The K-12 Marketing “End Zone”: January through April

So where did all my customers go?
So where did all my customers go?

January is the “beginning of the end” for all of us who market to K-12 and rely on funding from school budgets. It’s the start of what can be termed the K-12 marketing “end zone.” January through April. It’s during that period of time when we aggressively market our wares to align to an incredibly and at times intolerably rigid purchasing cycle. If tapping school budget dollars, that cycle culminates with purchases made during the summer. Miss the cycle, and you’ll find that your product or service radically misses its potential for the school year. And you have to wait 12 months for a repeat. That’s a long time for even the strongest of businesses.  You’ll likely find your business prospects are left out in the cold.

So the scenario plays out like this: you’ve spent the fall growing awareness and gathering prospects. That’s great, that’s exactly what you should be doing. Now is the time to move prospects through the funnel, and transition them from cold to warm. In general, you would have spent about 40% of your annual budget during the months spanning late August to mid-November.

But when the holidays are over and the chill of January settles around us, out comes the big marketing guns, and it gets serious. That’s when you shift gears from awareness-building messages to those that ask for business. It’s the time of year when you tell your best prospects exactly why your product meets their every need, and work hard to have them nod their heads in agreement. It’s when your call-to-action shifts from the “take a look at this” messages of the fall to “buy before June 30th and get this amazing deal!”

So just a few ways to make the most of the next four months: Purchase cycle Jan - Apr

Email Deployments
• Create and deploy outbound emails routinely from now through the end of April. Begin to lean it down in mid-April.
• Keep the outbound cadence steady, but keep your prospects interested. How? Deploy at most 2x per month to the same contacts.
• Vary your messages. Too much repetition will not keep your prospects reading.
• Keep it personal. If your contact record is from your own database, you should be able to personalize it.

Special Offers
Now’s the time to have offers designed to stimulate action. Like messaging, offers that are out of sync with customer needs can have a numbing effect on the sales process. Two things are critical with offers for the next few months: that you’re increasingly handing out your best ones, and that they’re intended to lead to a purchase.

Webinars
I’m sure you already know that webinars are a great way to engage and inform, and also to grow your prospect base. If you don’t do them already, then you should start. They can cost-effectively create a pool of warm leads very quickly. Record the webinar, and provide it on-demand on your website, with name, email address, title, and school/district affiliation the cost of admission.

As you work your initiatives over the next four months, be sure to gear your messaging to a definitive call-to-action that leads to a purchase. Now’s the time to be serious, or you’ll find yourself having to wait a long, long time to latch into the next budget cycle.

Photo:  Christopher Michel

2 comments

  1. Buzz

    Like the central idea of communicating school marketing cycles as many companies get the cadence wrong and consequently don’t consummate sales after a lot of effort. The only part that I think needs some updating is the notion of “special offers” as motivators for purchase. Most savvy purchasing departments are no longer incented to buy products/solutions based on “deals”. With the sophistication of sales process these types of incentives are not sustainable and limit the relationship. It can also be said that if the “value proposition” is sufficiently expressed then price is that last thing left to talk about and consequently minimally impacted.

    • Matt

      Buzz, thanks for your insightful comment. I wish I could agree with you regarding offers. I find that we market and sell in an environment where it’s necessary to offer “sensible” inducements for schools and districts to partner with new providers. The best offers can — and should — be devised so they won’t limit the relationship as it moves forward, but open the door to allow it to grow and flourish. For example, if you’re marketing an online subscription product, don’t offer a price discount as an initial incentive, but rather add months to the initial subscription term.

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