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Marketing Your Small Business via Schools

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
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