Target Teachers This Back-to-School Season

This back-to-school season, add teachers to your marketing list. Educators collectively spend $1.6 billion per year out of their own pockets for their classrooms and students, presenting an opportunity for marketers to reach teachers as consumers.

MDR-teachers-back-to-school-shoppingWhat are educators spending money on? Well, not surprisingly, they buy more books than the overall population, but they also buy more toys and games. Ninety-seven percent of teachers shop in department stores, and 85 percent shop online, meaning there are plenty of potential touchpoints for marketers.

More than 7 million individuals work in educational institutions in the U.S., and they differ from the general population in multiple ways: They are more likely to own homes; they spend more on travel, dining out, and fitness; a high percentage are married; and many are also parents. The best part about marketing to educators? They all hang out in the same place: schools!

Keep in mind that to connect with teachers as consumers, you first need to build a relationship with them, and that requires a specialized message and particular modes of communication. To connect your brand with educators during back-to-school season, follow these four tips:

  1. Speak Their Values, Not Their Language

Teachers are already immersed in the vocabulary of education and their academic specialty, so they can easily tell when a marketer is trying and failing to “talk like a teacher.” Instead of trying to convince them you belong at the front of a classroom, focus on language tied to their core beliefs and desires. All teachers want to have a positive impact on their students, so your marketing should show that your brand can help them achieve that goal.

For example, MDR research found that teachers are more likely to prioritize health and fitness than the general population. This makes sense, given the values of self-improvement and outstanding effort that teachers espouse in the classroom. With this information in hand, brands could incorporate those same values into a marketing campaign to effectively reach teachers during back-to-school season.

  1. Show the Proper Respect

When one education software company tried to get subscribers by telling teachers they could become great at their jobs if they only used the software service, the campaign failed miserably. Why? Well, imagine being told that you were so mediocre at your job that you needed to buy something expensive just to do it competently. That’s not what educators want to hear from brands marketing to them.

Don’t be that company. Respect their profession and take into consideration that today’s teaching environment is tough: Districts are underfunded, teachers are underpaid, and educators are constantly told that the system is broken. Rather than pile on and tell them to buy a product in order to teach better, show how your company can support the good work they’re already doing.

Walmart, for example, shows a high regard for teachers. Tens of thousands of teachers signed up to receive newsletters from the company to hand out to parents after summer break. The newsletter included advice for parents on how to build a relationship with their child’s teacher, streamline the morning routine, and help their children learn outside the classroom. The newsletters gave the teacher expert-level credibility among parents while providing helpful tips to get the year off to a great start.

  1. Hang Out in the Virtual Teacher’s Lounge

Teachers use social media more frequently than the national average. They’re especially interested in sites like Pinterest, where they can find printable educational materials, and niche online communities like WeAreTeachers. Marketers need to reach out to educators in these virtual places without making their content and approach too sales-specific.

It’s social media, after all, so be social. Develop articles or posters that encourage conversations about an important topic like bullying. Create humorous videos that speak lightheartedly to the woes of being an elementary school teacher. Share articles on gathering school supplies and setting up a classroom. Internet usage and online engagement are higher with teachers than with the general population, which means they’ll be more likely to develop a relationship with your brand through this online engagement.

  1. Provide Proof

Teachers are hands-on. They want to know how your product or service will help their students, and they’re more apt to become customers if they see that product or service in action. Showcase videos of students engaging with a product, or offer case studies on how the service has improved student outcomes. Showing real-life examples can be a critical step in getting a teacher to invest his or her money and time in your company.

To showcase its value, one American auto manufacturer created a virtual field trip, featuring a teacher as the host, to educate teens on the importance of safe driving. Other teachers jumped aboard soon after seeing the value that their peer got from being a part of the project.

Marketers will find the most success with educators by putting together an empowering and useful message and meeting them where they engage most. The final weeks of back-to-school season are an opportunity for marketers to establish a relationship with educators that will continue to grow all the way to next summer.

To learn more about the consumer habits of educators, download MDR’s “Teachers as Consumers report.