August is back-to-school time across the country. Whether the school buses are already disrupting your commute to work — or will be soon — the start of the school year brings opportunities for savvy business owners.
Here are some insights into this market segment and creative, real-world marketing solutions to inspire you to think outside the pencil box this school year.
Back-to-School Business Lessons
Parents open their pocketbooks every August to prepare for the school year. To gauge the market for educational spending, consider the latest statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau:
From preschool to college, more than 77 million children and adults were enrolled in school in the United States in October 2014. They composed more than one-quarter of the U.S. population age 3 and older.
U.S. elementary and secondary public school systems spent an average of roughly $11,000 per pupil in 2014.
Families spent about $8.8 billion on back-to-school clothes in August 2015. The amount spent on new books was estimated at only $1.6 billion.
The construction budget for public and private schools was about $83.5 billion in 2015. This includes renovations, build-outs and new construction projects.
Retailers are busy selling books, backpacks, gym shoes and snacks to start off the school year. And contractors are winding up summer building and renovation projects.
But they’re not the only types of businesses that can jump on the back-to-school bus. Here are some real-world examples of ways businesses leverage this market to promote themselves and boost long-term value. Can your business borrow from this list of creative ideas?
Create a Virtual “Brag Book”
A creative agency posts photos of employees’ children on the first day of school to share with clients on social media and through an e-blast campaign. It gives parents an opportunity to show off their offspring — and it creates a buzz on the agency’s Facebook page.
The brag book’s innovative design demonstrates the agency’s creative skills in a fun, personal way. It also helps attract talent by showcasing the agency’s fun, family-friendly atmosphere.
Offer Back-to-School Promos for Parents
A coffee shop offers free “boo-hoo/yahoo” lattes on Monday mornings to parents who are sad (or elated) about the start of the school year. Bright signage attracts parents en route to school, encouraging them to sample the eco-friendly, locally roasted blends.
The promotional campaign runs through the end of September and gets busier every week — a sign that it’s working to drive foot traffic to the start-up.
Offer Freebies to Good Students
When report cards are handed out in an Atlanta suburb this school year, students who achieve perfect attendance or straight A’s will receive a coupon from a local pizzeria for free personal-size pizzas. This campaign serves two purposes.
First, it brings entire families into the restaurant when the kids redeem their coupons. That adds revenues and profits. Second, the campaign creates goodwill in the community by showcasing responsible corporate citizenship. To capitalize on this element, the restaurant tacks Polaroid pictures of proud kids with their pizzas, report cards in hand, on the back wall.
Sponsor a Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) or Extracurricular Group
A local realtor group sponsored a middle-school PTO. The sponsorship includes ads in the school’s weekly e-newsletter and in welcome packets for new PTO members. Individual realtors in the group also conduct monthly gift card drawings for parents and teachers who follow them on Facebook.
The agency hopes parents and teachers will remember its realtors’ names and faces when they’re ready to buy or sell their homes.
Participate in STEM Activities
An engineering firm recently donated old computers and printers to an elementary school that serves economically disadvantaged students. The equipment will be used in the school district’s new K-12 program to get kids interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. In the spring, the company will mentor a select group of high school seniors who are planning to pursue engineering degrees in college.
Participating in STEM programs not only fosters corporate charity and goodwill. It can also pay back over the long run: When the human resources department is looking for skilled talent, kids who benefited from the firm’s STEM efforts may later return as loyal, full-time employees.
Launch an Apprenticeship Program
The back-to-school season has also inspired a high-tech manufacturer to partner with a vocational program at the local community college to offer registered apprenticeships through a state apprenticeship agency. In exchange for working for the manufacturer, students will receive college credits, on-the-job training and weekly paychecks. Their hourly wages will increase as they demonstrate proficiency.
The company expects to hire at least some of these apprentices to fill full-time positions in 2018.
What’s Right for Your Business?
Whether schools near you are already in session — or will open soon — it’s not too late to think about how your business can benefit. Your financial advisers can help you brainstorm ways to leverage relationships with local schools to boost revenues, give back to your community and add long-term value.