School Funding Services

September 13, 2009

Timing Your School Promotion to Optimize Success

Filed under: Marketing,Promotion,school — House @ 4:22 am

Each year school marketers are challenged with scheduling the timing and frequency of promotions that will increase their chances of reaching educators at just the right time to buy their products. While it is difficult to cut all promotional timing from the same cloth, there are some time-tested strategies that education marketers can employ to optimize success.

School Budget Cycles

First let’s talk about the three major time periods in the school market. They are linked to established buying cycles that are usually put into three distinct seasons.

Fall (August – November) – As the new school year begins, teachers often look for materials that will help them support their lesson plans. It is important that education companies are prominent in teachers’ minds as they plan out their school year. In my personal experience of selling educational video and software products, this was a critical time to boost “on-approval” orders to create a healthy sales pipeline for the school year.
Winter (January – March) – This is a time of year when several key buying trends take place. School budgets are being prepared for school board approval, teachers are planning second-half activities, and leftover money is being reviewed. Clearly, this is an important time to be in front of your customers to take advantage of the upcoming end-of-year spending as well as be included in the following fiscal year’s spending plans.
Spring (April – June) – During this period, schools often distribute leftover money for administrators and teachers to spend on supplemental materials and replacement items. In fact, April and May are typically the two busiest months of the year for teachers to submit purchase requests. Because many buying decisions are often made in the spring, this is a great time for marketers to promote year-end specials. Marketers with the right product mix can really benefit from increased marketing output during this all-important spending period.
Timing Your Promotions With School Open and Close Dates

Marketers should consider timing direct mail drop dates with actual school start dates. This will prevent promotions from being in the first-day pile if mailed too early, as well as arriving several weeks late and missing important sales opportunities. Marketers also want to be aware of school closing dates to make sure they time spring promotions appropriately and take full advantage of the important spring buying season. End-of-school-year specials can also be effective since many schools must spend leftover money by the end of their fiscal year. School open/close date information is readily available from school list providers and can easily be coded to make staggering drop dates easy for your mail house to execute.

Synchronizing Your E-Mail Campaigns With Your Direct Mail to Optimize
Response Rates

It’s been well established that marketers can significantly increase response rates by employing a multi-channel marketing approach. By highlighting special offers, new products, and increasing awareness of your forthcoming catalog in an e-mail message, you can pique the interest of potential customers to be on the lookout for your promotion piece. This approach can be used to customize incentives to various customer segments. For example, e-mail a coupon for a free gift to your best customers or offer prospects a special discount for first-time orders. You can also follow up with a second e-mail reminder about an offer deadline or promote a last-minute special.

Special Timing Opportunities

A process that often pays dividends for school marketers is to look for products that link to specific holidays and known curriculum events. Examples of these are Veterans Day, Black History Month, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Columbus Day, and Election Day. Developing targeted promotions that tie to these specific holidays will likely lift response rates if timed properly.

School Marketing During the Summer?

Many marketers aren’t aware that they can reach educators at home over the summer via direct mail. The summer provides a great opportunity to promote a wide range of products before the school year begins and when teachers have time to read about and review new products. Educators at home lists that target educators by job function, grade level, and even the type of products they have purchased in the past are readily available. Also, many district administrators work during the summer months. So if you sell your product to district-level personnel, the July/August time frame can be a great time to send special promotions. As with any promotional campaign, individual marketers need to test timing and offers and make future decisions based on their specific results. The better marketers are at tracking their direct mail results, the better they will be at eliminating waste and building upon their success.

May 13, 2009

30 Tips in 60 Minutes to Boost Your Sales and Marketing

Filed under: Marketing,Sales — House @ 4:20 am

1. “You don’t have to be a Hollywood actor to role play.”: Kathleen Brantley
Make sure each and every message that your customer sees from you – promotional, sales, informational — focuses on how your product or service benefits them. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask “what’s in it for me?”. Review your messaging and ask yourself – if I were an educator, why should I care about this? What does this do for me? How does this make my job easier? How does this allow me to do my job better? By taking this critically important step, you will always be demonstrating your value to both existing customers as well as prospects that you are trying to convert. (Topic: Value-added selling)

2. “Higher margins are a good thing.”: Kevin Davies
Simply put, the margin on selling a digital product is much higher than the sale of a similar physical product. Digital products cost nothing to print, require no warehouse space, do not need to be counted at inventory time, and are never shipped. They are also never damaged and returned by retailers…
(Topic: Profit margins on digital product)

3. “(Selling) Process makes perfect.”: Dennis DeCock
Just as it’s difficult to achieve success unless you have a formal plan, you also have to have a process in place to manage the selling process in your organization. A sales plan, by channel, by product line or service, is essential to insuring that your sales operation will function smoothly and be in sync with your customers’ buying patterns. Include in the plan strategies for each channel, including whether you need to use direct sales reps (company employees or independent reps), third parties such as wholesalers, distributors, jobbers, etc., ecommerce on your website, and/or telemarketing. (Topic: Sales organization planning process)

4. “Eat 5 meals a day (You get to eat more often).”: Jim McVety
You’ll need to figure out a way to feed more information to your customers/prospects more often. Use multiple channels to multiply sales. Smart companies use a proper combination of inside sales, outside sales, forums, user conferences, webinars.
(Topic: Providing customers with information)

5. “What planet are we on anyway?”: Victoria Porras
The essential building blocks of a business are the skills, knowledge and courage of the explorer, the founder – the entrepreneur. The strength of the gravitational magnetism that holds these blocks in their right orbit is derived from the manner in which the entrepreneur positions the business within the perception of the market population. (Topic: Creating an atmosphere of trust)

6. “I can see clearly now.”: Lisa Schmucki
How much do you know about your customers? If you don’t have a clear picture, consider working with one of the education data providers to create a profile of your customer file. By matching your customer file against a data warehouse, you can develop a profile of your different market segments that is a powerful tool to identify specific market segments for more targeted marketing and sales campaigns.
(Topic: Creating customer profiles)

7. “Rome was not built in a day, nor is your customer list.”: Kathleen Brantley
It takes planning, commitment to that plan, and some hard work to create a truly powerful customer list. Once you do, it’s golden—it’s your bread and butter. It will always outperform other lists. Use a CRM system, identify and maintain important customer data such as products purchased, purchase date, purchase dollar amount, name and job function. Then use that data to identify purchasing patterns in order to both mine your customer file (e.g. cross sell, upsell) and to locate prospects that look like your customers. Segment the schools and districts according to their propensity to buy your products. Clean your list regularly using list hygiene software or a vendor who specializes in education data. (Topic: Creating a powerful customer list)

8. “Selling all or some.”: Kevin Davies
As digital products do not take up any warehouse or inventory space, selling variations of products is another way to generate additional revenue from the same material. Publishers can sell portions of books or compilations from a variety of books at little cost. Custom versions for large customers are also a unique opportunity in the area of digital distribution. (Topic: Digital product distribution)

9. “Good public relations can be (almost) free.”: Dennis DeCock
Develop your own “media or press list” of key personnel at educational trade magazines, educational newsletters, educator organizations in disciplines in which you operate, education editors at major city newspapers, key industry experts, key customers, and internal staff. Then create and distribute press releases on a frequent basis highlighting key events, awards, new products, etc. to this audience. Make sure the messages are newsworthy—magazines, newsletters and newspapers are always looking for good copy to fill pages. The cost: your marketing manager’s time (if you use email the cost is negligible), and some business letterhead and postage.
(Topic: Public relations/press releases)

10. “Yeah, I work out.”: Jim McVety
Successful sales organizations train their people, and give them a chance to exercise their selling skills on a regular basis. Being a former educator, or even a seasoned veteran, is not enough. Markets continue to change at a rapid pace, and the people we’re selling to seem to change just as fast. Invest in developing your sales and relationship people, and focus on Skills, Relationship Management, Presentations, and Coaching. (Topic: Sales organization training)

11. “Are we animal, vegetable or mineral-or just a lot of hot air?”: Victoria Porras
Developing product knowledge starts at home, but expands outward indefinitely. As important as self-knowledge (the big bang) is, product knowledge goes far beyond—far beyond our own story.
(Topic: Developing product knowledge)

12. “Add to your To Do List: Test new lists.”: Lisa Schmucki
It’s easy to keep going back to the same well, especially when it’s working. But in the education market there are many different resources: compiled lists, association lists, response databases, product buyers’ lists. There are a surprising number of unique names, even across comparable compiled databases. And always review all the segmentation options. Using a select that complements your customer profile, or a recency select, can make the difference between a profitable and unprofitable list. (Topic: List management)

13. “Come on in, the water is fine.”: Kathleen Brantley
If you have not already established an e-marketing strategy for your company, don’t wait. Not doing so will put you behind the curve. E-mail has been proven to work in the education market for a variety of applications including driving traffic to your website, creating leads for sales reps, creating brand awareness and generating orders. It is fast and cost effective and is great for a variety of offers. If you need help, go to MDR’s website and read our E-Marketing Techniques and Tips or contact your MDR rep and dive on in! (Topic: Developing an eMarketing strategy)

14. “Printing outside of the box”: Kevin Davies
Most print publications are restrained by the rule of four—you can only add pages four at a time. But digital products have no such limitations and as such, you can add single pages as required. Additional single pages can advertise other products and services from your company. Including these “extra” pages does not require you to sacrifice any of the other content found in the book. (Topic: Digital advertising)

15. “They want their independ(ence)ents.”: Dennis DeCock
If you have a small, niche’ product offering, if you know you can’t afford to establish and support a company employee sales rep operation, have a start up business, or have limited capital, an independent sales rep force may be the answer. Many educational publishers utilize independent sales reps for the obvious reasons—you only pay them if they sell something, there is very little overhead, and you don’t have to lay out large amounts of cash in the form of salaries, benefits, and bonuses up front. But beware; independents are called independents for a reason! You need to insure that you provide adequate financial incentives for them to spend the time selling your line; you need to provide ample promotional materials for them to distribute; effectively train them; and be prepared for them to want to operate totally on their own. (Topic: Sales force management)

16. “…like John Smith from Texas.”: Jim McVety
Politicians relate to voters by conveying global issues with very personal examples. Sales people need to do the same. Prospects want to know that the product is being used in a school they know personally, or in a setting they know looks and feels like their own. (Topic: Personalizing sales calls)

17. “Are we all extra-terrestrials?”: Victoria Porras
Using all our standard tools (doing our homework) to define the universe in which we do business, we discover the directional decisions we need to make. Being informed, we must be practical and selective. We must map it—and remember that we always have the right to change our minds.
(Topic: Identifying your market)

18. “www.keep-your-website-up-to-date.com”: Lisa Schmucki
Information about your company and your products is changing daily. Make sure this is reflected on your website with the most current information, new product announcements, and press releases. It’s easier said than done! But this is the most important communication tool you have. It’s especially important that your marketing messages and special offers are consistent across ALL media channels. Many customers will jump from a print offer directly to your website, so make sure all the info is there, too. (Topic: Website currency)

19. “Are you keeping up with the latest and greatest?”: Kathleen Brantley
Keep current to keep ahead. Take time to learn about market trends that will, make no doubt about, will impact your business. From market demographic shifts, to advances in technology that impact the new products you develop and how you produce, market and sell all your products. These advances can create growth or can spell decline. It’s your job to stay informed by doing a variety of things like attending this AEP Summit and interacting with industry peers, to reading the latest market insight reports from sources like MDR and NCES and publications like Education Week and eSchool News to listening to what your customers tell you are their issues and needs. (Topic: Market knowledge)

20. “Everything old is new again.”: Kevin Davies
In the world of digital distribution, nothing needs to be out of print. If a product is still viable but the annual sales volumes do not warrant space in your warehouse, sell it as a digital product. It becomes very low maintenance and can still generate revenue. (Topic: Digital distribution)

21. “You can’t achieve a goal without setting a target.”: Dennis DeCock
Every marketing organization needs a marketing plan, even if it’s a rudimentary document. It’s a start, and you need to be able to document all of your marketing support activities. Include in the plan answers to what you are doing, how you are doing it, when you are doing it, how much it will cost, and how you know if you’ve been successful. Be sure to cover topics such as a vision statement, market summary, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, competitive analysis, marketing strategy, pricing analysis, implementation plan and projected budget. (Topic: Marketing planning)

22. “We’re Number 3!”: Jim McVety
Many sales plans center on large, well funded, high-profile customers, or Tier I Prospects. With the right message and sales infrastructure, historically underserved/undersold customers (Tier III) can actually become significant contributors. (Topic: Serving underserved/undersold customers)

23. “Are we finding the brightest stars to light up the Universe?”: Victoria Porras
Creating brand awareness starts well before Marketing gets a hold of the specs. The real story starts in engineering and research. It begins with ideas and builds by meeting needs. It’s about quality and core expertise. It’s the gravitational pull that moves the tides of business and makes our brand the brightest star.
(Topic: Creating brand awareness)

24. “A penny for your (customers’) thoughts.”: Lisa Schmucki
Qualitative research may cost more than a penny, but it’s worth it! Use focus groups, one-on-one interviews, any method that can help you listen to your customers talk about the market, their needs, your products, your competitors’ products. And don’t just read the report. Sit in on the focus groups, listen to the interview tapes. Talk with the educators who are using your products. You’ll gain invaluable insight for brand positioning, marketing strategy, product development, and often your best copy lines. (Topic: Qualitative research)

25. “Two really is better than one.”: Kathleen Brantley
Multi-channel marketing in the education space works—pure and simple. Sending an email message just before or just after a direct mail piece has been proven to boost ROI. We’ve all seen the large consumer marketers do this well, and it works in our space too. Make sure you have an orchestrated campaign, not just a thrown together e-mail message and promotion piece; they need to be in concert. Also, make sure to honor CAN SPAM regulations or use a vendor such as MDR to keep you on track. (Topic: Multi-channel marketing)

26. “The bottom line is your bottom line.”: Kevin Davies
All businesses are constantly looking for new sources of revenue that will eventually improve their profitability. As the margins for the sale of digital products is so much higher than for physical products, the proceeds from the sale of digital products goes directly to your company’s bottom line. And this is a good thing!
(Topic: Digital product profit margins)

27. “To advertise or not to advertise.”: Denny DeCock
Everyone knows that print advertising is expensive, difficult to measure response, needs to be frequent and repetitive, and yet is a necessary component of any good marketing plan. At least the exercise to determine whether you should advertise or not. The best way to begin is to analyze the major trade magazines which are targeted to your audience. Understand where/how/when your competition and other non-competitors in the same space advertise, and obtain rate cards/cost and schedule information from each of the magazines. Then, it’s time to determine whether the money you want to or think you’ll need to spend will get you a better return than a new product brochure, a trade show promotion, a direct mail campaign, or other promotional vehicles. If the answer is yes, and you have already determined how much budget money you can spend, weigh all the factors above and develop an annual advertising plan that minimizes your investment yet maximizes your exposure. (Topic: Advertising planning)

28. “If 40 is the new 30, 40/10/50 is the new 80/20.”: Jim McVety
As much as we like to spend time on the showroom floor, the real value of any conference hinges on what you do before and after the show. Oh, but that doesn’t mean you should stop wearing sensible shoes. (Topic: Trade show pre/post-planning)

29. “My way or the highway.”: Lisa Schmucki
When sending email messages, give your customers more than an opt-out option (the highway). Put the power of email in your customers’ hands. Let customers give you their preferences on the products and services they are interested in, how frequently they want to hear from you, the information they need. Instead of opting out, you may find them opting for a more personalized service.
(Topic: Gathering customer email information)

30. “Beam me up, beam me over, beam me anywhere, Scottie, but just beam me.”: Victoria Porras
Where do we reside in the minds of your customers? How do we get there? Can we establish our place and lock on? (Topic: Creating a presence)

——————————————————————————–

Presented by:

Kathleen Brantley
Director of Strategic Alliances
MDR – A Company of D&B

Kevin Davies
CEO
TecKnoQuest

Dennis DeCock
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Heinemann-Raintree

Jim McVety
Director of Business Development
MarketingWorks Inc

Victoria Porras
President and Owner
Victory Productions

Lisa Schumucki
Chief Marketing Officer
MKTG Education Services

June 13, 2008

Myths in Database Marketing

Filed under: Database,Educational,funding,Marketing — House @ 4:23 am

You’ve probably heard them—reasons not to implement a database marketing strategy. “It’s hard to do,” “it’s expensive,” “our customer file is in great shape”—the list goes on. But here are the facts proving that these myths hold no weight:

1. It is too difficult to create and maintain useful customer information in the education market. The purchase order may not always contain the name of the end user of the product, but that does not mean that it is impossible to acquire or effectively use information from the order. A lot of information can be gleaned from a purchase order. Plus, customer files can be augmented with external information to round out what is not included on a purchase order.

2. Our customer file does not contain useful information. Many education marketing databases are very lean. Some only contain minimal product and sales information. However, with just an address, you can obtain a lot of information about your customer, from grade level and type of neighborhood in which the school resides to expenditure information per student.

3. Our customer list does not need improvement. It has the best response rate of all the lists. The customer file should have the best response rate. However, that does not mean that all customers have the same potential. Typically, the customer list response rate will be 3% to 5% overall in the education market. However, there are segments or groups of customers that will have a 6% to 9% response rate, while others will have less than 1%. Marketing to some segments in a customer file can be unprofitable!

4. Database marketing is a one-time effort. Some marketers will clean up their customer file or profile their customer database one time and assume that they are done. Database marketing is an ongoing process that should continually be part of the marketing strategy. The education market is dynamic and constantly shifting. The customer marketing database should be designed to reflect these changes. Database marketing can help you keep up with changes and direct your efforts. Database marketing is a necessity, not an option.

5. It is too expensive. Database marketing costs are often viewed as added expenses. Instead, they should be viewed as an investment that will return value over time. A good database marketing strategy has a very short pay-back period and can pay for itself through increased profitability of the direct marketing effort.

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