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Marketing Your Small Business via Schools

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Marketing Your Small Business via Schools

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: August 4, 2011 Updated: August 4, 2011

It’s August and soon enough, school will be in session for millions of children across the nation. If you don’t have children, you may think this doesn’t mean anything to you. Well, think again. The nation’s schools are rapidly becoming a marketing venue for businesses large and small. And if your small business targets local customers, there could be a way for you to take advantage of this trend.

Why are schools such a great place to market your business? Well, although the recession has officially been “over” for two years now, state and local governments—not to mention consumers—are still feeling its trickle-down effects. With less money coming in to government coffers, school budgets are being slashed in most parts of the country, and school administrators and parent organizations are struggling to do more with less. They need creative ways of funding activities such as sports teams and field trips, not to mention “extras” like arts and music.

How can this help market your business? Here are some ideas.

  1. Look into sponsoring activities, events or initiatives. If you can afford to donate cash, that’s sure to be appreciated. Schools will acknowledge your generosity as a sponsor in the event program, signage and elsewhere, getting your name in front of children and parents.

  2. Can’t afford to donate cash?Donate products or services. Schools are always looking for prizes to give away at raffles, sporting goods to outfit the sports team, or sheet music for the band. If you own a restaurant or other food-service business, you’re a natural to donate food for events.

  3. Help the school fund-raise. Work with schools to hold fund-raiser nights where you donate a percentage of your profits to the school. Have schools distribute flyers that drive people in. Then staple the flyers to the receipts and you can track the customers who are involved in the fund-raiser.

  4. Sell products on campus. Depending on what restrictions your school district has regarding outside activity on campus, you might even be able to sell products on campus and split the profits with the school. For example, one smoothie franchise in my area sells discounted smoothies at a local school every Wednesday after school gets out.

  5. Advertise. Advertising in school newspapers, yearbooks and programs is a tried-and-true way to get your name in front of parents, but in these cash-strapped times, schools are getting even more creative. Some schools sell advertising in parent directories. Others sell ad space on campus. For instance, one local school lets local businesses post banner ads on the fence around the school for $300 a year.

Before getting involved in a school marketing effort, take these steps:

  • Figure out your target market.The kids aren’t your only (or even your best) market. Your real target is parents, so even if your business sells landscaping services, insurance or some other product or service kids couldn’t care less about, a school with many prospective parent customers could be a great bet.

  • Look for a school whose parents are a good fit with your target market. For instance, if you own a nursery or house painting business, you’d want a school in an area with a high percentage of homeowners as opposed to renters.

  • Look for a school with high parental involvement. If few parents visit the school or participate in fund-raising or PTA activities, it’s not a good marketing venue for you.

  • Contact local principals. Find out what programs they currently have in place and how open they are to new ideas. Most principals would love to hear suggestions for how you could help.

  • Find a natural fit between what your business can do and what the school needs. If you own a sporting goods store or art supply shop, it’s pretty obvious how schools could use what you sell. But even businesses where the link isn’t so clear-cut can find ways to make their participation make sense. A landscaper, for instance, could donate plants to help students start a garden. A home remodeler could donate tiles to create a mural. A spa owner could donate gift baskets of skin-care products for a raffle.

  • Know the legal issues. If you do market your product to the children (as opposed to parents), you need to comply with regulations regarding advertising to kids. For example, proposed recommendations made recently by several government agencies would require that foods marketed directly to children contribute to healthy diets. There are also specific guidelines regarding online marketing and what you do with personal information. If you collect information from anyone under 13, you must follow the rules of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Learn about this and other federal regulations related to marketing to children at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.

With a little thought and effort, marketing via schools can be a great way to not only grow your business, but benefit your local community as well. 

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades


"If you don’t have children, you may think this doesn’t mean anything to you." Anyone who has this idea about children shouldn't be in marketing. Children will be your companies customer one day and getting your brand into their minds early is a great way to ensure loyal customers later on.
I like this idea: "Sell products on campus. Depending on what restrictions your school district has regarding outside activity on campus, you might even be able to sell products on campus and split the profits with the school. For example, one smoothie franchise in my area sells discounted smoothies at a local school every Wednesday after school gets out" Thank you very much, but I also hope we discuss the combination of your method and product promotion on the group of students
Buy a house, help a local school or charity By Rob Kuznia Staff Writer Posted: 01/13/2013 03:31:57 PM PST Updated: 01/14/2013 10:51:19 AM PST Dave and Gloria Vega of Torrance had kicked around the idea of buying a new house. But what really set their quest in motion was an unusual flier in a packet from the principal of their children's school. The flier urged parents who are in the market for buying or selling a home to solicit the services of a real estate agent named Edward Kim. Some might have viewed the pitch as an advertisement, but the flier explained why the school was recommending Kim: He would donate 20 percent of his commission on any sale back to Arnold Elementary. The Vegas were sold. Using Kim as their real estate agent, they bought a house a few blocks from the school for $660,000. Fast forward to Friday morning. At an Arnold Elementary assembly with Torrance Unified's top school leaders on hand, hundreds of elementary students cheered as Kim -- also a parent at the school -- made good on that promise, handing their principal an oversized check for $2,625. Generous as it is, a check for a couple thousand bucks might not sound like quite enough to warrant such an occasion. But the event's behind-the-scenes organizers believe they have hit upon a new way of raising money for public schools -- one that combines philanthropy with pure capitalism. The event was put on by a group whose name -- Community Funding Solutions -- could easily be mistaken for a thousand other well-meaning nonprofit groups. But this outfit is unapologetically for-profit. "It's Advertisement a for-profit, philanthropic organization," explained Bennett Liss, one of the co-founders. "If every person chose a Realtor through this program, there would be no more shortfalls in our schools." Real-estate deals, he added, are the largest transactions that happen in society. "How many doughnut sales do you need to do to make $2,600?" Community Funding Solutions boils down to this: a list of real estate agents in Southern California - numbering 90 so far - who have agreed to donate 20 percent of their commissions to every home-buyer's charity of choice. Liss' company charges the agents an annual fee of $3,000 to $5,000 to be the featured agent for a specific charity. Any given charity can have no more than one agent, but any given agent is free to take on more than one charity - for an additional fee. In return, Community Funding Solutions sees to it that the featured agents are marketed heavily by the schools (and other charities) that have signed up. "The schools do not want to become commercialized," said Liss, a 55-year-old Woodland Hills resident. "So this has to become like a PBS kind of sponsorship. Very classy." Kim is the featured agent for Arnold Elementary and four other schools in Torrance: Walteria, Riviera and Seaside elementary schools and South High. His annual fee to Community Funding Solutions thus came to around $20,000. That has purchased him exclusive advertising rights on the websites and principal-penned newsletters of all those schools. "In any business, there's an investment you gotta make," Kim said. "You could call it a risk. I just saw it as an opportunity." It might sound like a lot of money, but Kim has already recouped about half of his investment with the sale to the Vega family. But he also likes the idea of making a contribution to the school that two of his own children attend. (He has an older child at Calle Mayor Middle School.) "I feel very proud to be a part of it," he said. In addition to Kim's five schools in Torrance, the list of schools benefitting from the Community Funding Solutions model includes 73 more in Capistrano, Moorpark and Huntington Beach. Also on the list are several charities, including Angels Way, a maternity home in Woodland Hills, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County. Does it work? Tough to say: After a couple years of planning, the organization is fresh out of the oven. Friday's check presentation marked the first of its kind for a school. (The only other charity to benefit so far is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, which recently received a check for $1,500.) On Tuesday, the group will cut a $4,000 check to Agoura High School near Thousand Oaks. The creators of the concept are an accomplished - and colorful - cast of characters. Liss is the inventor of the reverse 911 system that schools use to call parents in the event of an emergency. His company -- PACE Communications -- was bought out by software company Blackboard Inc. Now his technology is a staple of school districts across the nation. The other co-founder, Jamie Alcroft, is a comedian with plenty of "Tonight Show" credits to his name (both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno). Back in the 1980s, Alcroft was also one-half of the comedic duo featured in the syndicated show "Comedy Break" with Mack Dryden. And then there's David Pollock, the company's director of education funding. His left-brain credentials are impressive: school board member in Moorpark, market planner for Boeing, senior director for program development with the California School Boards Association, MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Among Pollock's right-brain credentials is his claim to fame: He portrayed Rudi Stein, the nerdy pitcher in the original "Bad News Bears" movie. Liss himself has acting credentials. Before his invention, he landed supporting roles on TV shows such as Columbo, Matlock and CHiPs. He also acted in several Broadway plays. During Friday morning's check presentation, Liss -- who wore a hoodie to the event and still had bed head -- crept around the crowded blacktop, aiming his smart phone this way and that, capturing the event on video. As for the Vegas, they can't say enough good things about their real-estate agent - and fellow Arnold Elementary parent. "I want the readers to know: Not only was Ed a fantastic real-estate agent, he's an amazing person for giving back part of his commission," said Gloria.
Creative marketing strategy means you know where to market your products or services correctly. Choosing ideal places that is related to what you provided is a must and school are one of the great places to start up. Houses in Philippines
Good idea, but it is always better to promote releted product like books.
Those are great ideas to market your business! As a matter of fact, a new business in my area is marketing their frozen yogurt business very assertively towards schools. Those kids and teenagers then bring along their parents. That's a very clever and indirect way of marketing their new business towards two different demographics.Marketing a new business or opening a business
Schools are indeed almost always overlooked, but they are the perfect arena for marketing,and for adding value to the educational system.
Lots of good food for thought! thanks for the post.
Good article, I liked the part of the announcement on bulletin boards. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
Nice article, helped me a lot.


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