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K-12 Education Marketing: Some Essentials

Here’s a small collection of what I consider “best practices” for K-12 education marketing, born from 20 years of working the K-12 beat.

Work the market both top down and bottom up. 

Only courting the supervisor level since they’re the decision-makers, and not acknowledging the role of influencers is a commonly made mistake.  In secondary ed markets, department chairs have significant influence.  In elementary, target principals and consider lead teachers.  If you use a sales force, they’ll sell top down.  Make sure your direct contact strategy reinforces this, but use a bottom-up approach to augment their work.

Don’t act like the only game in town. 

Because you’re not.  Despite talk of reforms and the need for change, K-12 education is a big, blazing hot market.  There are new competitors every week, and the small players can nibble away at a market and erode your opportunities even if you’re one of the big guys.  Understand, emphasize, and embrace your unique offering, and make it an integral part of your message and your brand.

K-12 is no longer a big, slow-moving, antiquated system.

For many years, most districts have suffered the reputation of being a few decades behind progress.  Deservedly so.  And to be fair, to this day some districts operate as if they’re from the Mad Men era.  But be careful of stereotyping.  Some districts are advanced and highly technological while others are laggards.  Increasing pressure and shifting policies are game changers, and marketers need to diligently monitor the goings-on.  If you’re not anticipating the changes that are happening, then you’ll find yourself viewing your competitors’ tail-lights.  That’s never a happy sight.

It’s not Rocket-Science.

It really isn’t.  The basic approach to K-12 marketing isn’t necessarily easy.  But once you firmly understand the essential principles specific to K-12 such as purchasing cycles, contact strategies, fund monitoring, and so forth, mostly it’s nuts-and-bolts marketing here.  So grab your tools and get cracking.

You’ll find more complete K-12 marketing information in The K-12 Marketing Toolbook:  11 Essential Components and Direct Marketing to K-12 Education.



  1. Matt, Like the advice. Since I’m new to this business of selling to schools, can you comment on how to get to talk with teachers, supervisors, assistant principals, and principals. Do you walk in, or is it feasible to set up appointments? What are some good specifics for a Fall sales campaign?

    • Hi Arthur, glad you found the information useful, and welcome to the school marketplace. As this is mid-July and you’re gearing up for fall campaigns, you’ve got about 4-6 weeks to get your marketing ready to deploy. Fall is the time for lead development. I’m not sure of the product/service you make available, but a typical scenario is to first build awareness, to “bang the drum” for your offering. You’ve got pre-work to do before meeting with educators, and I would definitely recommend setting up appointments rather than drop-ins. Some well-used methods of awareness-building, if you don’t have these tools already in place, are to develop a webinar for in-person and remote product introductions; create email campaigns for deployment; and in general work to get the word out as much and as many ways as possible….be brave and creative about it, that helps! Rather obvious but worth saying is to be where educators are, whether that’s conferences, online groups, and so on. Always, always take names and contact information as you go, and work them via email and — if you’re so inclined and can deal with the challenges, phone — to get to the meeting stage. It’s the followup and follow-through that leads to sales. Get your presentation structured and ready to go for the in-person meetings. Realize that meeting with Supervisors is much more difficult task than with teachers and site-based educators. Also realize that selling to education is very similar to all selling, that it’s about building those solid relationships with prospects so they feel they made the best possible choice – the only choice, really — when they purchase your product.

      That’s it in a rather hefty nutshell, Arthur. Best of success, and I appreciate your comment and question.

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