5 Email Tactics for Back-to-School Marketing Success
While many kids are hoping summer will last a bit longer, it's nearly time for the school year to begin. And that’s good news to retailers, marketers and buisness owners. The average family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics this back-to-school season, compared to $548.72 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. In fact, back-to-school is second only to the November/December holiday season in total sales.
Your business can earn some of that revenue with a little marketing effort. But what if you don’t have the huge marketing budget of the major stores? Or even what might be considered a traditional, school-oriented product mix? Below are five things you can do to carve out your share of this lucrative market anyway.
1. Start early, email often. Most shoppers start thinking about back-to-school in early August. So it’s time to use fast-acting marketing programs if you want to capture their attention. Email marketing is a great approach because you can execute a campaign quickly and be very targeted with offers. Begin sending messages as soon as possible announcing that your back-to-school inventory will be coming soon. Send follow-up emails to help build the excitement. Perhaps offer a sneak peek of merchandise or special pricing you’ll be offering.
When it’s time to officially launch your back-to-school sales, send a major announcement. Continue to send reminders each week, or every other week, always featuring either your best-sellers or the merchandise media reports have tabbed as your hottest items. If you know the actual start date, set up a couple reminders you can send before the big day.
People have short memories, especially during the busy summer months. Make sure they remember you.
2. Accentuate your local presence. It can be tough to compete with big-box retailers on a pricing basis. So rather than go head-to-head with them on their turf, use your local roots and/or small size to your advantage.
If you can obtain the list of supplies required by local schools, include that list — with links to the items you sell — in your emails. That makes it easy for consumers to shop with you instead of fighting the crowds. Offer free delivery over a certain dollar amount, or a choice of locally themed products such as a water bottle or baseball cap.
3. Jump on trends. There are plenty of media outlets and “experts” who predict what the hot trends will be for the school year. With a quick online search, you can find these ahead of time and promote the ones that will do you the most good.
If there’s a hot new clothing item or school supply that you sell, make it the feature product of a back-to-school email. If the hot item is expensive and you have a less costly (but valid) substitute, promote that instead. Offer music download gift certificates with purchases over a certain dollar amount, or promote your selection of good tasting but healthy snacks for school lunches. Just remember, youth trends come and go quickly; you don’t want to get stuck with an inventory of Lizzy McGuire lunch boxes.
4. Find a way to tie in. If you’re a retailer that sells No. 2 pencils, book bags and the ever-popular protractor, it’s not that tough to tie in to the back-to-school hoopla. If, however, you own a lamp shop or an ice cream parlor, it may take a bit more creativity.
A lamp shop can promote the importance of good lighting and/or a good environment to promote better study habits. Remind parents of students moving from middle school to high school that the old lamp with pictures of ponies or racecars isn't appropriate for teenagers, and perhaps it’s time to move to something more young adult.
An ice cream parlor can email about a “last chance before school” week: "Bring in the kiddies before the summer’s over and there’s no time." When school starts, what better way to get over the “back-to-school blues” than rocky road in a waffle cone? Offer a free small cone for good grades at the beginning of the semester.
All it takes is a bit of imagination and you can make yourself a part of the back-to-school season.
5. Keep parents in mind. Many parents, especially stay-at-home ones, look forward to the back-to-school season almost as much as retailers do. Think of things you can do for them.
A restaurant or coffee shop might offer a “My baby just started kindergarten” get-together for parents suffering from separation anxiety. Health clubs, hairdressers, manicurists and massage therapists can offer “me time” specials in the mornings or early afternoons for those parents who aren’t taking it quite as hard.
Auto shops can suggest that parents get the “family bus” tuned up or serviced now that youngsters don’t have to be driven to camps, play-dates, baseball/softball/soccer games, scouting events, etc. during the day. A car wash can promote a “get the beach out of the backseat” special. Again, think about what busy parents need and create an offer.
Back-to-school is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. It’s a time when even the most frugal open their wallets and get themselves and their children ready for the coming year. With a little imagination, and the right email marketing strategy to take advantage of it, you’ll find yourself singing “School Days” all day long.
Wendy Lowe is the director of product marketing for Campaigner, an Ottawa-based email marketing solutions provider. Campaigner is part of a software as a service business communication offered by Protus. Reach Wendy at email@example.com.
Related story: College Students Annoyed by Mobile Ads