logos on the front, put tip-in pages, etc., for messaging." He added that the books also work well for gifts to teachers.
7. Get Cooking
Sumner noted that kitchen utensils are surprisingly popular in the education market. "We sell many kitchen and household products to the education industry," she said. "Bamboo spoons at university orientation luncheons, and ice cream scoops to promote summer school events," she listed. She offered an example promotion. "A culinary school has a school restaurant on site, where the students cook and serve breakfast and lunch for customers. The school gave out the K86 Mini Measuring Cups to hand out at the school store to promote the restaurant," she said. "They printed the school mascot and the restaurant name on the cups."
8. Don't Neglect Teens
Teenagers might be difficult and rebellious, but they need promotional items just as much as grade school children and adults, especially when it comes to events like prom or college preparation. "Usually the products are given out to the students, promoting a school program or event," Sumner said. She gave an example. "Our Pal7011 Dark Room USB Book Lights were given out to high school students attending a presentation at their school about the opportunity to become an exchange student," she said.