Educators Are People Too!
Follow Consumer Marketers for Sales Success
By Bob Stimolo
Educators are people like you and I. They are attracted to products and services that make them more successful, or make their jobs easier, or more fun. They respond to special offers, sales and discounts. They like timely turnaround on their orders and free shipping. They are drawn to photos of attractive people and engaged students. In short, teachers are consumers and many of the marketing techniques that succeed in consumer markets will also succeed with educators.
Some of us feel that educators are different. We need only communicate the educational value of our products and services and that alone will prompt action. This may have been true a number of years ago, but today our marketplace is much more competitive.
I prefer to lead with copy and images that speak to the benefits of using a product or service. I think the interest of most educators is peaked by what a product does before they care about what a product is. And the most attractive benefits are those that apply to educators first and students second.
Turn Negative Copy Positive
Virtually all catalogs and websites have a page or section that addresses terms and conditions. Many of these are potentially negative aspects of serving the customer - price increases, turnaround times, return policies and so forth. The description of terms and conditions that most of us put on our website or catalog do not have to be terse or threatening. They can and should be inviting and friendly.
For example, instead of stating that prices may change after a period of time, consider guaranteeing prices up to a specific date. This eliminates the concern among educators that your pricing will change between the time they see the product in your catalog or website and the time that the school purchasing agent issues the purchase order.
Most of us change our promotions twice each year, once in the fall and again in the winter/spring. Most educators respond to fall promotions by year-end and winter/spring promotions by the end of August. Most education purchases take several months to result in a purchase order. To accommodate this purchasing process, guarantee prices in fall catalogs until December 31, and guarantee prices in winter/spring catalogs until August 31. This protects both you and the educator, and it does so in a positive manner.
Promise turnaround time that is accurate but puts you in a favorable light. If you cannot accurately state that all orders are shipped same day or within 48 hours, you can say what percentage of them are. For example, most orders ship within 24 hours, or 90% of all orders ship within 48 hours.
Some of us have return policies that are downright frightening. We are better off publishing guarantees than we are rules about how to return product. Educators have many reasons that discourage them from making returns, especially for school funded purchases. It is much easier to keep a product that does not live up to one’s expectations than it is to go through the paperwork associated with the purchasing department.
Instead of copy about returns, we should be using copy about guarantees of satisfaction. My favorite is this: Use this product in your classroom for one full year. If, at the end of that time, you do not feel it was well worth its price, return it and tell us so. We will issue a complete refund or credit without question.
Educators do not keep products they do not like or they feel were misrepresented. But this guarantee eliminates any hesitation about making a purchase from the company that publishes it. Returns are an unpleasant fact. Guarantees do not change return rates but they can increase sales.
Compete with Amazon.com
All educators are familiar with Amazon.com and many of them shop there. Amazon’s popularity had set the bar for motivational copy and generous terms and conditions. In a sense, we all compete with Amazon. However, we have one quality that Amazon does not have. We are specialists in education. We should invite the marketplace to take advantage of our special knowledge by contacting our customer service experts by telephone or email for advice on how to best use our products and services.