The Ol' College Try
There are lots of reasons you should be selling into the education market—more than 100,000, actually. That's the total number of schools in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Education's 2013 report, each with promotional needs ranging from branded stationery to pep rally giveaways to school store merchandise.
The sales opportunities are tremendous, but there's one caveat: not all schools are created equal. What works for High Point University may not work for University Point High, and vice versa. You'll need a different approach depending on where you're selling—and for that, we've got you covered. Study up on the education market with this guide to sales in colleges and high schools.
One of the big benefits of the colleges and universities market is the sheer number of smaller markets contained within it. You're not just selling to the school—you're selling to all of its departments, clubs, events, functions and more. Steve Woodburn, MAS, relationship manager, strategic accounts for Norcross, Georgia-based distributor Pinnacle Promotions, explained. "Typically there are multiple groups within the university market I sell into," he said. "There is development, which is the people raising funds for the school, usually through alumni and corporate donations. There are alumni groups that work to keep alumni engaged through events and networking groups. There are student activity groups, sports, graduate programs and more.
"I say all this to underscore how diverse the buyers are in what they are looking for," he added. "They all want useful items that can be branded with the institution's logo and possibly their particular department's logo."
Once you've figured out where you're selling, start thinking about the when. Woodburn mentioned that most college and university fiscal calendars run July 1 to June 30, making spring and early summer the best time for sales. "The majority of their purchases will be from April to July, to spend the balance of their budgets and get products for the schools' August start date," he explained. "They will buy at other times of the year, but the spring/early summer buying period is the most intense and is when you can get the biggest orders."