The most popular way for companies to market to the education sector is to purchase a database of school email addresses.
For most of the past 10 years, schools have coped very well with budgetary cuts as a result of austerity policies. Many of them have relied on their partners in the private sector to reduce costs so that more money can be diverted to teaching their students.
In the post-COVID era, schools will rely even more on their private sector partners than ever before.
Schools in England will receive an additional £14bn in funding from central government over the next three academic years. The Scottish Government has also announced new funding increases as has the Welsh Government.
Despite the extra and welcome cash, school leaders are going to need to budget as carefully as possible to pay for the standard and additional products and services they’ll need to help their pupils and students catch up.
But what are the best ways to run email campaigns to schools to give yourself the best chance of winning an order or building a relationship?
We spoke with copywriter Mark Fairlie at More Than Words (Marketing) Ltd who has been involved in over 8,000 different marketing campaigns to schools on behalf of B2B clients since 2005.
According to Mark, most school emails are actually delivered into the school office, regardless of whether the address you’re sending to is personalised.
“This creates a real imperative for the subject line you create to stand out but not necessarily in the traditional sense.
“Most current B2B marketers advise that you create a compelling subject line related to the product or service you’re trying to sell and that’s still true. But, with the education marketplace in the UK, school secretaries may deal with between 200 and 400 inbound emails a day from parents, colleagues, local and central government, and advertisers.
“The key with schools is to ask the secretary to forward the email to the relevant person in your subject line.”
Once the email has been forwarded to the relevant person, your email needs a headline and sub-headline which not only informs the reader of what you’re selling but how it can directly help a school achieve the desired outcome – especially now.
Psychologist Lee Chambers, commenting on a recent survey by Tide and reported in CityAM, stated that “teachers are at a higher risk due to the nature of their jobs… Burnout can manifest itself in different forms, and certain occupations can increase your potential chance of being burnt out”.
Mark Fairlie continues – “Empathy has always helped companies sell products and services to school leaders and teachers. In normal times, the advertising which made the greatest connection with education professionals included copy in it which showed an understanding of the daily pressures of working in the sector.
“What was interesting during the pandemic is that open rates for email campaigns went up but responsiveness went down briefly. The approaches which had always worked well didn’t work as well not because the product or service changed but because the daily reality of the recipients changed.
“In common with most copywriters with experience in the sector, I adapted my approach to make the tone and voice of the adverts more personal but balanced with an action plan. ‘I know how you’re feeling but let’s plot a way of this together in the next 2-3 weeks’ was the new method of address and, soon, responsiveness levels went above pre-pandemic averages.”
Most education marketing providers recommend that, either directly or through a managed service, you send an email to your target school contacts once a month.
Because it’s government-funded and not a price sensitive market, schools often attract the attention of opportunistic companies and their sales teams who apply too much pressure on decision makers to purchase their products and services in a very short-time scale.
“This is not how the sector works”, according to Mark Fairlie. “This is a considered, intelligent, and reasonably risk averse audience aware of the fact that misallocated spending puts teachers’ jobs at risk and threatens educational outcomes for pupils.”
“My best advice to any company purchasing school email addresses is to consider this as a 12- or 24-month-long marketing and sales campaign where, over time, you demonstrate your value by varying your message, sharing your insights, and, as schools come on board with you, telling their success stories.
“It can take 6-9 months or more of knocking on the door to get your first client in the school sector but, if you impress them, look after them, and deliver value for money, it’s a domino marketplace and orders from other schools will come thick and fast.”