Selling to schools in 7 easy steps

Topics: Education Insights Email Marketing
Lyndsay Rushton
Lyndsay Rushton Marketing Manager 28 July 2023

Are you passionate about making a difference in education? Do you strive to inspire staff and students across the UK?

Do you want your brand to be recognised by over 589,000 teachers and decision makers? And your product or services used in 30,000 UK schools? If yes, then selling to schools is definitely for you! 

Here are our 7 easy steps to help you get started:

The first step when you’re marketing or selling any product or service is to understand your customer. So when you’re selling to schools, it’s important to first understand the UK education sector.

There are many facets to UK education, including different types and phases of education, so it’s useful to understand these to target your marketing appropriately. It’s also helpful to know a bit about school spending – how and what schools buy, what their priorities are, how much money they have and who makes the spending decisions.

You can look at our resources and blog to find some useful UK education guides to enhance your knowledge of the education sector. You might also find our School Finances Snapshot useful to learn all about the school spending process.

You know the saying – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That’s exactly why you need a clear plan to help you successfully sell to schools.

Before you even start thinking about the detail of your campaigns, it’s important to know exactly what the purpose of your marketing to education is and what you want to achieve.

Think specifically about what you’re selling. How would schools benefit from it? And what are your sales targets?

So the first thing to do is set yourself a clear objective. Think about what the overall aim of your marketing is. For example, do you want to:

  • Promote a new teaching resource.
  • Generate sign ups to an event.
  • Increase school group bookings.
  • Raise awareness of a charitable cause.

And then once you’ve decided on your main objective, create some specific, targeted, and measurable goals. Here are a few ideas:

  • Increase the number of teachers signed up to your mailing list by 30%.
  • Increase your sales figures by 5% during the spring term.
  • Complete 10 product demos with education staff.
  • Boost school group bookings by 10% in the next academic year. 

It’s also important at this stage to think about your long-term strategy. Not just the initial marketing campaign but also how you’ll follow up with any warm leads, how you’ll manage any enquiries, and how you’ll coordinate the sales process.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Following up with the teachers and education staff who engage with your main campaign is a great way to nurture leads and build relationships. This could be a personalised follow-up email or even a phone call.
  • Remember that not all sales and bookings are made immediately, especially if your product will require a large investment or a longer decision-making process. That’s why it’s important to keep your brand visible, nurture your warm leads, and inspire schools to take action.

The next step is to identify your target audience. You should consider who your campaign is relevant to and choose appropriate schools, teachers, and decision makers to connect with.

Reaching the right decision makers is key to boosting your engagement rates and generating leads. Here are a few ways to segment your marketing mailing list:

Phase of education
Nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges, and universities.

Think about what age-group or education level your product or service is aimed at. You might choose to only target primary schools, or you might choose to target all phases – this really does depend on what you’re offering. Some organisations will start with one phase and then expand out to the others once established in the education sector.

Type of education establishment
Academy schools, multi-academy trusts, independent / private schools, special schools, state / local-authority maintained schools.

There are many different types of education establishments. All of which are managed independently with different spending processes, decision making and development strategies.

Check out our UK Education Guide to learn more about the phase and types of education establishment.

Teachers and decision makers
Choose your specific targets from 132 education job roles, including the senior leadership team, heads of year, heads of department, subject teachers, support staff and more.

Remember – it’s not always the senior staff that are the best targets. Whilst the senior leadership team do often have the final say over your spending decisions, there are many other staff members who can influence what schools purchase.

Explore all the job roles in the UK.

Area or region of the UK
You could choose the whole of the UK, individual countries, counties, regions, local authorities or even postcode areas.

Think about what you’re offering – is it specific to a certain region (for example, a visitor attraction) or does it depend on how far you can travel? Is it easily accessible to many locations? You might decide to start off with a specific region and then expand across the whole of the UK.

If you’re promoting a visitor attraction, think about how far schools will travel to visit you – it’s often further than you think!

For example, our client, Royal Museums Greenwich, often sends marketing campaigns to schools within a 100-mile radius of the museum because they know that schools take longer trips to London.

Sophie Williams Client Success Team Leader

A well-timed marketing campaign can boost your engagement rates, generate quality leads, and help you sell more to schools.

We always recommend sending a series of marketing campaigns throughout the academic year, rather than a one-off campaign. It’s the ideal way to boost your brand awareness, stay at the top of teachers’ minds, nurture relationships, and generate leads.

Here are our top tips:

  • Check out our Email Marketing Top Trends to discover the best day and time to send your campaigns to achieve optimum engagement rates.
  • Schedule your campaigns around key events in the school calendar to showcase your knowledge and relevance to education.
  • Plan your marketing around your own business requirements such as event dates, awareness weeks, and course dates.

Remember – the optimum marketing schedule can vary depending on what you’re offering, the time of year, the investment needed by schools, and the timescales involved in the decision-making process.

Email marketing is the simplest and most cost-effective way to run marketing campaigns.

It’s also extremely fast-paced – in 2022, Litmus reported that people spend an average of 9 seconds looking at an email. In fact, 30% of emails are viewed for less than 2 seconds!

So when it comes to email marketing to education, first impressions really do count!

The last thing you want is for teachers to spend less than 2 seconds looking at your email, close it before they’ve read it, or, maybe worst of all, delete it without even opening it.

That’s why you should carefully plan and create your campaign in a way that will capture teachers’ attention, engage decision makers, and prompt them to take action. Clear, well-written copy and eye-catching email designs will help with that.

If you’re not sure where to start with your email content, look back at your objectives to decide what to include and what action you want teachers to take.

You can also look at our resources and blog to find lots of useful advice about how to write engaging email content, develop your calls to action and write subject lines that work.

Here are our top tips:

  • Aim for 6 – 8 words in your subject line.
  • Use words such as ‘Free’, ‘Support ‘, ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Book now’.
  • Aim to write 300-400 words in your email content.
  • Include names and job titles to personalise your content.
  • Add images, bullet points and calls to action (CTAs) to break up long sections of text.
  • Choose one clear call to action to focus on.
  • Feature high resolution images to make your email visually appealing.
  • Make sure your email design is mobile optimised.

It’s important to remember that every marketing campaign is different – every organisation is selling their own brand to schools, they all have different price points, distinct objectives, and different decision makers to target.

This means that what works well for one campaign, might not necessarily be the best approach for another.

You can follow all the general guidance above to achieve great engagement rates but to give your marketing that extra boost, you should test and measure what works best for your specific campaigns.

You could test things like what type of subject line generates the most opens, what time of day achieves the highest engagement rates, what CTA text generates more clicks and which teachers are most receptive to your marketing.

One quick and easy way to test your campaigns is to run an A/B test (or even an A/B/C test if you’re feeling adventurous!).  

So what is an A/B test?

An A/B test lets you try out 2 versions of your email to see which performs better – this could be 2 different subject lines, 2 different CTA colours, or even 2 versions of your email content.

You’d usually send version 1 to 10% of your audience, and version 2 to another 10%, and then wait an hour (or sometimes 24!) to see which has performed best. You can measure success by looking at open rates, click through rates or overall engagement rates. Then the email that has performed best will be sent to the remaining 80% of your target audience.

For example, you could do an A/B test to find out if science teachers prefer a serious subject line or a more fun one.

Our client, Printed Advanced World, tested these 2 subject lines to see which achieved the highest engagement rates.

Which one do you think achieved the highest open rates?

Subject line 2 was the winner – it achieved 200% more opens and an 86% higher overall engagement rate than subject line 1!

This suggests that subject line 1 was too vague so didn’t prompt teachers to open the email, whereas subject line 2 was clearer and made it immediately obvious what the email was about. The mention of sustainability also generated interest as it’s a key focus area in schools right now. This demonstrates that topical and relevant subject lines can help to boost engagement rates.

Remember though that this might not be the case for every campaign and organisation, so it’s important to test what works best for you.  It’s a great way to see what your audience responds to, and you’ll be able to use the findings to optimise your future marketing campaigns.

A key element of marketing that often gets overlooked is reviewing the performance of the campaign. You should always review your campaign analytics to assess the effectiveness, identify what worked and what didn’t and use your findings to inform your future marketing activity.

Buzz’s Top Tip:

Use the objectives and targets you set at the start of the process to identify which statistics and performance indicators to look for.

For example, if you wanted to drive traffic to a particular webpage, look at the analytics for that specific page. How many page visits were there after the campaign was sent? How long did visitors spend on the page? Where did they go to next? What was the conversion rate? Did they send an enquiry? Did they make a purchase?

Here’s what you could measure:

  • Email open rates
  • Email click through rates
  • Website analytics
  • Enquiry numbers
  • Sales figures
  • ROI (return on investment)

Remember, some products or services will require a longer decision-making process than others, especially if it’s a high value item, so you might not see an immediate sales return. You should keep records of where all enquiries have come from and when so you can track their journey from start to finish.

Download our Marketing to Education Checklist, which also includes a handy campaign planning outline, to start planning your marketing today.

Be sure to use our 7 easy steps to enhance your selling to schools strategy.

Remember to keep an eye out for new resources and blogs too and if you have any questions, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.