Your Best Ever Back-to-School Catalog2020 May Prove Our Biggest Marketing Challenge

We are all hopeful that the back-to-school season will find educators ordering classroom materials and supplies as they have in the past. If schools remain open throughout the fall, teachers will need the instructional materials they are used to teaching with.

More than ever before our fall catalogs have to be the best they can be. Especially those catalogs designed for direct marketing. These catalogs have to sell our products or motivate educators to reach out to our customer service representatives.

Direct marketing relies on three components to succeed. In order of importance they are the mailing list selection, the offer (price, discount, bogo, terms and conditions are all part of an offer), and the creative presentation (copy and design).

Target Schools and Educators Most Likely to Make a Purchase

The key indicator of a school’s likelihood to purchase school supplies and supplemental materials is the affluence of the community in which it is located. Districts and schools in wealthy communities have more discretionary funds than those in poorer communities, and there are some communities so poor that they purchase no materials at all.

The most responsive educators are those most recently added to the database you use for your direct mail and email lists. These are the same as “hotline” names that consumer marketers find so responsive. They are the “freshest” names because they have either recently been added to the database or information in their record has recently been changed or updated. They are likely educators who have changed the subject or grade they taught or moved to a new school. Consequently, they are the most likely to be in need of new teaching materials and supplies.

Make an Offer that No One Can Refuse

Successful direct marketing requires an enticing offer presented in an attention-getting manor. Its goal is to immediately capture the prospects attention and make a compelling call to action. Direct marketing uses copy like “Huge savings, but you must act now!”

Everyone wants a “deal”, and the better the deal, the more people will respond to it. Educators are no exception. Many of them will learn of a product through a catalog or other promotion received directly from a publisher or school supplier and then search for that same product on Amazon. Why? Because they believe that Amazon offers the lowest price and, if the order is large enough, the shipping will be free.

If you are going to go through the expense of creating and distributing a catalog you should consider having a sale – even if you only do it once each year, and even if you can only afford to have a few products on sale. Today, no one needs a catalog to find a product or service. You can find anything on the internet using a search engine such as Google. However, the internet is not always effective at conveying a sale in the same way as a catalog. Email is just too easy to trash.

Price the loss leaders attractively and educators will order other products they need because it is more convenient than starting a new order with another vendor.

Set your sale prices to demonstrate exceptional value. Use loss leaders which are popular products priced at low or no margin in order to involve the prospect in the sale. Related products at acceptable margins should surround these loss leaders. Price the loss leaders attractively and educators will order other products they need because it is more convenient than starting a new order with another vendor.

Sell, Sell, and Sell Some More

Your sale should start right on the covers of your catalog. The covers have two purposes – first, to stop the flow of standard mail from the recipient’s desk into the recycle bin; and second, to entice the recipient to turn the cover and start to peruse the catalog. How we show and describe the product in use, how we express the advantages of the pricing, and how friendly we describe the terms and conditions determine the degree of readership we can accomplish.

Position each product in terms of how it benefits the reader. Does the product help the reader be a more effective educator? Does it make it easier for the reader to teach a difficult subject, or improve student outcomes?

Guarantees do not increase returns; they increase sales.

Guarantee your products and services. Guarantees do not increase returns; they increase sales. Returns are generated when the catalog description of your product differs too much from the actual product received.

Guarantee your prices as well. Educators who purchase products with school funds want the assurance that prices will not increase when the purchase order arrives. Guarantee your prices until a specific date so that they can order through the school purchasing process with confidence.

Free Promotion Consultation:  Back-to-school season is upon us. SMRI has created hundreds of direct mail catalogs for the school market. EDmarket members can receive a FREE consultation about your catalog AND list selection. To schedule yours, email Bob at

Bob Stimolo, School Market Research Institute

Bob is EDmarket’s Official School Market Consultant and president of School Market Research Institute. As a member of EDmarket, Bob will advise you on your promotion materials and list selection free of charge.