What your product or service does is as important as what it is.
A Market that “Renews” Itself
The education market has several unique characteristics. Each year the market “renews” itself. Each grade and subject has a new group of students. High school graduates move out making room for new students to enter at the preschool and elementary grades. This “renewal” process maintains demand for products and services.
Each year educators move as well. Turnover among educators averages about 16 percent each year, with roughly 8% moving to another school and another 8% leaving the profession (Digest of Education Statistics). Change among educators often results in additional demand for educational materials, supplies and equipment.
Schools and educators support a large variety of businesses. For example, school supplies, supplemental materials, furniture, physical education equipment and so forth. This yearly renewal of the market works to the advantage of school marketers, many of whom serve schools and educators exclusively.
Change among educators often results in additional demand for educational materials, supplies and equipment.
Hurdles to Purchasing
Part of this renewal process includes establishing annual school budgets. Some are created from the bottom up – gathering input from department chairs who, in turn, solicit input from classroom teachers. Others are created from the top down, starting with district administrators and school principals. Either way, it is rare to find that there are sufficient funds to satisfy every need or request.
In most cases, educators must overcome administrative hurdles in order to get approval to spend school funds. Depending on the nature of the purchase, the approving administrators can include a department chair, a principal, a district administrator, a superintendent, or all of the above. Just as you would spend your family budget on materials and services most needed, so must a school administrator.
Most educators are not natural salespeople
In education, we need to arm our educators with benefits so that they can make the sale to administrators for us. We are more successful when we emphasize benefits because the majority of educators are not natural sales people. Too often, we assume that educators will recognize the benefits of our products and services. If not the educator, then certainly the administrator. More often than not, neither is the case. Virtually every purchase made in education must be cost justified.
Administrators focus on benefits
While educators may be most interested in the features of our products, administrators are more interested in their benefits. Features such as sturdy, long lasting, colorful, enjoyable and so forth may be attractive to educators. Benefits such as lower cost per student, better return on investment, warranties, and guarantees can be more attractive to administrators.
We need to address both in our sales message. We need to sell the educators and, at the same time, make them aware of the benefits that will help them make the sale to their administrators.
We need to sell the educators and, at the same time, make them aware of the benefits that will help them make the sale to their administrators.
Here’s an Example
Take selling furniture as an example. We can write about the features of our product, such as “our desk provides a strong surface that can withstand heavy loads”. We can also include copy that explains the benefits of our product. For instance, “our desk chairs offer ergonomic support, increasing student’s comfort, reducing fidgeting and improving learning”.
Furniture that is “long lasting” saves money because over time it has the “lowest replacement cost”. We are used to including the word “long lasting” in our copy but we often neglect to link it to “lowest replacement cost”. If our furniture is adjustable, this feature can be described as “one size fits all”. However, the benefit of this feature is that it is less expensive than having to purchase several different sizes of desks and chairs.
Warranties and guarantees are especially attractive benefits. In a purchasing environment where numerous approvals are necessary, guarantees can dispel concerns about the risk of the purchase. In my experience, guarantees seldom increase return rates. However, they can have a very positive effect on sales.
Nothing is as powerful as a guarantee of satisfaction. It puts the purchaser in complete control. No one wants to purchase a product in order to take advantage of a guarantee by returning it. Educators have many reasons to discourage them from making returns, especially for school funded purchases. It is much easier to keep a product that does not live up to its expectations than it is to go through the bother associated with a return.