Market Focus - Marketing to Teachers (1,084 words)
By Donna Loyle
They're highly educated, have above-average household incomes, and their ranks are filled mostly with women. Sounds like a marketer's dream demographic, doesn't it?
In 2000, there were about 4 million elementary and secondary school teachers and college faculty members in the United States, and another 4.4 million school administrators, school librarians, guidance counselors, support staffers and others involved in education, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).
Moreover, NCES estimates another 2.2 million teachers will be needed in the next decade to handle enrollment growth and replace teachers leaving or retiring from the profession.
Such statistics have led many marketers to target educators as both business-to-business (b-to-b) buyers and as consumers. Here's how to determine who buys what in this field, when they buy and how to prospect within the market.
Determining who buys what in the education field requires some homework. Textbook adoptions, for example, usually are district- or state-wide decisions, according to Forrest Stone, executive editor in chief of EducationWorld.com, a Web site for educators. "The textbook publishing houses, such as Scholastic and Harcourt Brace, have high-level salespeople who meet with district or state purchasing committees to pitch their textbooks. It's a huge-stakes game."
However, many teachers themselves are budgeted some funds—on average $437 per teacher per year, according to surveys—to spend on low-priced supplemental classroom supplies such as paperback books for students, workbooks, construction paper, novelty pencils or the occasional apple pie for those math educators who want to teach fractions using real-life, not textbook, pies. Such purchases are called district-allocated, teacher-directed funds, says Stone.
How They Buy
"Direct mail remains both very effective and in many ways the preferred method for educators to receive product information," says Michael Subrizi, marketing director of list brokerage Market Data Retrieval (MDR), a Dun & Bradstreet division that specializes in the education market. "In particular, main school purchasing contacts, such as media specialists, librarians, department chairs, principals, etc., tell us they like to get catalogs they can file away and refer back to as needed," he says.
Internet advertising on some of the myriad education-oriented Web sites is another good promotional plan. Richard Datz, vice president of global sales for EducationWorld.com, says advertisers on his site fall into four categories: traditional education companies such as publishers; technology firms, such as computer and software makers; new education companies, such as online learning sites; and consumer product marketers, such as credit card companies and auto manufacturers. "Overwhelming, our site audience is female, so that bodes well for consumer advertisers," says Datz.
Some education-oriented organizations, such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), don't rent their membership or customer lists. "People in the education space are different from normal b-to-b buyers," says Datz. "They don't always appreciate their names being out there on the market."
That said, however, many media outlets that target educators do accept space ads, card deck ads, banner ads and other types of promotions. And some education associations, such as AFT, allow vendors to market to their members through their member benefits departments.
When & What They Buy
Optimal timing of a direct mail campaign depends largely on whether you're targeting classroom teachers, school administrators or district supervisors. "Most promotions are mailed August through October," says Subrizi, with more going out January through April to support second-semester product needs and to cash in on left-over budget money that must be spent before June."
Most mailers, he notes, avoid the pre-holiday weeks of November and December, as well as late in the school year after May. "The summer months," Subrizi continues, "can be effective for marketers targeting school administrators—many of whom don't have the summer off and are planning for the coming school year."
As noted, it's important for marketers to first determine whom within a state, district or individual school is charged with buying their type of product. A specialized list company can help.
Targeting educators as consumers also can prove to be a smart strategy. "I'm not sure all consumer marketers realize what a powerful direct mail audience educators have become," says Subrizi. "Today's teachers have better-than-average household incomes, are highly educated, and have summers off for travel and entertainment."
In addition to school supplies and books, Subrizi says, teachers buy:
* travel packages,
* class gifts,
* financial products and services,
* magazine subscriptions, and
* professional training seminars and materials.
Tom Mack, sales manager for Adrea Rubin List Management, singles out the gift market as particularly ripe for this segment. "Think about all the people who help teachers, such as crossing guards and teacher's aides, not to mention those special children who need motivation. Teachers buy a lot of gifts," says Mack.
In short, marketers who do their homework may find themselves leaping to the head of the class. u
The following is a sampling of available lists and media outlets for marketers targeting educators, administrators and school librarians.
Educators at Home is a list containing more than 1.6 million educators by name, at their home addresses. Cost: $90/M. Call Market Data Retrieval, (800) 333-8802.
Atlas Pen & Pencil Corp. Teacher Buyers is a list of K-6 teachers who buy personalized gifts for their students and use them as rewards and classroom/activity motivators. Source: 90-percent direct mail. Cost: $95/M. Call Adrea Rubin, (646) 487-3783.
EducationWorld.com, an online resource guide for educators, attracts 500,000 unique visitors per month, and features original content, chat rooms and more. Women account for 76 percent of site visitors, and 70 percent are teachers. Marketers can advertise via run-of-site, section or e-mailed newsletter sponsorships, or banner ads. Call (609) 720-1795.
TeacherNet.com, an online community for K-8 educators, is a subsidiary of Highlights magazine. Marketers can advertise via banner and block ads. For more information, e-mail Rich Ottum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Teacher magazine is the trade journal of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Neither the magazine's subscriber list nor the AFT membership list is available for rent, but marketers can buy space ads and inserts in the publication, and partner with AFT to market products and services through the group's member benefits department. Call (800) 238-1133, or visit www.aft.org.
Prentice Hall Direct's Card Deck Program targets various educator categories, including teachers of math, music and science, as well as school administrators and guidance counselors. Call (800) 937-9970.
If your goal is to reach educators, numerous marketing channels can help, including catalogs such as For Teachers Only and magazines such as American Teacher.