5 Tips for Selling Products to Schools

Want a long-term relationship with a client who buys in bulk? Try following your kids’ big yellow bus to school. Becoming a supplier of products, technology, or services for academic institutions can prove to be a lucrative move. Although many districts are dealing with budget cuts, U.S. public schools still spend an average of $12,250 per student each year.

Here are five tips for breaking into the educational market.

  1. Create school-centered catalogs and marketing materials. Whether schools are a primary or supplementary sales target, you’ll want to create custom catalogs, brochures, website landing pages, and other marketing collateral that feature academic products and your bulk-rate prices. Look at other online school-supplies catalogs as models. Aim to have your materials ready to send out by January or February, so that school officials can make decisions and order products in time for the next fall session.
  2. Focus on relationship-building. If you have a child who attends a local school, become as involved as possible. Join the PTA and volunteer to help out at events. Having your child’s teachers advocate for your business will help you get meetings and referrals. If you don’t have school-age children, focus on forming social relationships with school officials through other means, such as offering to assist with fundraising efforts. Supplying to schools tends to be a long-term relationship, so it may take some time to establish the trust that you need to generate sales.
  3. Attend trade conferences. The buyers of school supplies often attend trade shows to see what’s new in the industry. Find the biggest conferences in your area and purchase booth space. You can use Trade Show News Network’s search tool to find relevant trade shows near you.
  4. Keep an eye on RFPs. Many schools will send out requests for proposals (RFPs) when they’re looking for a new supplier of a particular product or service. You’ll compete with other suppliers by submitting a bid for the project with details about what you can provide. Sign up for a service like The RFPDB, which sends notifications of RFPs that match what you offer.
  5. Think long-term. It could take months or even years of sending out catalogs, wooing school officials, attending trade shows, and responding to RFPs before you get your first customer. When and if you do, you’ll have an opportunity to sell a large amount of product on an ongoing basis, which could result in millions of dollars in sales over time.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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