District purchasing.  Pretty much cast in stone.

Timing Outbound K-12 Marketing

And as July yields to August, now is the perfect time to revisit the topic of timing for the K-12 market.  Your school year marketing plans are in place, and you’re tweaking here and fine-tuning there.  And hopefully, you’ve built your plan to take into account the intricacies of the district purchasing cycle, since there’s no way to work around it.

Districts make their decisions in the spring and place their orders in summer, corresponding to their usage needs.  There is some purchasing activity that happens year-round, such as fill-in and late orders in September, or purchasing for supplemental materials and items, but nothing like that flurry of summer, back-to-school buying.  That leaves the curve for district purchasing looking consistently like this:

District purchasing. Pretty much cast in stone.

Try as you might, you won’t be able to alter school purchasing patterns, so your strategy – and really how you operate your business — will need to encompass ways to accommodate and take advantage of it.  Test your campaign deployment schedule, and adjust accordingly.  It’s likely you’ll land on a schedule whereby 60% of your outbound communications occur in the first 6 months of the year; 40% the second six.  You’ll uncover the nuances of the marketplace, such as when is the right time to send lead generation (generally Sept-Nov), when is the time to solicit a sale (Feb-Apr), and what timeframes are most and least likely to get positive responses.

Some givens:
  • Your marketing and sales activities within a school year seeds summer purchasing for the next school year.  So the marketing work you’re doing right now will yield heaviest results next summer.
  • There is some supplementary purchasing at other times, but it’s not tapping into the deeper funds that fuel most back-to-school purchases.
  • There are traditional time periods of non-responsiveness from districts – think of these as blackout dates for outbound marketing communications.  The time period between Thanksgiving and the turn of the New Year is typically one; when schools are ending their year is another.
  • Start dates and end dates differ regionally.  This comes to bear if you’re marketing nationally.  So an outbound contact strategy for Massachusetts would have different timelines than one for Texas.
  • If you’re working the summer school market, decisions and purchases are made significantly earlier than school year decisions, so adjust accordingly.

Key to understanding the K-12 marketplace is that it takes a lot of trial and revision to work within its constraints.  Its nuances are not things you’ll “conquer,” but rather learn to come to terms with so that you’ll be able to communicate your value with confidence.  And of course, success.

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  1. […] For more on seasonality: Timing Outbound K-12 Marketing […]

  2. […] If you don’t have 60 minutes to listen to the entire presentation and want more information on timing the K-12 market, read my less lengthy article Timing Outbound K-12 Marketing. […]

  3. […] you ignore the sales cycle in education, it’ll run you over.  A majority of school orders occur over the summer and feed the coming […]

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