Know Your Audience

Recently, I was wading through my email during what is yet another crazy time of the school year. (When I think about it, is there a time of year that isn’t crazy?). It seems no matter how many marketing and sales emails I hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button on, there are more messages waiting in line to take their place. This is one I received TWICE this week:

My name is not Brian.

I’m sure many K12Leaders receive unsolicited marketing and sales inquiries all the time… As part of their job, vendors are required to generate new leads and hopefully turn them into customers. I get it. I’ve seen some outlandish tactics from vendor representatives over the years, all ranging from funny to failure; from praise… to guilt.

95% of the time, I ignore and unsubscribe. However, there are times I write back to the sender. For example, I will write back:

  • When a former (or current!) vendor reaches out. Staying in touch with current programs is important, so I try to respond when I can. Past vendor relationships can be tricky, all depending on how the breakup happened. However, sending me an email soliciting business without any background knowledge of our district is a real turn-off. Representatives should know whether we are current or former customers, and have a good idea as to why we left.
  • On a 4th email, I will always write back. At this point, the sender should know how their approach is not welcome or professional. Our job is to serve students. I can’t do that if I am wading through endless emails. Being relentless as a salesperson does not translate to our thinking you’ll be relentless in your customer service.
  • You are hilarious. I will answer you and tell you how funny you are, and how you stood out. Those emails make my day. Vendors who understand the sheer volume we receive and try to stand out in a positive way make a better impression. They are a breath of fresh air.
  • You have contacted me on LinkedIn. There are a few (very few) individuals whom I have connected with on LinkedIn. We chat about the industry or what’s new in education. If the topic turns to their company/product at some point, I am more willing to listen, and will schedule a time to chat. However, this can backfire. Do not contact me initially on LinkedIn and my work email at the same time.

It’s important to remember that in all areas of education, we are networked. We all have our circles of colleagues both in and out of our school, district, state and country. Good news travels fast… however, bad news travels faster. Sales and marketing strategies should keep this fact front and center when it comes to choosing tactics and best practices.

Sales are based on reputation. I can’t speak for all K12Leaders, but thought I’d share some free advice:

Don’t Be A Vendor

  • Get the name, school and district right. I’d rather receive a generic email than one containing the wrong information.
  • Make sure what you are offering fits your recipient. Don’t offer WiFi solutions to teachers; mailing lists to tech directors; math programming to food service managers.
  • More does not equal Better. Receiving multiple unsolicited email requests is not endearing.
  • Mention schools and/or districts you are working with if they are nearby. Most decision-makers are networked and will ask around before working with a new provider.
  • Beware the busy times: start/end of the year, testing windows, before/after school breaks, etc…
  • Know when budgeting season is. We just set our budget for 24-25. Not all of our contracts run July-July, but many do.
  • If you don’t hear back, do not take it personally. Don’t resort to language designed to guilt or shame the recipient into responding.

What are your thoughts? Does your inbox look like mine? There are some important messages here I need to (and do) read. However, it is very easy to miss them when mixed in with others I don’t.

What insight would you add to strengthen the relationships between K12 providers and K12 education?

At K12Leaders, we have done a lot of work to position vendors as solution providers, or even better – as Solution Partners . We believe the relationship between those inside and outside of schools can be mutually beneficial, and we encourage connections on K12Leaders to facilitate good conversation. If you would like to learn better ways to connect with prospective customers in education by becoming a K12Leaders Solution Partner, be sure to reach out to [email protected], or drop a comment below.

Recommended1 recommendationsPublished in Leadership Voices, Newsletter, Solution Providers

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